Carmelo Anthony will go down as one of his era's great scorers, but he could wind up among the greatest scorers of any era.
After reaching the 20,000-point plateau in his career at a younger age than all but five men -- a feat Melo accomplished during Sunday night's 96-93 win against the Hornets -- it's hard not to wonder how much higher his total can go before his time in the sport is up.
Just for fun, here's a glance into Anthony's future in which amNewYork optimistically projects just how many points the Knicks star may accumulate during his career.
Melo's current career points per game of 25.25 won't hold up forever. A glass-half-full assumption is he can keep that average going through the remainder of his new five-year deal. During his 11-year career, Melo has missed about nine games per season, but as he gets older that total could rise a bit. So for argument's sake, let's say he averages 70 games played per season. By the time he reaches free agency again, Melo's career total will be at about 28,863 at age 35. At present, that would rank sixth in NBA history.
Beginning of the end
At this point, Melo would have five full regular seasons left before he hits the big 4-0. The odds of him playing that long aren't high -- most NBA players' bodies simply can't hold up to that point, with few exceptions. But, he could have at least two more seasons of high-level scoring left in him. At 35, Dirk Nowitzki scored 1,735 (21.7) last year, and Karl Malone posted 24.2 ppg between ages 35 and 37. If Melo takes care of himself, even if he can only play 65 games per year, he could realistically contribute 22 ppg over three seasons. That's 4,290 more points, pushing his total to 33,153 at age 37. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Malone (36,298) scored more.
At this point, it's reasonable Melo will lose significant time due to injury -- look no further than Kobe Bryant as an example, and he was 35 last season when he missed all but six games. If he's still playing as a 38- or 39-year-old, his role is likely to be reduced, as well. But, since this is an optimistic take on the rest of Melo's hypothetical career, let's say he finds his way into 110 more games and averages 12 points over his final two seasons. That's another 1,320 more points, bringing the final tally to 34,473.
If things were to go horribly wrong for one of the league's great offensive weapons, Melo still would be a good bet to eclipse 25,000 points. Even naysayers would admit Anthony should net another 4,975 before he hangs up his Nikes.