Carmelo Anthony, who announced his retirement from the NBA this morning, leaves a striking legacy: all-time bucket getter. Undisputed hat god. Ahead-of-his-time poster. And, easily overlooked but no less crucial: real-deal sneaker innovator.
Fresh off becoming the third pick in the loaded 2003 NBA Draft, a 19-year-old Anthony inked an unprecedented six-year footwear deal with Jordan Brand. Up to that point, while guys like Ray Allen and Michael Finley had been sponsored by Michael Jordan’s burgeoning Nike sub-label, none had received their own signature shoe—instead hitting the court in player-exclusive variations of existing Air Jordan models. This made a certain amount of sense: there can only really be one signature Jordan model, right? Indeed, that pattern continued for Anthony’s first season in Denver, with the Jumpman initially gracing him with icy spins on the Air Jordan 12 and Air Jordan 2.
But in 2004, with Anthony’s star power confirmed after a sensational rookie campaign, Jordan awarded him with its first-ever non-MJ signature sneaker: the Jordan Melo 1.5. (That somewhat confusing name contains a nod to the shoe’s liberal use of elements from the first two Air Jordans.) With its crisp, swooping lines and drool-worthy colorways—sneakerheads always go buck-wild for Jordans in Carolina Blue, close enough to the Nuggets’ colors at the time—the 1.5 felt like a worthy declaration of intent for one of the league’s hottest young superstars.
The shoe found an audience straight out the gates. I was 14 at the time, and very clearly recall the chokehold the 1.5s had on kids my age. We loved the bulbous, space-age design, and the inclusion of the OG Air Jordan “Wings” logo. They were, for a short period, a bigger flex on the high-school hardwood than the Iversons, T-Macs, VC Shox, and And 1s that were then ubiquitous—and they looked killer with the gigantic jeans and velour track pants everyone was wearing off the court, too.
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