Anthony exhibit step in right direction

Sports Legends recognizes former Towson Catholic star, aims to increase basketball presence

It was a day full of new and surprising experiences for Carmelo Anthony. He was the center of attention yesterday as the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards unveiled the exhibit dedicated to him - but he was unaware some of the artifacts, such as a photo of him as a child taking a jump shot on a Baltimore playground, would be in the exhibit.

"Whoa!" he exclaimed as he gazed into the glass case. (His mother, Mary, had funneled several stealth donations to the museum once he agreed to be the subject of a display.)

Anthony has done well to get home between his various commitments, especially in the summer when his annual H.O.O.D. Movement event is held, as it was over the weekend. But he had never visited the museum. So before yesterday, he did not know that until now, no permanent exhibit there had been devoted solely to his sport, or to an individual in his sport.

"Growing up here," he said, "I never would have thought in a million years I would come into a museum and see something that's mine."

Now that Anthony has opened that door, museum executive director Michael Gibbons wants it to stay open wide for basketball. He has wanted that from the beginning, for Sports Legends to be completely inclusive, but circumstances have made the city game, the producer of so many ... well, legends from Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland, the most noticeable void there by far.

It hasn't been from a lack of effort, but the progress has been slow. The Anthony exhibit, Gibbons said, could change that, and it could trigger a flow that will bring basketball up to par with football and baseball in the next couple of years.

"This is what we've been talking about, what it's going to take," Gibbons said after the private ceremony in the museum lobby, attended by, among other family and well-wishers, Mary Anthony, Anthony's fiancee, LaLa Vazquez, and their year-old son, Kiyan.

"It will be a foundation," Gibbons continued, "to take what Carmelo has done and have a building block, to take what he's done and spread the word. Tell other people, 'This is what Carmelo has done,' and get them involved, too."

The museum needed a break like this. The subject whose absence is most obvious is the Bullets, both versions, but particularly the Wes Unseld-Earl Monroe era in the 1960s and '70s. But gathering artifacts to match the displays for the Orioles, Ravens and Colts has been far more painstaking. A few inroads have been made recently. That's still further along than the efforts to enshrine other prominent names, moments and events from the past, from high school to the pros.

In the past two years, the number of programs and events at the museum focused on basketball have increased; they have been well-received, and more are planned. None, however, has packed or will pack the punch the Anthony exhibit will. While it won't fill a whole wing or floor of the museum, his exhibit will establish his status as a Baltimore sports icon. During the presentation, Gibbons said he'll be near the exhibit for Michael Phelps, fitting for "our two Olympians."

The items in the exhibit back up Anthony's claim to that status. Among other memorabilia: a plaque for being named a Naismith high school All-American, a ball signed by his teammates on the 2003 Syracuse NCAA championship team, another signed by teammates at the 2006 World Championships and last year's Olympic qualifying tournament, his ring from this past season's NBA All-Star Game, and the 2006 Sports Illustrated cover he shared with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Plenty of players and personalities before Anthony have left their marks on the game, but not many have a list of accomplishments that long, and at such a young age. And, of course, he'll always have the distinction of being the first from his sport to share space with the other local immortals.

"There's a lot of history in the Baltimore community in sports," he said, "and I'm glad I'm part of it."

So, he was asked, would he like to see more basketball here?

Anthony didn't hear the end of the question, "… in this museum." His quick response showed he had another large basketball-related void in mind.

"Yeah," he said. "We need a basketball team."

One thing at a time.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Listen to David Steele on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. on WNST (1570 AM).


PHOTO GALLERIES

NBA VIDEOS