‘Melo Gold: WatchTime’s Interview with NBA Superstar Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony in suit/watchNew York Knicks all-star forward Carmelo Anthony is a scoring machine on the court and an avid watch collector off of it. WatchTime profiled ‘Melo back in the winter of 2007, on the eve of his return to his old team, the Denver Nuggets. Click here to read the full article, with original photos from our shoot.

It’s late January, and Carmelo Anthony is nearing the end of his longest timeout. As I speak to him on the phone, I picture him checking his watch anxiously — waiting for the hands to strike midnight, for the numeral in the date window to flip over, to put an end to his league-mandated downtime and usher in his long-awaited return to the hardcourt.

Tomorrow is most emphatically another day, and not just any other. It is the day when the young man known to friends and fans simply as ‘Melo suits up in his Denver Nuggets uniform and plays for the first time in the NBA with his new teammate, former 76ers star Allen Iverson, acquired by Denver for the playoff push in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

A self-described “watch freak” from way back, Anthony surely appreciates the precious nature of time more than ever these days. It’s been 36 days since the now-infamous night at Madison Square Garden — the night the street kid from West Baltimore came out of him and took a swing at the New York Knicks’ Mardy Collins during a brutal brouhaha between the Nuggets and the Knicks.

Before that evening’s notorious events, and the subsequent 15-game suspension from NBA commissioner David Stern (the sixth-longest in league history; Collins was slapped with six games), Anthony was the NBA’s scoring leader, racking up an average 31.7 points per game — a distinction he still holds here on the last day of his hiatus, despite not hoisting a single basketball in an NBA game for over a month. And he can’t wait to get back in action: in a Sports Illustrated interview, he described Iverson as a Christmas present he hadn’t been allowed to open yet.

Carmelo Anthony in suit/watch
‘Melo models his Ernst Benz ChronoJewel Roman 47mm Automatic. (Photo: Paul Peregrine)

As a child, Anthony learned early on about loss and longing. Born in New York City in 1984 to a Puerto Rican father and an African-American mother, he lost the father to cancer when he was only three. Afterward, the Anthony family — his mother, two brothers, and sister — moved to Brooklyn, and then to Baltimore in 1992. While their Druid Hill neighborhood was drug-infested and dangerous, its playgrounds were the proving grounds for Carmelo’s emergence as a basketball prodigy. By age seven, his skills were getting him noticed by local hoops intelligentsia, and by his senior year at Towson Catholic High School, he was drawing national attention. Sprouting up five inches in the summer of 2000, he began piling up local accolades — The Baltimore Sun’s 2001 Metro Player of the Year, Baltimore Catholic League Player of the Year — and was named a high school All-American for his senior year after transferring to Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy.

According to Anthony, his interest in watches began as early as his love for basketball, and his first timepieces were as modest as his upbringing. “I’ve always been a watch freak,” he says. “Even when I was a kid, I had my Superman watch but I would also collect all these cartoon character watches from Burger King. I’d make sure I had all of those. Of course, I eventually gave them all away.” When he got a little older, he upgraded to a sporty Technomarine, a watch he recalls as having “a camera and a walkie-talkie,” though this is surely either hyperbole or his youthful memory playing tricks. After all, to a pre-adolescent with a wide-eyed fascination with the compact technology on his wrist, a digital chronograph and a walkie-talkie may have seemed essentially the same thing.

Carmelo Anthony with Denver Nuggets
Carmelo Anthony led the Denver Nuggets from the NBA cellar to the playoffs. (Photo: Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images)

Anthony entered Syracuse University as a freshman in 2003, and immediately made an impact. He led the Orangemen in scoring, rebounding, minutes played, field goals made and attempted, and free throws made and attempted. His 22.2 points-per-game average was 16th in the nation and fourth in the NCAA Big East Conference. Most significantly, he led Syracuse to a 30-5 record and the first national championship in the school’s history. Anthony — who poured in 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the decisive game against Kansas — was named MVP of the Final Four.

It was around this time that Anthony was given his first high-end watch, a yellow-gold Breitling that has since become a favorite. The brand is now one of the top two that are most likely to be displayed on his wrist. “These days, I’m wearing mostly Breitling or Ernst Benz,” he admits. Celebrating his accomplishments with a timepiece was appropriately symbolic, as the clock was already ticking down on his college ball career.

Carmelo Anthony in profile wearing Ernst Benz
Anthony appreciates a big watch, like this 47-mm, bronze-dialed Ernst Benz ChronoScope. (Photo: Paul Peregrine)

With his one mythic NCAA freshman season in the books, it was a foregone conclusion that Anthony would be taking the fast track to the pros. He declared his eligibility for the 2003 NBA draft, with the blessing of his Syracuse coach, Jim Boeheim. In one of the most talent-packed drafts in recent history, Anthony was chosen third overall by Denver, right behind Ohio high school phenom LeBron James (chosen by Cleveland) and Serbian import Darko Milicic (by Detroit) and ahead of Toronto’s Chris Bosh and Miami’s Dwyane Wade.

