/Carmelo Anthony, Hat God, Returns to the NBA

Carmelo Anthony, Hat God, Returns to the NBA

Thank God for Carmelo Anthony. While exciting, the first weeks of the NBA season lacked a certain measure of the fun, panache, and swaggering confidence it takes to follow one 17-footer that clanged off the rim with yet another fadeaway midranger. But Melo and his to-hell-with-analytics shot chart made his return to the association last night as a member—a starter!—of the Portland Trailblazers in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. And most importantly, Melo’s comeback also means a comeback for nex-level headgear.

Melo wears many hats: basketball player, entrepreneur, fashion designer, tech investor. He also…wears many hats: berets, pork pies, beanies, buckets, trappers, and top hats. The current season of the NBA may boast the emergence of MVP-candidate Luka Doncic and James Harden averaging almost 40 points a game, but who else can we count on to deliver stunning hats on a night to night basis other than “Sweet Melon” (a real nickname for him listed on Basketball Reference)?

Carmelo Anthony in Syracuse, November 6, 2019.Rich Barnes / Getty Images
Carmelo Anthony in Paris, June 21, 2019.Edward Berthelot / Getty Images

In his NBA return, Melo reached for an atypically safe cap choice: a black beanie tucked behind his ears like he’s starring in a Wes Anderson film. (To be fair, this is exactly how everyone in Portland dresses.) If Melo’s history tells us anything, though, it’s that this is only the start of a beautiful headwear journey. The former Knick has worn tophats that make him look like a Batman villain threatening to freeze Gotham, straight-from-Moscow fur trapper hats, and enough berets to make him an honorary Marxist.

A theory: Melo, the Hatsman, is a perfect reflection of Melo, the basketball player. These are tough shots he’s taking! Not a fit in the modern NBA, ill-advised, something you’ll never see during a Houston Rockets game: isn’t the beret really the basketball equivalent of a pull-up midranger? While a baseball cap is a lay-up, and whatever Cam Newton’s pilfered from the Mad Hatter’s hovel are high-variance three-pointers, the beret is neither painfully simple nor impressively difficult to pull off. The same can be said for the bucket hats Melo loves.

Carmelo Anthony in Philadelphia, September 4, 2016.Shareif Ziyadat / Getty Images
Carmelo Anthony in New Orleans, February 15, 2008.Jennifer Pottheiser / Getty Images

That these hats aren’t totally off the beaten path might be what mystifies Melo’s stylist, Khalilah Beavers, who doesn’t seem to understand the fascination with her client’s hats. For the Win interviewed Beavers about the military-style outfit Melo wore in 2012 that is as memorable as any goofy NBA outfit. Here are some choice quotes from that interview:

“Literally it’s just a regular hat. It’s just leather — that was all there was to it.”

“It was just a hat I thought was cool and he loved it.”

“‘It’s a cool hat,’ she said, understandably a bit exasperated.”

“It’s a cool brown leather hat.”

Around the third or fourth insistence that this is actually a “Cool Hat,” the line takes on the feel of a kid lying to their parents. It’s time to own up to it and admit none of Melo’s headwear can accurately be described as “just a regular hat”—and that’s a good thing. Anthony’s shown a career-long commitment to unique hats (Just look at the below bandana-print bucket hat he wore all the way back in 2006). At this point, it’s as much his thing as hoodies and a pathological dedication to taking unadvised shots. You don’t get to collaborate with Williamsburg’s favorite milliner Goorin Brothers by wearing “regular hats.” Here, a few more of our favorites.

Carmelo and La La Anthony in New York, June 28, 2006.Matthew Peyton / Getty Images
La La and Carmelo Anthony in New York, February 12, 2015.Paul Zimmerman / Getty Images
Carmelo Anthony in New York, December 20, 2013. Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images
Carmelo Anthony in New York, June 20, 2005.Ray Tamarra / Getty Images
Carmelo Anthony in California, July 16, 2015.Jason LaVeris / Getty Images