You have to know defeat to truly appreciate victory and no one knows this better than Carmelo Anthony. After Team USA suffered an embarrassing loss at the Athens Olympics in 2004, he vowed to come back and win the Gold. Twelve years later he has just lead Team USA to their third straight Gold medal in Rio, becoming the most accomplished male Olympian in USA Basketball, and bringing his Olympic career to a close. The United States defeated Serbia 96 to 66.
“We fought. It wasn’t always pretty. We came together July 17th and we all committed for this one reason,” he told NBC’s Ros Gold-Onwude in his postgame interview. “It was a special moment for me. Long time…I know this is the end. This is it for me. I committed to something…”
Melo trailed off becoming visibly emotional, tears welling up in his eyes as he continued to speak.
“I committed to this in ’04. I’ve seen the worst and I’ve seen the best. We stuck with it. I stuck with it. I’m here today three gold medals later. I’m excited for me but also for the other guys who’ve never experienced anything like this. Coach K, myself, Jerry Colangelo and everybody else who’s been a part of this situation, part of USA B since I’ve been here. I just want to say thank you for allowing me to be one of the leaders, not just of our team, but of our country.”
Anthony has been as active off the court in Rio as he was on. Despite enjoying luxury cruise ship lodging, he made a point of visiting the Favelas in Brazil that he’d only seen before in movies like City Of God. Melo said that growing up in Baltimore was like his own favela, so he wanted to experience it for himself. He played basketball with the children and posted a photo on Instagram with the caption, “I discovered that what most people call creepy, scary, and spook, I call comfy, cozy, and home.”
Statements like that and his ongoing activism at home made the conclusion of his postgame speech that much more poignant.
“In spite of everything that’s going on now in our country, we’ve gotta be united. I’m glad I did what I did. I stepped up to the challenge. This is what it’s about, representing our country on the biggest stage that you can be on. America will be great again. I believe that. We got a lot of work to do but, it’s one step at a time. I’m glad we represented it in the fashion that we did.”
Carmelo’s reputation as the “elder” on the team was cemented early when footage of TEAM USA singing karaoke on the plane went viral as Melo looked on with judgmental smirk. But the captain kept the ship right and they will fly back home Gold medalists.