Carmelo Anthony has always had the ability to make a strong impact, and to do so quickly. Enrolling at Oak Hill as a senior in high school, he cleaned up when it came time for end of the year accolades—he was named a McDonald’s All-American and first team for both USA Today and Parade. Then he decided to conquer the college ranks, leading Cuse on a memorable run to the NCAA title as a freshman in 2003 and gaining a faithful following in the process. Included in the many won over by Melo’s game and smile (remember that one-of-a-kind cover of issue 115?) was a guy named Mike, who brought the youngster on board to Brand Jordan as a rookie, and a magazine named SLAM, which gave Melo the cover of KICKS the summer after his rookie campaign. Well, actually, it wasn’t given. He earned that cover by lifting the Nuggets from the depths to respectability, turning a 17-65 joke into an eighth seed with a winning record in one season. With that kind of turnaround, Melo deserved to hold us down for KICKS 7. Who’s gonna continue the chain with KICKS 12?—Adam Fleischer
By Bonsu Thompson
What do David Letterman, Mase and Dick Grayson (aka Robin) all have in common with Carmelo Anthony? They’ve all been stained with that ugly No. 2 mark. The 20-year-old Denver Nugget was the second-most wanted in last year’s Draft (’cause Darko really don’t count), finished runner-up for ROY and even played second string on the All-Rookie Team, despite being one of only three NBA freshmen to be unanimously anointed. And this, most likely, is why Melo chose Brand Jordan to be the provider of his shoe contract—it seems like No. 23’s namesake shoe company might be the only NBA-related entity that views the Baltimore-repping forward as more than a second fiddle.
That’s why Jordan enlisted Footwear Design Director D’Wayne Edwards––a Jordan designer whose first break came in ’89, when his sketches helped create the L.A. Gear craze––to tag-team with Melo and birth a generation-delayed successor to the Air Jordan 1, titled the Carmelo 1.5. Parallel to Melo’s game, the focus of the Carmelo 1.5 is top level-performance with the basics at full strength, topped off with a diverse yet suede-smooth style. With the Carmelo 1.5, Jordan hopes to begin assisting the world in seeing their ROY through their eyes; not as a second choice, but The Second Coming.
KICKS: Of all of Jordan’s athletes, why did y’all pick Carmelo to be the one to represent the next generation of the Air Jordan?
EDWARDS: Because he was a perfect fit for the “point-five”
concept. The concept was designed around bringing the old to the new, and Carmelo’s 19, 20 years old, but at the same time, his game is so much more mature than the average 20- year-old. Also, at the same time, just his style, with the headband, the calf-high socks, he just had an old-school vibe about him. There’s obviously him having physical gifts. Once he matures and really learns how to play the game, he is pretty much going to be unstoppable. Another thing we wanted to do was get younger. Some of our other Brand Jordan athletes are older, so we really look at Melo as the guy that could really help bridge the generation gap between Michael and today.
KICKS: So is Jordan making the statement that Carmelo is the next Mike?
EDWARDS: Nah. There is not going to be no next Michael Jordan as far as I’m concerned. I mean, I grew up at the tail end of Doc’s career. I grew up in Inglewood watching Magic do his thing, so then Michael came along… See, you have these three generations of athletes that every time they form, it’s like, there is never going to be another one like him. They’re still looking for another 6-9 point guard. That still hasn’t happened yet. I think that the thing that all the sneaker companies should try and find is the guy that’s going to revolutionize the game the way Doc did it, the way that Magic did it, the way Michael did it. I mean, they changed the game as we know it. Those three guys have pretty much done everything that you could possibly do within the game, except for playing all five positions. I think the next guy that changes the game will play all five positions. He could be 7-0, he could be 6-6, he could be ambidextrous, I think that’s the next thing. Oscar is the closest one to do that.
KICKS: When did you realize how good a player Carmelo was?
