The NBA superstar and FIBA Global Ambassador pays Manila a visit
It’s almost noontime inside the walled city of Intramuros. Despite the scorching hot sun, Fort Santiago is starting to get busy again with tourists and students as they get a feel of 1571 Manila. It’s hard to imagine that what is now a popular tourist destination used to be a defense fortress. Today, it’s attracted more people than usual because a familiar yet surprising face is walking these historic cobble stones. Carmelo Anthony is in town.
Melo is this year’s Global Ambassador for the FIBA World Cup. It’s hard to believe that it took him this long to get here despite him knowing what kind of love Filipino hoop fans have for him. “I think that it’s only right that I’m here today,” he says about his new designation as global ambassador. “But I feel like I have a big fan base here, I’ve been telling myself that I’ve got to come here soon. And then the FIBA Ambassadorship came and it was just perfect.” He’s not wrong. While it was so surreal to watch Melo listen intently to his barong-clad Intramuros guide as he talked about Jose Rizal, seeing passersby suddenly realize and recognize that Carmelo Anthony was right here in Manila was just as entertaining. As he and fellow basketball player NLEX Road Warrior Sean Anthony (not related) of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) casually stroll around Fort Santiago, more people have gathered around with their phones and continue to call out to Melo and wave.
“I’ve been part of FIBA USA Basketball since I was about 18 years old. I’ve been a part of that family. I think I got an early start in understanding the international game and the American game.” Melo recounts how different the game was when he first started including the rules, the pace, the three-point line. As Americans, he said, it took them a while to figure out the international scene. “To be here now almost 21 years later, I think the game and the talent level is only going to get bigger and better.”
Perhaps one of the reasons why Melo is so popular here, aside from his being one of the greatest scorers of his generation, is because of this longevity he speaks of. He seems to have a good grasp on the international scene and what it takes to conquer it. But don’t take his word for it, let his 4 Olympic medals do the talking for him. He is Team USA’s first four-time Olympian, first four-time medalist and first men’s player to win three Olympic golds for his country.
As the new FIBA World Cup Global Ambassador, Melo understands the importance of representation especially in the sport he loves. It used to be somewhat of a joke that one of the most basketball-crazy countries, the Philippines, had players around the average height of 5’4”.
Like a team comprised of a bunch of Muggsy Bogueses, Nate Robinsons, and Spud Webbs. He tells Sean about guys like Filipino-American Jordan Clarkson from the Utah Jazz who can take on the game and showcase not just their style of play but also their culture. “You could be 6’8” or 6’9” with no skill and it doesn’t equate,” explains Melo, “but you could be 5’8” to 6’1” with all the skill and it could equate. The game has changed today and there’s a better opportunity for global players.”
Man of Style
Something else that the NBA superstar has is a unique sense of style one might describe as sophisticated street. Despite the tropical heat, Carmelo Anthony chose to wear a Valentino denim-studded jacket during this walk around Manila.
“I told him he might wanna change but he wouldn’t take it off,” says his personal stylist of almost 15 years, Khalilah Williams-Webb. Khalilah has been dressing Melo since 2008 and says that Melo isn’t one to go with trends if it doesn’t suit him. Literally.
“He’ll like to look at it but if he isn’t comfortable in it, he won’t wear it.” His top three articles of clothing include a hoodie, a jacket and some sweats. Whatever the occasion, it’s clear that Melo values comfort above all else. He’ll rock the denim jacket if he feels like it and not even the 30C-degree weather can’t tell him otherwise. For his shoes, he’s most comfortable in his Jordan 1s. “It doesn’t matter if it’s high or low,” says Khalilah. It’s important to note that Melo was the Jordan Brand’s first signature athlete ever.
The last time we saw Melo suit up in the NBA was April of 2022 but his FIBA World Cup Ambassadorship means that Melo officially goes global now. His legacy is far from over. It might even just be starting. Over the years, this 10-time NBA All Star has his own important brand he’s working on. Fans who follow Melo on social media know that he’s been using his #StayMe7o hashtag for a while now. “StayMe7o is a mindset village. A tribe. I want to bring people within and give them experiences and opportunities and a safe space to talk and express themselves.”
As for the Philippines and the Filipino basketball players, Melo says that “basketball is already entrenched in the culture, it’s deeply-rooted here. It’s the number one sport here. Everyone’s already focused on it, they’re training and practicing. I think it’s more of the different opportunities that come along with it.”