Michael Strahan and Carmelo Anthony Sound Off on Basketball and Business

New York's sports superstars talk about family, fame and building their mega brands

Headshot of Lisa Granatstein

On a sultry September afternoon, a stream of stylists, photographers, TV cameramen, publicists and editors converge at the gymnasium in New York’s 14th Street Y to capture a moment in time: the bringing together of two of the city’s greatest sports heroes under one roof. Entering first is Michael Strahan, co-host of Good Morning America and Live! With Kelly and Michael and a professional football Hall of Famer following 15 phenomenal seasons as sack king of the New York Giants. Like the charismatic morning show host he is, Strahan lights up the room, encouraging everyone around him to pick up a basketball and shoot hoops. Amid the hubbub, a dapper, low-key Carmelo Anthony, scoring machine for the New York Knicks, quietly slips in.

Photo: Miller Mobley; Styling, Strahan: Victoria Trilling; Styling,

Anthony: Khalilah Beavers; Makeup, Strahan: Lisa Hayes

It’s game time.

The two superstars—and cover subjects of Adweek’s annual Men’s Issue—are role models to millions and the embodiment of the modern man. Both have full lives that extend beyond their sports personas. Strahan was born in Houston and raised on a U.S. Army base in Germany; he moved back home to play high school then college football for Texas Southern University. Since retiring from the NFL in 2008, he has served as a Fox NFL Sunday analyst. At 42, Strahan also has his hands full as a partner of SMAC Entertainment, a talent management company focusing on entertainment and sports, as well as an investor in athletic shoes and apparel company Asics and a spokesman for Meta, a new line of wellness products. He is also the father of four.

Anthony, 30, who in July re-upped with the Knicks to be their centerpiece for another five years and a reported $124 million, has had a similarly meteoric rise. But his journey could easily have taken another route. Born in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., his father died when he was just 2 years old. Six years later, the family would move to the mean streets of West Baltimore. There, Anthony stayed out of trouble, played ball, won the NCAA national championship for Syracuse, then, in 2003, signed with the Denver Nuggets. It was Anthony’s decision to join his hometown team the Knicks in 2011 that ignited the media frenzy that now follows his every move.

It’s been a whirlwind. Married to reality TV star La La Anthony and father of a 7-year-old son, Anthony’s passions range from collecting art to fine wine. He is also a major gadget guy. Those interests spawned his new venture capital firm, Melo7 Tech Partners, which he co-founded with former NBC and Bertelsmann exec Stuart Goldfarb. Already, Melo7 has seeded a slew of early-stage startups, including smart-kitchen company The Orange Chef, a storytelling app for kids called Hullabalu, the sports and entertainment ticket search engine SeatGeek, and the voice-messaging startup Cord Project. Anthony also has endorsement deals that include Foot Locker and Isotonix, and has his own signature Jordan Brand sneaker, Melo 10, to boot.

Let’s listen in.

Photo: Miller Mobley; Styling, Strahan: Victoria Trilling; Styling,

Anthony: Khalilah Beavers; Makeup, Strahan: Lisa Hayes

Strahan: You signed a new five-year contract with the Knicks, about which I have two questions for you. One, does that put any more pressure on you as a player? And two, can I get a loan?

Carmelo Anthony: [laughs]

Strahan: Which part are you laughing at? The first part of the question or the loan part?

Anthony: The second part.

Strahan: OK, so that means no.

Anthony: When I get it.

Strahan: When you get it. OK. Alright.

Anthony: You’ll receive it.

Strahan: I’m patient.

Anthony: All right.

Strahan: Alright, I like a man who’s willing to discuss things and work through problems and issues. But do you think it puts more pressure on you, undue pressure, because you’re already under a lot of pressure playing in New York.

Anthony: I think it adds more pressure if you allow it to. … For me, I think I thrive on the pressure. I welcome the pressure. I live for it. 

Strahan: [On being a pro athlete in New York] Not only on the court, but off the court, you’re the leader. Everything you do is more scrutinized. You have to be more careful than anybody else. And watching LeBron [James] go back to Cleveland, did that affect your decision on staying in New York, and did you learn anything from watching LeBron go back home?