EDWARDS: Man, I had heard of the phenom when he was in high school, when him and LeBron faced off for the first time, when I think Melo had 39 and Bron had like 37 or something like that, or vice versa. So I started hearing about him when he was in high school. And then, I caught a few games here and there, but being on the West Coast we didn’t get too many Syracuse games until one Saturday I caught, I believe it was Syracuse-Georgetown, and I believe Melo went off for like 30-something—he had 20-something at the half. So it was kinda like, Damn, alright, so this is the cat I’ve been hearing about. We need to keep following him. Then when the Tournament started, things started to heat up on our side as far as, if he comes out, he’ll be a Brand Jordan guy. So as soon as that buzz started, I really started to pay more attention to him.
KICKS: How instrumental was Carmelo’s input in the design process of his first shoe?
EDWARDS: From the day he came onboard and was officially
a Brand Jordan athlete, we started talking about the idea of doing something for him. He wore the 18.5 in the beginning of the preseason, which was a slight introduction and basically passing the torch. It was supposed to be Michael’s last shoe, his statement at the playoffs, and Carmelo’s first shoe, but Mike didn’t live up to his end of the bargain [laughs]. So Melo’s first shoe was kind of the introduction to the “point-five” concept, and that shoe was already done before we talked to him about it. So when it came time to do the next one, that’s when we flew out to Denver and broke it down to him. One of the things that I wanted him to get used to was the relationship that Tinker [Hatfield] and Michael had, where initially Michael didn’t really know too much about footwear and the whole process, but Tinker kind of guided him through that process. The more they worked together, the easier it became, or the more input that came about. So I mentioned that to him when we first met, and then from that first meeting I think he understood the importance of how he has to explain to me what he wants. And after that, we probably met a good six times after that until the shoe was finally finished.
KICKS: A lot of Jordan’s shoes were modeled after things that he liked, such as his Ferrari. Did you model Carmelo’s shoe after anything in particular?
EDWARDS: Yeah, a few different things. Cars influence a lot of footwear we design, and especially when we try to do signature
athlete products, we really try to spend time with the athlete and get a feel for his personal taste—what he likes, from his car, to his watches, to his sunglasses, his house. So what we did was, since it was the first time Carmelo has had a shoe and it was my first time working with him, it was important for me to get a feel for him and some of the things that he had. One of the things that I noticed off the top was how not flashy of a guy he was. So that was kind of a surprise, considering his age and he just got a whole bunch of money. So I went to Denver and I saw that he had a [BMW] 745, and I started doing some research and I found out that Michael had a 635. So I made those comparisons, and that was another perfect connection between old and new. Mike had an old 635, and just how that 635 from BMW has transformed into this. Well, now you see the new 635 or the 645 is sweet, and has transformed into the 745. At the time, you could see the natural progression when you see those two cars together. I tried to make sure the shoe had that same type of appearance.
KICKS: As a designer, how did it feel to play with the classic baby blue of the Nuggets and the Tar Heels?
EDWARDS: I was like, Oh, shit. It was right before the Draft they announced that they were changing up their logo and the colors. It was sweet because obviously university blue and white is like a trademark. It’s a Jordan colorway going back to his North Carolina days. I mean, everyone knocked it off, but then when Denver came with their touch of gold, that just kind of set it off and made it fresh again. It was just a natural marriage, and we couldn’t have scripted it any more perfect.
KICKS: Y’all are dropping an Olympic shoe for Carmelo. Can you give us a sneak peek?
EDWARDS: The Olympic Carmelo…it would be wherever the baby blue is or the university blue is, there is going to be a deep navy, the same color as the Olympic team. We are still going to have gold Jumpman icons on there, and then the red—there will be
small red details in it. The US Olympic committee has some pretty strict guidelines on what the coloration should be, but he wanted to get a little wild.
You can see the shoe itself—even hold it in your hands—but until you see it on Carmelo’s feet, or slung over his shoulder like those old school Air Jordan t-shirts, you can’t really get the full picture. You just can’t. The player and the shoe are meant to go together, to work as one. And while D’Wayne played the Colin Pine role in the creation of the Carmelo 1.5, we had to get words straight from the source.
KICKS: Of all the companies, why’d you choose Jordan?
CARMELO: It was just the quality that I know they put in their shoes. I mean, every Jordan that came out was hot. Regardless of anything, even if it was ugly it was still hot [laughs]. For me to pick Jordan, knowing the creativity that I had with shoes, I knew that mines was gonna be something crazy.
