The proud and storied Puerto Rico national basketball team has no practice court and little funding in the wake of Hurricane Maria's devastation, but it remains undaunted and determined to recruit a prodigal son to wear the island nation's uniform.
If Carmelo Anthony wants a new team, Puerto Rico has a No. 15 jersey awaiting him.
Anthony and the Houston Rockets are parting ways, leaving the 10-time All-Star searching for a landing spot in the NBA once the franchise waives him.
For Puerto Rico, an association with Anthony, 34, and its national team could go a long way for the beleaguered island. Officials want Anthony to know: There's an open invitation.
"With his connection to Puerto Rico, his NBA stardom and his experiences, our fans would love it," said Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea, who has been a cornerstone of the national team and a tireless advocate in Puerto Rico's relief efforts. "We tried a bunch to get him in the past, but of course nobody blamed him for playing for Team USA. But if he ever wants a chance to represent us, it would be awesome to have him."
Anthony has had one of the most decorated international basketball careers in history, winning three Olympic gold medals and bronze with Team USA before announcing his retirement in 2016. Born in Brooklyn to a father of Puerto Rican descent, Anthony has spent considerable time in the U.S. territory and has been a part of charitable pursuits there.
Anthony would need USA Basketball to grant him a waiver to play for Puerto Rico, which would be easily attainable. Anthony stands as Team USA's all-time Olympic scoring leader with 336 points. There's no indication that Anthony ever plans to play for Puerto Rico, but federation president Yum Ramos is determined to extend him an invitation.
"I'm a big fan of Carmelo not only as a basketball player, but more importantly as one of our Puerto Rican heroes," Ramos told ESPN. "He and his foundation have done a lot for Puerto Rico. I think along with J.J. Barea, Carmelo could make a huge impact on the team and help lift the spirits of our country."
His NBA future is uncertain, but Puerto Rico basketball wants one of its most beloved figures to understand that he still has a warm embrace and a uniform awaiting on the small Caribbean island.
Puerto Rico national team recruiting Carmelo Anthony
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