Retiring is never an easy decision for a professional athlete, but Carmelo Anthony feels contentment after officially calling it a career earlier this week after spending 19 seasons in the NBA.
"I'm at peace," Anthony said of his decision, via Sports Illustrated. "That doesn't bother me no more; that idea that you're a loser if you don't win a championship. For me, I've won. I won back in 2003, the night I shook David Stern's hand on that [draft] stage. I made it out of Red Hook. I've won at life. The ring is the only thing I didn't get. It would've been a great accomplishment, but I don't regret it, because I feel like I did everything I could to get it."
Anthony is absolutely right. He didn't win a ring in the NBA, but he did virtually everything else over the course of his basketball career, and his legacy certainly shouldn't be defined by the one thing he didn't do. This is a guy who won a National Championship during his lone season at Syracuse and could walk around with three Olympic Gold Medals dangling from his neck if he wanted to. Only eight people in the history of the NBA scored more points than Anthony, and few were more entertaining in their prime.
Anthony being at peace with the conclusion of his career doesn't mean he isn't without regrets. He admits to wishing he were more learned on the business side of the league during his early playing days. When guys he entered the league with like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade signed three-year extensions to afford future flexibility for themselves, Anthony was short-sighted and signed a five-year extension, which prohibited him from teaming up with those guys down the line.
"The only regret I've got there is not being intelligent enough about the business of the game," Anthony said. "I got that call from [Dwyane Wade] saying, 'Take the three-year deal; we're all doing that,' and I'm like, 'Do you know where I'm from, man?' Like, I'm happy, bro. I'm cool with Denver.'"
It certainly would have been cool to see Anthony play alongside James and/or Wade in their primes, but even without that, Anthony constructed a Hall-of-Fame-worthy career for himself. The discourse around the NBA has become inundated with "ring culture," and players are largely judged through that lens. Anthony's decorated 19-year run is a nice reminder that players can craft extremely productive, memorable careers even if they are unable to attain team success at the highest level.