The previously woebegone Nuggets, with a wretched 17-65 record in 2002-03, now had a shot in the arm, and their fans now had a reason to cheer. At small forward, playing alongside veteran Marcus Camby and first-year point guard Andre Miller, Anthony led Denver to a dramatic turnaround in the 2003-04 season, winning 43 games and earning the team’s first postseason berth in nearly a decade. His own stats were respectable as well: he averaged 21.6 points, 2.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, and became the youngest Nuggets rookie to post 30 points in a game in the modern NBA era. He narrowly missed out on Rookie of the Year recognition, finishing second behind James. The Nuggets have been playoff contenders ever since, and Anthony has continued to excel as the team’s energetic leader (and also as a valuable member of the 2004 USA Olympic team). At press time, the Nuggets are on a five-game winning streak, with an improving defense, and securing their hold on a playoff spot.

Living the life of an NBA superstar has allowed Anthony to indulge his fascination with wristwatches. “A lot of guys in the league like watches,” he says, “but not many of them have a fetish for [them] like I do.”

Carmelo Anthony at NBA All-Star Game 2007
Hanging out in Las Vegas for the 2007 All-Star Game, ‘Melo goes for a bit more bling. (Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

While not conversant on the nuts and bolts of horology and complications — he claims he owns several chronographs but has yet to use the stopwatch function more than a handful of times on any of them — Anthony does possess a discerning eye for wristwatch style, and strict standards for what he adds to his growing collection. “I can’t wear a little watch. I need something big that suits my wrist,” he says. “I like both bracelets and straps, but it’s got to be a big dial.” And as far as colors go, despite the prevailing trend of rose-gold cases, ‘Melo still digs yellow. “I still like the classic yellow-gold look,” he states, revealing that he has recently added several gold Rolexes to the collection, including one with pavé diamonds. He generally doesn’t care for watches with lots of diamonds and bling but admits to reaching for one depending on the social circumstance. “It depends on whether I’m hanging out with my friends or on the bench at a game, where I’d put on something more classy.” Mostly, he says, he goes for a balance between classic and extravagant, like the Ernst Benz ChronoJewel Roman 47mm Automatic that he sported for the WatchTime shoot. It has an 18k gold bezel set with 3.5 ct. of diamonds and an 18k-gold deployant buckle. “That watch is perfect for me,” he says. “It’s got a big dial, but it’s not too flashy. You could wear it with a variety of outfits. I like versatility.”

The travel that comes with his high-stepping job brings Anthony numerous opportunities to scratch his horological itch. (The five-year, $80- million contract he signed with Denver doesn’t hurt, either.) While he finds Denver to be a decent city for watch shopping, he enjoys trekking to towns like New York and Los Angeles, with their wealth of well-stocked jewelers and boutiques. While in Detroit to play against the Pistons, he’s been known to visit Ernst Benz’s headquarters in nearby Birmingham to hang with the staff, check out the yet-to-be-released models, and custom-order straps for his own watches. “It’s great to see such an accomplished young man have such a strong appreciation for mechanical watches,” says Leonid Khankin, designer and managing director for Ernst Benz. “And of course, I’m flattered that he chooses to wear our watches.”

Carmelo Anthony in striped shirt with Ernst Benz watch
Anthony will pass the watch collecting gene down to his son, Kiyan, born in March 2007. (Photo: Paul Peregrine)

While Anthony says he has been spending most of his time working out since the suspension, he has many projects outside of basketball. He has a sponsorship deal with Nike’s Michael Jordan line of sneakers, which includes his own signature line. He co-owns an Indy racing car team (the car, of course, is known as the Car-Melo). He has, somewhat controversially, appeared in a rap video, 2004’s Stop Snitchin’. He has established the Carmelo Anthony Youth Center back in Baltimore, one of many initiatives he has taken to help revitalize his old neighborhood. And he will soon pass the watch gene down to the next generation — his son, Kiyan, born on March 7 to ‘Melo and his girlfriend, MTV VJ Alani “LaLa” Vasquez.

As ‘Melo prepares for his big return, I ask him the question posed to so many athletes who spend their careers playing against the clock, against time. When the ball is in your hands and your team is down by three points and the game clock is ticking down to its final seconds, how do you make that moment stretch? Do you have the ability to perceive time differently, to make it slow down enough to focus, clear-headed, on your task? “Not really,” he says with refreshing honesty, adding a final pearl of wisdom, possibly gained from his recent experiences: “Time waits for no one. I just have to keep up.”

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