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This ’Melo Is

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Anthony, followed by security and his handlers, emerged from the SUV, and ­havoc ensued. Harris, jumping up and down, handed me his phone and said, “Reporter man, film me, film me.” I obliged with a 30-second tracking shot that ended with Carmelo putting his arm around Harris and smiling. Carmelo then hugged Miranda and about 45 other people. Hernandez showed him the kindergarten photo, and Carmelo asked if he could have it. Hernandez was amusingly shocked. “He wants it! I just wanted him to sign it! It has my niece in it!”

As Carmelo dribbled and shot on the same court where he dribbled and shot as a grade-schooler, and as our photographers snapped away, he began to chat with an older man he recognized, one of the hundreds now standing on the sidelines. “Ronnie!” he said. “Damn, it’s been forever.” Ronnie was laughing but appeared to be giving Carmelo some considerable gruff. “Yeah, you ain’t nothin’, ” Ronnie said, over and over, laughing and laughing, along with Carmelo.

“Ronnie” was Ronald Brown, 48, who has lived in the Red Hook West projects his whole life. He also used to play basketball with Carmelo’s father. In the oft-told history of Carmelo’s journey from Red Hook to Baltimore to Syracuse University to the NBA, his father, who died of cancer when Carmelo was 2, is a muted footnote, the tragedy that spurs our hero onto his journey. But to Ronnie, Carmelo Sr. is a legend. A few years younger than Carmelo’s father, he was one of his closest friends and was with him throughout his fight with cancer. “Lots of people don’t know his pops,” he said. “I tell you, his dad was better. He was the best. Carmelo can’t carry his jock.” He then repeated this to Carmelo. “You couldn’t hold your dad’s jock, you hear that?” It was a relief to me that everyone was still laughing.

Carmelo, wearing an orange Jordan-brand polo and a massive gold watch, continued to dribble as the crowd grew and grew. I asked him if he was going to go see his old apartment. “I’m working my way up to that,” he said, smiling. “Not sure I’m ready for that yet.” Nonetheless, when the shoot ended, he grabbed Miranda and his bodyguard and sprinted into Apartment 1C and stayed inside for about ten minutes as the crowd migrated to the door.

No one else was allowed in to witness the tour, but when Carmelo came out, he was beaming. “Wow, man, place is exactly the same,” he said. “Finally got to go see that. That was something.” He glided through the crowd, signing and posing and still somehow moving forward. He paused and looked back at his old home. “I suppose I can just come see this place anytime I want to now. That’s kinda cool. This is where I live now. This is where I do what I do.”

E-mail: will.leitch@nymag.com.


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