Anthony: No. Honestly, I think it was the other way around. I think he saw when I came back home to New York and saw the response and saw the reaction and saw how at peace I was when I came back home. … I’m pretty sure he looked at that moment and saw that that was a very special moment, and he had the opportunity to go back home himself and regain that love.

Photo: Miller Mobley; Styling, Strahan: Victoria Trilling; Styling,

Anthony: Khalilah Beavers; Makeup, Strahan: Lisa Hayes

Strahan: Yeah.

Anthony: With those fans, you know, who kind of disowned him a couple of years ago …so now he’s back home and …

Strahan: Disowned him? They were burning jerseys!

Anthony: Yeah, so he’s at peace now. 

Strahan: Knowing that you’re here—and you’ve learned to deal with it—but this is the toughest city in the world to play.

Anthony: In the world. 

Strahan: Anything. To do anything, period. Forget about just playing.

Anthony: It’s the belly of the beast.

Strahan: Because it’s so much. It can be so negative at times.

Anthony: All the time.

Strahan: And somebody’s always a critic. But what do you say? How do you respond to people who sometimes question your motivation because maybe you’re not a rah-rah guy?

Anthony: Yeah. I kind of don’t pay attention to it.

Strahan: … Which is … it’s hard to do.

Anthony: The media wasn’t easy on you either.

Strahan: No.

Anthony: So how do you handle it? You’ve been here your whole career. 

Photo: Miller Mobley; Styling, Strahan: Victoria Trilling; Styling,

Anthony: Khalilah Beavers; Makeup, Strahan: Lisa Hayes

Strahan: Yeah, man, because I think I’m … I’m somewhat insane. It kind of drives me crazy, but then you just …

Anthony: Well, you almost have to be insane to do what you do.

Strahan: Yeah, well, they say, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”

Anthony: That’s true.

Strahan: I truly believe that and for me I went through the phase where I read the newspapers. It affected me. It made me sick to my stomach. Because you want to please everybody.

Anthony: Yeah. 

Strahan: You want to make everybody happy. But then at some point I realized that you can’t make everybody happy. If you’re great, somebody’s always gonna tear you down. And if you’re not so great, they’re gonna tear you down anyway.

Anthony: Yeah.

Strahan: So I just stopped worrying and I started caring about enjoying the game.

Anthony: Uh-huh.

Strahan:You were a great college player and this summer EA Sports agreed to pay $60 million to players whose likenesses were used in , and you’re looking, like, that there—that could have been me.

Photo: Miller Mobley; Styling, Strahan: Victoria Trilling; Styling,

Anthony: Khalilah Beavers; Makeup, Strahan: Lisa Hayes

Anthony: I’d have been licking my chops.

Strahan: I would have been licking mine, too. I’m so old, I was on that old game where those little blocks were just moving.

Anthony: Tecmo Bowl.

Strahan: Tecmo Bowl! I am on Tecmo Bowl.

Anthony: I know [laughs].

Strahan: You didn’t have to say you knew that. Now you really hurt my feelings, man. How do you feel about college athletes getting paid for playing?

Anthony: I think you have to. As a collegiate athlete, you have to be compensated for something. I mean, these universities, they’re making millions and millions of dollars off of merchandise, off of game tickets. I think athletes should be compensated for that. 

Strahan: I agree with you. … Now, you’re quite an entrepreneur. That’s what I respect about you, and I keep up with a lot of stuff that you do. You produce documentaries, you designed your own Jordan Brand shoe. Now you have the Melo7 Tech Partners. What kind of companies are you guys looking into with that partnership?

Anthony: A lot of startup companies … not just basic tech companies. We’re into the wearable tech space. We’re trying to get into consumer products, building products and making products—not just invest in other companies, but also build our own products as well. That’s coming soon. 

Strahan: So developing your own stuff.

Anthony: Developing my own stuff because that’s where the game is going and that’s where our society is going. Because if you look at it, you know, maybe look at 10, 15 years ago, [there were] no smartphones. 

