Review by Budd Bailey
At its heart, “Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised” isn’t about basketball.
It’s more about sociology and urban studies than any other category. The book will be in the sports section of the bookstore, because the author has been one of the best basketball players on the planet. Just don’t expect a recap of his achievements here. There’s more at stake.
Carmelo Anthony has been a sensation ever since he burst on the national scene in 2002. Rapid fans of high school basketball, especially in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, had heard about him. Carmelo is the type of unique name that is simply fun to say and hard to forget. When he helped Syracuse University win the national championship in 2003, just about everyone in the sport had heard about him, and had seen what a special player he was.
This is the first part of the story, from birth to the NBA draft, and it’s an interesting one. Anthony began life in New York City in one of the toughest sections of that town. He didn’t even know his father, who died when he was an infant. Carmelo moved to Baltimore at the age of eight or so, with his mom and, at least toward him, generally angry stepfather. The family settles into a neighborhood there that’s more of a place to survive than to thrive.
The people there do their best to move from day to day, but it’s not easy. Families are far from traditional. The neighborhood economy has little to offer, particularly when it comes to jobs. That forces people to dive underground into drugs and other social ills. Guns are plentiful, and deaths are almost expected at some point.
Anthony was lucky. His mother did whatever she needed to do to keep Carmelo in line and happy. If a relative or a friend needed a place to eat or sleep, the Anthonys would make room for him or her. Somehow. They might sleep in a closet, but they’d be warm and dry. As a child, Carmelo really didn’t know how it all worked, but he certainly appreciated the effort.
The transition toward maturity wasn’t without its bumps, of course. Anthony was on the edge of trouble at times. It’s sometimes a balancing act between following the rules of the streets as well as the laws of the community. But among the many people that come out of such places, Carmelo had an advantage – he was good at basketball. That got him a ticket into a private school, allowing Anthony to see how the other half lived. But there were cultural clashes on the way.
Anthony spent the summer between his junior and senior years of high school in summer school, working off a string of detentions and raising his grades a bit. That actually hurt his visibility in the basketball world a bit, since he missed most of the summer camps and competitions where reputations are made. Anthony was urged by the Syracuse coaches to get out of Baltimore at that point, and he spent his final year of high school at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. There he played on a team filled the stars, and was ready for the big time when he walked in the proverbial front door of Syracuse University.
The key to the story is that it is “authentic.” It’s a serious, straight-ahead story of the ups and downs of his experiences. The fact that it’s coming from one person doesn’t hurt the story at all. These are his experiences; it’s up to the read to make generalizations from there. Certainly some people are going to feel like going on-line and looking up some phrases in the Urban Dictionary. It won’t hurt, and you might learn something. The story moves along quite well as Anthony tells the story with the power of simplicity.
“Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised” is hardly a conventional memoir. But, it works. The publication should hold your interest throughout. The book is another sunk basket in the second half of a life that’s had a lot of them.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)