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Carmelo Anthony’s Enduring Legacy: Melo Reflects on How His Sneaker Line with Jordan Brand Was a Sponsorship Breakthrough

Carmelo Anthony’s allegiance to the Jordan Brand has made him millions, and he was the first athlete signed to Jordan to have his own signature sneaker line.

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony, photo via Instagram, @carmeloanthony

Anthony’s original shoe deal with Nike in 2003 paid him $3.5 million per year for six years. His signature shoe line with Jordan Brand continued for 13 models, ending in 2017 as the fifth-longest running signature sneaker series in NBA history.

While exact figures are not disclosed, estimates suggest that his sneaker and endorsement deals with Jordan Brand and other brands like Nike, Panini, IWC, Steiner Sports, Nickelodeon, and Footlocker earned him an estimated between $8 and $9 million annually, according to Money Made.

Over the course of his NBA career, Anthony’s sneaker deals have earned him tens of millions of dollars, with endorsements contributing significantly to his income.

On his podcast, “7PM in Brooklyn with Carmelo Anthony and Kid Mero,” published on March 8, the former NBA superstar retells the story of his signing with the Jordan Brand and how momentous it was for his career moving forward.

“In the history of Adidas — and there wasn’t no disrespect to Adidas — I’m the only person that ever wore Jordans to an Adidas camp,” he boasted on the podcast.

Anthony’s Jordan History

It is 2004, Michael Jordan, transitioning from basketball to business, selected Anthony as the brand’s first signature athlete. (Five players — Michael Finley, Vin Baker, Ray Allen, Eddie Jones, and Derek Anderson — were signed as “Team Jordan” in 1997, but Anthony is widely considered as the first NBA player to have his own signature Jordan Brand shoe.)

For Anthony, it all started with his transfer to Oak Hill Academy, originally he completed three years at a Baltimore preparatory school, Towson Catholic, due to what Anthony perceives as racism over his braids. 

At a new school, a senior high school Anthony is sponsored by Jordan, where he embraced the Jordan brand despite before attending Oak Hill Academy, Anthony had no clear interest in working with a particular shoe brand. He had played wearing both Adidas and Nike sneakers.

In 2002, when Anthony had the chance to meet Jordan, his interest in wearing his sneakers solidified. After a successful college season at Syracuse University wearing Air Jordan XVIII, he became the No. 3 overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft.

Anthony was signed to Nike during his first year in the NBA, but Jordan intervened, splitting the sponsorship with Nike for Anthony, who would be the first rookie signed to Jordan Brand with his own signature shoe in the works. 

Anthony donned a mix of retro and modern Air Jordans during his rookie season, customized in Denver Nuggets colors, including the XII, XIII, and XVIII.5, XIX, and XX, ESPN reported.

Behind the scenes, D’Wayne Edwards, Jordan Brand’s newly appointed design director at the time, collaborated closely with Melo on his debut signature model for the following season.

Jordan saw the potential in Anthony’s mean streak and street credibility; it was vibrant and influential. This aspirational push became the driving force behind creating his own sneaker, the Jordan Melo 1.5, in 2004.

In his second season, on Black Friday in 2004, the brand launched the Melo 1.5. Drawing inspiration from his Nuggets No. 15 jersey number at the time, it combined elements from some of the most iconic models of the Air Jordan franchise, specifically the Jordan I and II, with contemporary technology and construction methods, ESPN reported.

The Melo sneakers represent a significant milestone in basketball footwear, as Anthony’s signature line is the fifth-longest in NBA history, trailing only Michael Jordan (32 models), Kobe Bryant (17, across Nike and Adidas), LeBron James (15), and Allen Iverson (14), ESPN reported.

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