6:00 PM ET, October 19, 2003
Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Carmelo Anthony finally lost a game in the Carrier Dome, and it really didn't matter.
Making his first appearance on Jim Boeheim Court since he led Syracuse to the NCAA national championship in April as a freshman, Anthony scored a game-high 23 points Sunday night for his new team, the Denver Nuggets.
Even though Mehmet Okur's driving layup with 2.3 seconds left gave the Detroit Pistons a 93-91 exhibition victory, it was a triumphant night for the former Orangeman, who was greeted with a thunderous cheer in the pre-game introductions.
"Being here brought back a lot of memories. We were 17-0 here last year," said Anthony, who a year ago had just finished his second day of practice with the Orangemen. "It's been nice, but now I've got to get out of here."
Before he left, he gave the fans another signature performance. He was 7-for-13 shooting and 9-for-13 from the free-throw line in 34 minutes. He also had two assists and a pair of steals as Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim watched his former star from a courtside seat.
"I think we did a good job competing," said Anthony, who played only one year for the Orangemen before jumping to the NBA. "I'm more excited to get this game out of the way. I gave back. Now I can just go and focus on tomorrow's game."
Nene had 18 points and Rodney White finished with 17 for Denver.
Anthony, who sat on the bench for much of the second half, returned with 3:31 left as the crowd chanted, "We want Melo! We want Melo!" He hit a driving layup with 59 seconds remaining to tie the game at 89 but was unable to create any more magic.
After Okur's basket, Anthony inbounded the ball to White, but he was unable to get off a shot before the buzzer.
Afterward, Detroit coach Larry Brown praised the Nuggets' prized rookie, the third pick in June's NBA draft. After five preseason games, Anthony leads Denver in scoring with 19.5 points per game.
"Everybody that's seen him loves him, and they should. He's a great kid," Brown said. "He has a smile on his face all the time. The referees will respect that. He's got instant respect already in our league."
"His emotions are always in check," Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "He doesn't play like a rookie. He plays like a veteran. He has great instinctive qualities for the game that can't be taught."
That smile also captivated the Syracuse faithful like nobody else before him. Anthony, who grew up in a poor Baltimore neighborhood he dubbed "the pharmacy" because of rampant drug abuse, became so popular here that the fans did their best to persuade him to stay as he was trying to decide whether to play his sophomore season for the Orangemen or turn pro.
In the season finale against Rutgers last March, an NCAA on-campus-record crowd of 33,071 turned out for what was a meaningless game -- the Scarlet Knights didn't even qualify for the Big East tournament -- and repeatedly implored him to stay "One more year!"
A more modest crowd of 20,315 turned out Sunday night for another look at Anthony, who signed a multimillion-dollar contract with Denver at the ripe old age of 19.
Brown was impressed.
"The kid left early and they still come out to support him," Brown said. "They still came out to support him and understand this is an unbelievable opportunity for him. I love that."