Photo: Miller Mobley; Styling, Strahan: Victoria Trilling; Styling,

Anthony: Khalilah Beavers; Makeup, Strahan: Lisa Hayes

Strahan: Seeing that you’re this entrepreneur, is there a businessman out there today or somebody maybe in the past that you look up to or looked up to?

Anthony: One guy that comes to mind is Elon Musk.

Strahan: Oh, yeah. Brilliant, brilliant man.

Anthony: Fantastic. I believe that he’s the smartest man on the planet, just his mind-set, his vision for our society, for our world—technology, where he’s trying to take it. What he’s doing with Tesla … .

Strahan: And he also has SpaceX, where they’re sending rockets and carrying stuff for NASA.

Anthony: That’s what makes him who he is today. He’s not scared to take a chance in the tech space.

Strahan: Do you think that people stereotype you?

Anthony: The only stereotype I get a lot is when I do these other business ventures and it’s like, “Oh, he’s an athlete.” I don’t like that. 

Strahan: And it eats you alive, doesn’t it?

Anthony: I hate to hear that: “Oh, he’s just an athlete. He should just be focusing on playing basketball.” And for me, you know, I try to do a lot of different stuff, from fashion to tech to art, just trying to broaden my brand. But basketball is my foundation. Let’s not get that misconstrued. I kind of use that as a launching pad for everything else.

You have an entertainment company as well. You have a couple of shows going on right now, and I’m pretty sure you have some in production as well. Where do you see yourself in the next five or seven or 10 years?

Strahan: You know, we have a production company or a management company and we have a lot of stuff that we’re producing and working on. I got three shows I’m on now. And I see myself in five years on a yacht in the Caribbean. Done! [Pauses.] I’m joking man [laughs]. … Hey, we’ll share the boat, we’ll share the boat!

Anthony: I wish.

Photo: Miller Mobley; Styling, Strahan: Victoria Trilling; Styling,

Anthony: Khalilah Beavers; Makeup, Strahan: Lisa Hayes

Strahan: But you know, I love to work … it’s like, you’re investing in all these things and you’re putting a lot of time and energy into it, and when you retire from basketball you’re gonna be young.

Anthony: Yeah. Absolutely. 

Strahan: I was 36 and I was an old guy. I played 15 years. But I can’t imagine being early or mid-30s, even 40, and sitting at home with nothing to stimulate you. So for me, in five years I hope to just continue expanding what I’m doing and just kind of take opportunities as they come, because I think what I do now is nothing near what I’d imagined I would be doing.

Anthony: That’s right.

Strahan: Because an opportunity just came that I was able to take advantage of and, you know? It kind of goes back to what you said when people stereotype you and go, “Oh, you’re the football player.” 

Photo: Miller Mobley; Styling, Strahan: Victoria Trilling; Styling,

Anthony: Khalilah Beavers; Makeup, Strahan: Lisa Hayes

Anthony: Yeah.

Strahan: That’s when I first started doing Live! “Oh, what’s the football player doing on there with Kelly Ripa?” It made me mad. And even as a player it upset me when people go, “Oh yeah, you’re that football player.” Because you want to define yourself outside of what you do. And you know that you’re more. And for me, I just want to continue to show that and hopefully over the next five years can do it in a bigger way.

Anthony: Sure.

Strahan: I want to talk about passions. You talked about one of your passions earlier and I want to expand on that. Art, big passion?

Anthony: Uh-huh.

Strahan: And also, you’re passionate about wine.

Anthony: Love wine.

Strahan: How did that develop?

Anthony: For me, it was a luxury. I’m in love with luxury. And what I mean [by] luxury, I don’t mean, like, mansions and all these fancy cars. There’s more to luxury than that. You know, art is a luxury, music is a luxury, fashion is a luxury, wine and cigars are a luxury. These are all the lanes that I try to tap into. All of that stuff is part of my culture, it’s part of my lifestyle, and they all intertwine with one another. Just like music and sports intertwine.

Strahan: I feel like I’m talking to myself. Yeah, I feel like I’m talking to myself right there. … We’re on that trail. And also you’re in great shape, man.