KICKS: What were you trying to accomplish with the first sneaker?
CARMELO: The most important thing was style. Being able to wear it with shorts and jeans, letting the shoe be versatile. I wanted to create a buzz on the shoe, like when you see it from a distance, you like, Damn, what shoe is that? And then when you get up on it it’s like, Damn, that’s the Jordan shoe right there!? But first off, it was style. Everybody needs style in their shoe, and that’s my main thing, stylin’.
KICKS: It’s funny that style was key for you because D’Wayne says you’re not a flashy cat at all.
CARMELO: I’m a basic dude, man. I don’t wanna ever be looked at as too flashy. So I want the same for my shoe. There’s a lot of shoes out there that are too flashy and it don’t even work. It’s like it’s flashy but it’s broke. What’s the point of that?
KICKS: They don’t say it, but the 1.5 seems like Jordan is making a statement that you’re the second coming of Mike. Did you feel any pressure with that?
CARMELO: The only pressure I felt was when I was designing it. I felt a little pressure, but that was just because it was my first shoe. You know how Jordan’s first shoe was, that shit is still a classic. So I had a lot of pressure on me to meet those expectations.
KICKS: Do you see any comparison between you and Jordan?
CARMELO: A little bit. Mostly it’s the dog in him, like he competes from start to finish. He just wants to go out and tear everything up, and that’s how I be when I play. He ain’t take nothing from nobody. He’ll go at anybody, whoever, whenever. It don’t even matter.
KICKS: Like that fadeaway of yours, right? It was looking real Jordanesque in the second half of the season.
CARMELO: Yeah, I’m getting there [laughs].
KICKS: Speaking of another Jordan quality—are you ready to fully take on the leadership role for Denver?
CARMELO: Oh yeah, everybody knows it’s my team now. It was something that was discussed. We didn’t just come out like, “Look, this is Melo’s team,” we don’t get down like that. But it’s just something that we all established last year, so they all know what’s crackin’.
KICKS: When was the first time you met Jordan?
CARMELO: I played in his [high school] all-star game in DC.
KICKS: When was the last time you two were on the same court?
CARMELO: I played with him at his camp last year, and he was
acting like it was the playoffs or something. I was like, “Damn, Mike, it’s not that serious.” He’s real, real competitive––still—but it’s good to have that mentality. But hey, we won. Matter fact, we lost one game that whole tournament and we ain’t lose after that.
KICKS: I heard he expressed disappointment for you refusing to go back into that Detroit game. What exactly did he say to you?
CARMELO: He just told me that it wasn’t the right thing to do. If you gonna take a stand like that, do it in the locker room and deal with it with your teammates. He was like, “You don’t ever wanna embarrass your players or your teammates in front of a whole lot of people.” It’s just disrespectful to myself, my teammates, the organization, everybody.
KICKS: So why did you refuse to go back in the game?
CARMELO: I was just frustrated and upset. Everybody was acting like everything was my fault, so I just was like, Go ahead, do it yourselves since I’m messing up so bad. Win without me.
KICKS: It must’ve felt pretty good when you got that invitation
to the Olympics, right?
CARMELO: I was excited. It was a matter of time when they were gonna invite me. I thought I was going already—at least I thought I was capable of going—but when I got the invite I was happy.
KICKS: What do you think you’ll average next year?
CARMELO: I don’t know. Probably around 24, 25 points, eight, nine—no, probably 10 boards. Let’s see, and I averaged about three assists. My assists are definitely going to go up, especially with Kenyon on the team. A lot of alley-oops!
KICKS: Did you feel like you were jerked out of the ROY?
CARMELO: I just don’t feel like I was getting the respect that I deserved. People weren’t respecting like they should’ve been. The votes were so lopsided…it was uncalled for. [Playing in the West] didn’t even help me. [LeBron] already had the ROY award. It was up to me to just go and try to get it. That’s basically how I can sum it up. I just gotta go out there and keep doing what I’m doing. It ain’t nothing I can say or do, like every time I’ma go at him. I’ma just work harder than I did last year.