Despite long being considered a member of the Banana Boat Crew, Carmelo Anthony was not in the original photo. While friends LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade sat atop an inflatable banana on a vacation in 2015, it was Wade’s wife Gabrielle Union, not Anthony, taking up the fourth spot in the almost instantly viral photograph.
Even still, the quartet of friends has long been linked together when it came to free agency and trade rumors. While James and Wade, obviously, played together in Miami for multiple years and for a half-season in Cleveland, neither Paul nor Anthony had teamed up with their friends on an NBA court.
With Wade already retired, each passing season marked one step closer to the end of the careers for the remaining trio. This summer, it meant the calls for Anthony, an unrestricted free agent long linked to the Lakers, to join James as the Lakers look to fill their roster with veteran minimum players.
As Anthony said on Monday as he was introduced as a Laker for the first time, playing with his friend and for the Lakers was a matter of timing and, at last, it was finally right this summer.
“I mean, for years we’ve always laughed about it and spoke about it what it would be like,” he said. “We had a little bit of experience with USA Basketball and playing together but that’s totally different than in a situation like this. But we’ve always talked about it, laughed and joked about it. But I thought and he thought at this moment, now, everything comes back full circle for us and I think the time is now for us to be on the same team. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
After the trade for Russell Westbrook, the Lakers’ roster was barren. At the same time, with over $120 million due to Westbrook, James and Anthony Davis, convincing players to take veterans minimum deals was the likeliest way for the Lakers to land free agents.
Enter Anthony, a player who has played on a minimum deal for the last two seasons in Portland after being effectively exiled from the league for a year. Surprisingly, James’ recruitment of his longtime friend to join the Lakers was not persistent. It was, instead, one simple message.
“Once (the Lakers) reached out, I was with Bron a couple of times and I’m sure everybody thought we were talking about it,” Anthony said, “but we never had no conversations about it. Bron came to me one time and just said ‘The time is now. I want you. We got to make this happen’ and I took that information and took that dialogue and took my time with it and weighed all the options. I just felt like for right now, I think this was the best time for us. I mean, most people will say we should have got together years ago early in our career but we were in two different lanes, we were on two different paths. Everything came full circle.”
Anthony’s history with the Lakers is similarly littered with near misses. In 2011, the Lakers discussed a trade for Anthony in Denver. In 2014, the Lakers pulled out all the stops in free agency to try to lure Anthony away from the Knicks. In 2018 as Anthony was playing his final games in Houston before what would become a year-long break, the rumors swirled of a James-Anthony reunion.
Finally, after a decade of circling each other, the Lakers and Anthony found common ground.
“Every year there is so much movement in NBA,” Anthony said. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen. One player is always connected with one organization somewhere whether they’re there or not. And it seemed like, just throughout my whole career, I’ve always been connected with the Lakers someway, somehow. Whether it was still my brother Kobe, regardless of what it is, I’ve always been connected to them someway somehow.
“It wasn’t really no pitch this time. I think it was just more of an understanding. Like, okay, the time is now for both parties to merge and both parties to meet and come together and let’s put this thing together. There’s a lot of understanding on my behalf. There’s a lot of understanding on the Lakers behalf and the organization.”
It won’t be the young, athletic forward from the Nuggets or the lethal midrange scorer from the Knicks that joins the Lakers. It won’t be a player scapegoated and left watching the NBA from afar, either. It’ll be a version of Anthony that, even entering the 19th year of his career, can still be a positive player alongside a friend and for a franchise...now that the timing is finally right.