While much of the focus around the Lakers has been about role players joining forces to play alongside superstars in LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis, those aren’t the only players that new Lakers are excited to play with.
In forming a team full of older veterans, the Lakers have a roster that has been around the league for quite and while, intertwining careers with one another throughout the years. No player symbolizes that more than Carmelo Anthony, a forward entering his 19th season in the league that has played on numerous teams and contenders in each conference across three decades.
During those nearly 20 years in the league, Anthony has gained admirers and fans along the way, including Trevor Ariza. During the team’s title run in the 2009 postseason, the Lakers met Anthony’s Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals with Ariza tasked as one of his primary defenders.
As close as that run-in with Anthony was early in his career, Ariza played alongside Anthony for a brief time in Portland in 2019-20 prior to the bubble, which Ariza opted out of.
“Carmelo has always been one of the toughest dudes in the world to guard, to play against, because of his talent, his strength, his size, his speed, his shooting ability,” Ariza said as he was formally introduced as a Laker. “Everything he brings to the table is just like a nightmare for a defender. So just to watch his career and where it’s gone, and the ups and downs of it, the fact that he’s still able to like mentally block all that out is just a testament to the person that he is and how strong that man is. His journey coming to be here, I think it’s very unique, and it should be something that’s celebrated.”
The memories and connections between Anthony and his new teammates aren’t only in playing against one another, but alongside each other as well. Anthony’s international career is as storied as any USA men’s basketball player of all time. Leading up to and including the 2008 Olympics, Anthony and Dwight Howard played together as members of the eloquently named “Redeem Team.”
That experience gave Howard a firsthand look at Anthony’s dedication to the game.
“Melo has just always been a professional,” Howard said. “He’s always worked hard, he’s always giving 110% on the court, and that’s all you can ask. There’s another side of basketball that people don’t really see, and that’s the business side, and some things are left out of our control. And the one thing that he’s always been in control of is how hard he works... and that’s why he’s been able to play for 19 years. And it just shows that his work ethic and his discipline, his sacrifice, has always been there.
“And now to top it all this year, hopefully, it will end with a trophy, so I think the hard work that Melo has put in from day one has allowed him to play this many years in the league, but also he’s been an inspiration to millions of kids around the world about just working hard and not allowing people or anybody to pull you down. Because he had some tough years with people making statements about his career, his game, his ego and stuff like that, but instead of letting that change who he is as a person, he just kept pushing forward, and now he’s here where he’s at.”
One of the strengths of the 2019-20 Lakers side that won the title was their camaraderie and chemistry, which showed itself most prominently in each player's willingness to sacrifice minutes and roles within the team to win a title. Ariza and Howard each have experienced winning rings now and coming in on day one expressing a desire to help Anthony earn that same accomplishment is a terrific start to building that same level of companionship with this version of the Lakers.