That One Time Carmelo Anthony Almost Joined the Bulls

Carmelo Anthony almost joined the Bulls back in the Summer of 2014. 

As a 30-year-old firmly in his prime, Anthony was this close to joining a feisty Chicago roster that featured Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and a young Jimmy Butler. 

On Monday, Anthony announced his retirement, which brought back a flurry of highlights from his storied NBA career, most notably with the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks.  

But after the Knicks’ 2014 season ended in a disappointing 37-45 finish with their head coach getting fired, Anthony opted out of his contract and became an unrestricted free agent. That meant that he could sign with whatever team he chose. 

Why It Didn’t Happen

At first, several teams made overtures to land the prolific scoring small forward, but ultimately it came down to three — the Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, and yes, the Bulls. Soon Anthony would eliminate the Lakers and have to choose between the Windy City or the Big Apple, Chicago deep dish or the New York slice.

According to Anthony, he was close to donning a Bulls uniform, but he heard a rumor that the team was about to replace someone, which played a role in him changing his mind:

“I was going to Chicago. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, I was there, right? I was there,” Anthony reportedly told ESPN’s First Take in 2018. “And then I started getting whispers behind the scenes. Yo, look, this person ain’t gonna be there.”

“It ain’t really right. This and that. It was all of that started to come up in the midst of my decision-making,” Anthony added. 

“I wasn’t gonna let anything cloud that. I met with New York (Knicks) last. Like, I think it was the last team I met with because I knew that I was ready to move on from that situation because of what I was dealing with and going through in New York.”

The person rumored to be replaced was former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who was reportedly feuding with management. Thibs would eventually get fired after the 2014-15 season. 

So Anthony opted to return to the Knicks, who could pay him the most anyway. The Bulls signed power forward Pau Gasol. 

The Aftermath

Ultimately, things worked out better for the Bulls than the Knicks. 

As Chicago’s Plan B, Gasol put up two All-Star campaigns and led the Bulls to winning records over those seasons. Anthony would spend his next three Knicks seasons also putting up All-Star numbers but for some awful teams. 

The Bulls eventually traded for Anthony in 2019 — then a diminished player at 34 — for financial reasons and promptly waived him. 

Still, Prime Carmelo Anthony potentially joining the Bulls back then is one of the great “NBA What Ifs.” 

What if he joined Rose, Noah, Gibson and a young Butler? Would that have been enough to propel the Bulls past the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers? We will never know. 

But can you imagine?

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