ATLANTA — Carmelo Anthony looked like he was all done just a couple of seasons ago.
Now, he’s part of a truly exclusive club in the NBA.
Welcome to the Top 10, Melo.
Anthony scored 14 points Monday night in Portland’s 123-114 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, moving him past Elvin Hayes for 10th place on the career scoring list with 27,318.
“If you’re in the top 10 of anything of all time, it’s a special moment,” said Anthony, who is in his 18th NBA season and turns 37 before the month is out.
Anthony cruised past Hayes early in the second quarter, hitting a 3-pointer while getting fouled by Danilo Gallinari and knocking down the free throw to complete a 4-point play.
Anthony was fully aware of how many points he needed to surpass Hayes.
“I knew this moment,” he said. “I didn’t know those other moments – 15, 13, 11. But 10 is something I knew.”
It appeared Anthony was headed for a forced retirement after he played just 10 games during the 2018-19 season.
He parted ways with Houston, was waived by Chicago and didn’t hook up with Portland until the next season was several weeks old.
Even though he went more than a year without playing a game, Anthony found new life and a new role with the Trail Blazers.
A starter his entire career, he is coming off the bench now, playing a supporting role to younger stars, players who still look up to him, such as Damian Lillard.
“Being in the top 10 in a really special accomplishment,” Lillard said. “For him, it’s probably a little more special. A lot of people counted him out and tried to finish him.”
During his time with the Trail Blazers, Anthony has passed nine players on the career scoring list.
He knocked off Alex English, Kevin Garnett, John Havlicek and Paul Pierce last season. He has taken down Tim Duncan, Dominique Wilkins, Oscar Robertson, Hakeem Olajuwon and now Hayes this season.
Next up for Anthony: Moses Malone at 27,409 points.
Melo’s got a good chance at catching him, too, by the end of the regular season.
“For Melo to be out a year and come back makes it even more remarkable,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “I always appreciate greatness, whether it’s a player I’m coaching or coaching against. Melo is a great player. He’s a Hall of Fame player.”
Lillard went on and on about what a pleasure it’s been to have Anthony as a teammate, disputing those who have described him over the years as a selfish player who was never quite good enough to lead his teams – most notably, Denver and New York – to a championship.
“I appreciate him more as a friend than I do as a teammate, and I really appreciate him as a teammate,” Lillard said. “I think that really speaks to the kind of person he is.”
Afterward, Stotts presented Anthony with a game ball in the locker room.
“We need to acknowledge milestones,” the coach said. “This is a big one. Top 10 of all time. That’s big time.”
After his teammates finished clapping, Anthony said: “A couple of years ago, I didn’t think I was gonna be in this moment right now. I was out the league for whatever reason. I’m back. I persevered. I stayed strong, I stayed true to myself and now I’m here in the top 10.”
He’s not done yet.
”I’m still enjoying the game,” Anthony said. “I’m still loving the game. I’m still approaching the game the same way.”
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