Carmelo Anthony Was Just 2 When He Lost His Dad To Cancer And Has Been on Journey of Discovery Ever Since: “My Dad Was a Young Lord”

The Why with Dwyane Wade,” a new co-production of  iHeartPodcasts and Wade’s 59th & Prairie Entertainment, featured a sit-down interview with NBA legend and co-host of “7PM in Brooklyn,” Carmelo Anthony, where the 10-time NBA All-Star opens up about the unexpected affiliation his father had with the Young Lords, while Melo delves into the emotional journey of his father’s impact on his life.

“Everywhere I would go in Brooklyn they would say, ‘’Ey, yo, you look just like your dad. You walk like your dad, you talk like your dad. Like your whole aura is your dad.’ … Even, like, when I got to ‘Cuse [Syracuse University], my dad was locked up upstate for a while, they called him Mr. Wonderful he scored like 50-something points upstate in the jail, so he was known as fly, Puerto Rican, ‘fro, you know, classy, tall, 6-5, 6-6”. 

Carmelo Anthony’s journey of discovery has led him to finding out some surprising things about his Puerto Rican father that fills some holes that Melo says he’s had in his life as far as his identity is concerned. (Photos: Instagram/@carmeloanthony)

“But he hung with the Blacks,” Melo continued, “so it was always that connection, Black Puerto Rican so I always knew that connection.”

Melo has been digging into his roots for years, trying to find out more about family members who had passed away before he got to know them. 

“So as I’m on this road of discovery, La [La La Anthony, Melo’s ex-wife] gives me a picture for Christmas. … It’s a painting, and it’s me as a kid, and then there’s my dad and he in like the jail pose. … I was like this is everyday attire for him. That’s something different. … As I started to discover, I realized my dad was a Young Lord.” 

Who Were The Young Lords?

The Young Lords, also known as the Young Lords Organization (YLO) or Young Lords Party (YLP), was a Chicago-based street gang that was birthed in the 1960s and evolved into a civil and human rights organization, with a branch eventually started in New York City 

The Young Lords’ mission stressed self-determination for Puerto Rico, Latino nations, all oppressed nations, and also supported neighborhood empowerment.

The mission is reflected in the Young Lords’ logo of a map of Puerto Rico, a brown fist holding a rifle, and the words “Tengo Puerto Rico en mi Corazón” (“I have Puerto Rico in my heart”).

Carmelo Anthony's father was a social rights activist and Young Lord.
Young Lords logo consisted of a map of Puerto Rico, a brown fist holding a rifle, and the words “Tengo Puerto Rico en mi Corazón” (“I have Puerto Rico in my heart”).

The Young Lords found their true purpose when as the vanguard of a people’s struggle against oppression, they initially fought against the displacement of Puerto Ricans from Lincoln Park in Chicago.

Young Lords Are Puerto Rican Version Of Black Panthers

“Young Lords are basically the Puerto Rican version of Black Panthers,” Melo said. “It’s the version of the Black Panther depending on who you actually ask. … So I started digging deeper into what is a Young Lord. Oh, he look fly. So you start going now I can use the internet. Now I start pulling up pictures and researching and like wow that’s where I get it from.”

Melo is correct. 

The Young Lords also created a 10-point program modeled after the Black Panthers’ 10-point program. And later, The New York office created its own 13-point program:

We want self-determination for Puerto Ricans—Liberation on the island and inside the United States.

We want self-determination for all Latinos.

We want liberation for all third world people.

We are revolutionary nationalists and oppose racism.

We want community control of our institutions and land.

We want true education of our creole culture.

We oppose capitalists and alliances with traitors.

We oppose the amerikkkan military.

We want freedom for all political prisoners.

We want equality for women. Machismo must be revolutionary … not oppressive.

We fight anti-Communism with international unity.

We believe armed self-defense and armed struggle are the only means to liberation.

We want a socialist society.

Who Is Carmelo Anthony’s Dad?

In fact, Melo says he knew he was Puerto Rican, but he didn’t have a deeper understanding of his Puerto Rican heritage and how impactful his father turned out to be on his life until he entered high school. 

“It wasn’t until high school when I went to Puerto Rico and they wanted me to play on the Junior National Team, representing Puerto Rico,” Melo said “I knew I was Puerto Rican, I didn’t know the ties. I knew my dad was Puerto Rican, but I didn’t know how deep it goes.”

Carmelo gives tremendous insight into how some young men feel when they don’t have a father. You tuck the feeling of a void in your life deep down within until something inevitably reminds you of the parental guidance and presence you were missing. 

Melo Discovering Impact Of Father

Being asked to join the Puerto Rican Junior National Team was a transformative moment in Melo’s life. 

“Honestly, that was a moment of like, I have to go figure this out. I gotta start asking questions because now this void of not having a dad is like, damn, I’m about to make it to the NBA, I wish he was here.”

The research was necessary for Melo because questions about himself that he might not have been able to answer in the past became clearer to him. His dad was fly, and Melo has always been one of the NBA’s best dressed players.

His pops was 6-foot-6, so we definitely know where he got his height from. His father was a Puerto Rican, who hung out with Black guys, so inevitably Melo’s mom is Black. And his dad was killing inmates in an upstate New York prison back in the ’80s, dropping buckets galore. 

The 6-foot-7 Melo has taken that gene and made an amazing life for himself and his family with it. He won a national title at Syracuse as a freshman and stormed the NBA in 2003, competing with LeBron James for Rookie of the Year honors.

After 19 seasons, he’s a certified Top 75 player in NBA history and one of the greatest pure scorers to ever lace ’em up.

Let’s not discount Melo’s mom, Mary Anthony, who did an incredible job of guiding his career and being a rock as Melo turned to uncles and cousins, who were not the best examples, to provide him with a father figure. 

Carmelo Anthony (R) and his four siblings were raised by his mom, Mary Anthony (L) after his father Carmelo Iriarte died of cancer in 1986, when Melo was just 2. (Photo:

In addition to working several jobs to get Melo through private school, his mother Mary played full court hoops during her last two years in high school and ran track. Within Melo’s accolade-filled sports career lies a social consciousness that also comes from his dad.

Social activism certainly runs in Melo’s veins, as he’s always been vocal and present in times when race and issues of systemic oppression became national issues, and therefore a Black NBA player issue.  

It all makes sense, and Wade is a perfect person to conduct the interview. 

Wade and Carmelo’s friendship is well-chronicled, as they are part of LeBron’s NBA circle of friends, along with Chris Paul, more infamously known as The “Banana Boat Crew”

Wade sits down with pioneers in sports, fashion, music, and business for an intimate conversation about their origins, and the reasons they keep pushing to innovate. Melo gave us some great insight into his personal life and his journey from boy to man.

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