Anthony: Thank you.

Strahan: You lost a lot of weight. What’s the secret?

Anthony: There’s no secret to be honest.

Strahan: Are you vegan or something now?

Anthony: No. You know, I dabble with my diet here and there. But since last summer when I started training for last season, I haven’t taken any time off after the season. I took maybe a week or two weeks off. So that training from last summer continues right now. So this is not just a transformation from the past two months. This is the transformation over the past year. 

Strahan: Yeah [laughs].

Anthony: I wish I knew how to get in shape like that—lose everything that I did and be fit like that in a month. …

I get asked all the time: “Melo, how are you involved in all these things? You got to wake up in the morning early, you got to train, you got to focus on basketball, and you still have to do all of this stuff.” But you have been doing it for a while now. I mean, you get up at 4:30 for [Live!] and you had two photo shoots today. How do you manage that?

Strahan: My attitude is the key to everything. I go into everything understanding that and enjoying it, because the experiences that I’m getting most people would never get. And also, I work out, man. I take care of myself. So on the days when I only do one show in the morning, I’ll work out in the morning and in the afternoon. So I’ll do two a day. On the other days, I work out once a day, so I may put in six or seven workouts a week. And I watch what I eat. If you go to a photo shoot or something, those chocolate chip cookies will be looking at me going, “Yo! What’s up?”

Anthony: I don’t eat snacks. I don’t do snacks.

Strahan: … I love sweets. I love ice cream. I have it in my freezer—but I have not touched it. I’ve been good. But then when my twins … I blame the kids. Like, “Y’all want some ice cream?” “Yeah, yeah, daddy.” “Good, because daddy really wanted some too.” But yeah, man, that’s what I do. After you’ve seen so many guys when they retire who neglect their health and all those injuries and all those things, all those little nicks and stuff, they get worse. And I feel better now than I felt when I was 25 years old, which is amazing because I never thought I would feel that good again. And I know it’s because of my diet and what I eat and how I work out. I take care of myself. So, I have a question for you. How many pairs of shoes do you own? You’re designing shoes, the Jordan Brand shoe, your own Melos. First of all, what size shoe do you wear? 

Anthony: 14.

Strahan: And before I hear how many pair you got, whenever you’re tired of ’em, I wear a 14.

Anthony: I’ll get you a couple.

Strahan: Thank you. I appreciate it, man.

Anthony: I’ve got a whole row, a whole rack for you in storage.

Strahan: We got this on tape.

Anthony: I know.

Strahan: OK, I’m all good with that then. Well, how many pairs do you have personally?

Anthony: I stopped counting after like …

Strahan: After what?

Anthony: A thousand.

Strahan: After a thousand?

Anthony: But you’ve got to understand …

Strahan: A thousand pairs of shoes?

Anthony: I’m a real … I’m a real sneaker head, though. You know that as athletes we get free sneakers and free stuff … I can take my storage and start my own sneaker store, like Melo’s Foot Locker or something like that.

Strahan: OK, answer this question, though: Who has more shoes, you or your wife [La La Anthony, who stars with her husband on the VH1 reality series La La’s Full Court Life]?

Anthony: I think I got her beat. She has a lot, but I think I have her beat.

Strahan: … Your wife, La La, who’s a sweetheart, man, and talented. I love the acting—she’s as diverse as you are.

Anthony: Absolutely.

Strahan: And an incredible host, everything. And I admire the fact that she’s just been able to, like, do everything. But how comfortable are you with your life played out on TV in a reality show?

Anthony: I had to get used to it. I had to set some standards. You know, we’ve been together going on 11 years now.

Strahan: Wow.

Anthony: She knows me. She gets the fact that I really don’t like being in front of the camera [on a reality show]. I’ll support it, but I’d rather that be her thing. I actually produced the show … my company produced it, so it’s definitely a support system there. But she knows that it’s not my thing—that’s her lane. If I need to come on and support her once in a while, I’ll come on and support her, but we kind of keep that …

Strahan: Separate.

