Q&A with Melo, talking Puerto Rico
September, 19, 2012
By Jared Zwerling and Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com
Israel González MartínFor the third straight summer, Carmelo Anthony celebrated his roots by giving back to Puerto Rico, remodeling basketball courts in a poor neighborhood.During their high school years in the late 90s, Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton witnessed first-hand the many on-court heroics of Carmelo Anthony.
This past weekend in Puerto Rico, Stoudemire and Felton were able to soak in the brilliance of Anthony off the court through his community outreach.
For the third summer in a row, the Knicks star remodeled basketball courts in a poor neighborhood -- and this time, he hosted a free-admission celebrity softball game with Stoudemire, Felton, Marcus Camby, NBA player J.J. Barea, former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams and rapper Fat Joe. Unfortunately due to weather, the game couldn't go on, but they still interacted with the fans.
Israel González MartínCarmelo Anthony was in Puerto Rico this week for his annual summer community outreach program.
ESPNNewYork.com caught up with him on Wednesday for an exclusive interview about his community work and Puerto Rican roots.
Q: This week marked your third straight year going to Puerto Rico to restore basketball courts. How did the idea initially come about in 2010?
Anthony: I had always wanted to do something in Puerto Rico. My dad was Puerto Rican and I never really got to know him because he passed away when I was two years old. So I wanted to honor my Puerto Rican heritage, and this is one way I thought that I could.
Q: What were some of your favorite moments this time around?
Anthony: This is the first time that I was able to host a weekend event. So I was able to invite friends and family to experience what I experienced the past two years. That was cool.
Q: Do you have any family there?
Anthony: I am sure I have family in Puerto Rico, but I don't know who they are.
Q: How much did it mean to you to have your teammates there?
Anthony: To have my teammates with me has been incredible. I mean, the owner [James Dolan] came, the GM [Glen Grunwald], head coach [Mike Woodson] and support staff. That means a lot that they support the work that I do. We all enjoy hanging out together. That always helps the chemistry on the court. Working together on anything, whether on the court or off, creates a synergy.
Q: What was it like spending time with Stoudemire and do you think you guys, with a full training camp and season ahead for the first time, can form one of the most dominant one-two punches in the NBA?
Anthony: Absolutely. We have been working hard. I have been training all summer and Amare has been doing the same. We have an entire training camp this year, so we are just going to pull together, stay strong and execute.
Q: You mentioned in a previous interview, "I grew up in a situation like the kids here. It was survival of the fittest." Can you expand on that a little bit?
Anthony: I grew up in a bad neighborhood [in Baltimore, Md.], where there weren't too many options. So I understand kids like that. I want to give them some hope. I want them to know that they aren't forgotten. The people who were in the streets were protecting me from getting in the streets.
Q: Your big initiative has been to restore basketball courts in Puerto Rico. Do you have future ideas or plans looking ahead?
Anthony: Yeah. I want to work on courts everywhere. My team has started off small, so we can get some successes under our belt. So we will continue to do this in other parts of the United States and the world. We have courts done already in Syracuse as well. Eventually, I would like to work with a city or municipality on a rec center. I know that is way down the line, but that's an ultimate goal.
Q: How would you say Puerto Rico's basketball community has grown in the past few years -- perhaps even through your outreach?
Anthony: Puerto Rican basketball has always been big. Puerto Rico is known for baseball and basketball. It's not me. It just has a history of producing some great athletes.
Q: Through the NBA or community work, how do you stay connected to Puerto Rico and its fans during the season?
Anthony: I have to get creative with Twitter, Facebook, etc. But I enjoy the Puerto Rican parade as well.
Q: How close are you with Puerto Rican NBA players J.J. Barea and Carlos Arroyo?
Anthony: I think there is an unspoken connection with these guys. We really don't get to connect much, but when there is an opportunity to support one another, we try to.
Q: Before you were traded to the Knicks in 2011, had you thought about playing in front of New York City's large Puerto Rican population?
Anthony: I have always loved New York and what it has to offer. So that includes all the people there. I love my fans no matter where they are from. I get so much love and they really do support me through the ups and the downs.
Q: What's impressed you the most about how NYC's Puerto Rican community has embraced you?
Anthony: The city has embraced me, but New York is a tough city to play in. You have to be strong. But this is where I wanted to be. There's no other place like it.
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