Anthony: Kind of keep that separate. And that’s what makes … that’s what makes us happy. 

Strahan: I think, you know, happy wife, happy life, man.

Anthony: Absolutely. And she … I mean, she works. I like to say that I work pretty hard …

Strahan: Yeah.

Anthony: She works harder than me. She’s one of the hardest working people I will ever come across.

Strahan: You respect that.

Anthony: I respect it.

Strahan: That’s really awesome, and it’s paying off for both of you. And you know, you grew up on Myrtle Street in West Baltimore and it’s considered …

Anthony: Murder Lane.

Strahan: Yeah, and so for any young kid who’s in that situation—not in an ideal, perfect world, in their house or right outside their front door—what advice do you have for them to be positive and make it out of that in a positive way like you have?

Anthony: It takes time. It takes a commitment. I only can speak from my experience. Like for me, I had to be committed to trying to get up.

Strahan: Did you have people trying to drag you down the wrong path?

Anthony: Yeah, I was just one of those kids. I was just a product of my environment. Those things that went on in my neighborhood, I was a part of until it came a time where I really had to figure out which way I wanted to go. Did I want to stay a product of my environment or did I want to, you know, move on and try to do something different and make something out of my life? And you know, it was some luck. I got lucky.

Strahan: Of course.

Anthony: I mean, I wasn’t destined to be sitting here talking to Strahan today.

Strahan: Strahan wasn’t destined to be sitting talking to Anthony.

Anthony:It was definitely a lot of luck. I had some luck on my side.

Strahan: And you have a 7-year-old son, Kiyan. Now, what’s the hardest part about being a father to a 7-year-old son?

Anthony: Knowing that my past and the way I grew up made me who I am today and knowing that he would never, ever, ever experience that. You know, so sometimes I find myself, like, “You’ve got to be tougher” …

Strahan: Yeah.

Anthony: But I know I’ve got to back up off of that so I don’t … I don’t want to be too hard on him. I go to some of his basketball games, I go to baseball games, and I fall all the way back. I sit, like, up in the rafters.

Strahan: Yeah. You don’t want to be that dad up there screaming.

Anthony: No, I don’t want to be that dad because I know when I was younger, that dad that was screaming, I was like, “Yo, tell your daddy to …”

Strahan: [Laughs]

Anthony: “ … Tell your daddy to be quiet, man.” So I never want to be that dad. And I know he admires me so much that he takes everything I say is just like the end of the world for him.

Strahan: Yeah.

Anthony: I let him do his thing. I let him be a kid. I don’t talk to him like “You need to do this” or “You need to do that.” I give him pointers to help him out, but I don’t criticize him.

Strahan: And you encourage him to work hard … in anything he does.

Anthony: And he knows that, he knows that.

Strahan: What do you like to do most with him? What’s your favorite thing?

Anthony: He loves going to the park. He loves going to play catch. He loves going to the movies. He loves play dates. You know, typical kid things. For me, it’s just a matter of waking up every morning and knowing that I got a chance to impress my son, to be a role model to my son.

Strahan: When you have a kid, though, that’s the one thing I realized—that most of the things that they learn, or a lot of them, are what we will teach them. And you realize, oh my goodness—this is some serious responsibility. And it’s kind of frightening. It scares you.

Anthony: I get scared. I get scared sometimes. You know, just sitting there and just knowing because I see him looking at everything that I’m doing and he hears everything. He’s at that age now where he’s taking what I’m doing and kind of incorporating it into his life in some way, shape or form. So I’ve got to be very careful about things that I say in the media, things that I do, the way I conduct myself, the way I carry myself.

Strahan: Well, I tell you what. We all worry about, you know, what the media’s saying and all this other stuff, but I think you just hit it right on the head. That is the only thing that really matters—the impression you make on your kid. Because if you make the right impression on them, you’re making the right impression on the world. Thank you, man.

Anthony: My brother.

Strahan: Appreciate it.

Anthony: Always.

Strahan: Send me my shoes.

@lgranatstein lisa.granatstein@adweek.com Lisa Granatstein is the editor, svp, programming at Adweek.