Cole’s World: Big Time Hooper. Anime Lover. Gamer.
Born from a bloodline of excellence, Cole Anthony has ice in his veins but is still a kid at heart. This is his story.
Before we get to NBA rising star Cole Anthony, let’s talk a little about the impressive role models and family around him. His mom is a successful lawyer, author, director, and producer. His dad is a former UNLV basketball legend who went on to play many years in the NBA and is now a broadcaster. His stepdad is Raymond McGuire, a former NYC mayoral candidate. And with two younger siblings who are carving their own path, Cole has a lot of examples of excellence in his family. Needless to say, Cole has been in the news for much of his life, which has molded the young man he has become.
“I’m super comfortable in the spotlight,” Anthony said recently while at a training camp in Los Angeles with NBA shooting coach Chris Matthews aka Lethal Shooter. “Just something I grew up with. Obviously, my dad played in the NBA, and since a young age even when I really wasn’t that good a basketball player, the attention was on me. Since then, I’ve gotten better, the spotlight has shifted towards me and not just as Greg Anthony’s son. I think now he’s considered Cole Anthony’s dad. I’m very proud of that.”
Getting to know Cole Anthony
I think now he’s considered Cole Anthony’s dad. I’m very proud of that.
At the camp, Lethal Shooter also playfully asked Cole when he knew he was better than his dad at hooping. Cole’s answer starts to give a hint at his competitive nature and desire to be known as his own man.
“I knew I was the man of the household by the time I was 13, 14. We were playing on the backyard hoop and I beat him in the first game. At this point he was mad, so in the second game, he beat me. In the 3rd game, it’s tied up and my ball. You know I’m about to get the win. And he says, ‘my leg.’ So we had to stop and that’s when I knew I was the man of the household.”
On that note…let’s start a few years further back and get to know Cole.
Just how far back has Cole been getting noticed? His mom, Crystal McCrary, directed a youth basketball documentary called Little Ballers, with producer credits going to former Knicks star Amar’e Stoudemire and rapper Lupe Fiasco. The two-hour film tells the story of 11-year old hoopers - including Cole - on a journey to become AAU champions.
“There’s a scene in the movie where my son is sitting on his bed holding his pillow pet and talking about, ‘I plan on playing in the NBA as soon as possible and for the rest of my life,'” said McCrary. “You can’t write that. It’s classic.”
In the dynamic guard’s own words from the documentary Becoming Cole Anthony: “My mom has the picture of me from when I think I was like six-months old – it was before I could walk – holding a basketball and just throwing a basketball at the hoop. I just always had that dream when I was younger. I wasn’t even thinking about how good I was; I was just thinking that I wanted to be in the NBA.”
But don’t get it twisted. Cole wasn’t just thinking hoops. He loved being a kid and hanging with friends. Cole’s face lights up when he talks about his love affair with Japanese anime and the Dragon Ball Z series on Cartoon Network. The plot circles around the adventures of Son Goku and his companions who defend the Earth against villains ranging from aliens, to androids and magical creatures. And don’t even get him started on Pokémon, the global sensation where humans known as Pokémon Trainers catch and train Pokémon to battle other Pokémon for sport. The games consist of trading cards, figurines and video games. One of Cole’s favorites is Saitama, also known as One-Punch Man, who is famous for being able to defeat his foes with a single punch.
So between family, hoops and having fun, the 11-year old ball of energy started to fill out into something resembling a ferocious, competitive fire-breathing dragon. Kind of like some of the characters he adored as a kid.
The High School Years
The 6-foot-3, do-everything guard came up in the New York hoop culture and played at high school powerhouses, spending his first few years at the legendary Archbishop Molloy, which produced NBA players such as Kenny Smith and Kenny Anderson, and then transferring for his senior season to Oak Hill Academy, which generated All-Stars Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo. At Oak Hill, he nearly averaged a triple-double, something those other stars never approached.
He also played in the New York-area Elite Youth Basketball League and was the star on a roster that included current Orlando Magic teammate Mo Bamba. New York City is known for producing point guards, and Anthony is carrying the torch that was passed through Nate Archibald, Kenny Anderson, Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair, Rafer Alston, and so many others. He was building his own resume and was clearly more than just a son of a former NBA player.
As a member of the U18 USA Basketball National Team, he earned All-Tournament honors at the 2018 FIBA U18 Americas Championships and led USA Basketball in scoring at the 2019 Nike Hoop Summit. As a high school senior, Anthony was named to the 2019 USA Today First Team All-America and was the Most Valuable Player of both the 2019 McDonald’s All-American Game and the 2019 Jordan Brand Classic. For a kid who had advantages growing up, his competitiveness and desire not to get any free handouts was evident. He wanted to earn the respect of peers and coaches at each stop along the way.
Those years in high school also crossed ironically with an explosion of social content featuring high school basketball players. The likes of @overtime launched and covered Cole Anthony and his exploits on the daily - with his social following growing past half a million followers. He got the quintessential rite of passage SLAM Magazine cover as a junior. It also didn’t hurt that Cole was turning into a dunking force of nature, springing up to jam home mind-blowing rim wreckers.
“I remember in 8th - 9th grade, I’d see other dudes just dunking all the time and I wanted to do it too,” Cole said. “So every time I was in the gym after a workout, I’d practice dunks and gradually started to jump higher and higher.”
Overall, all the attention wasn’t a shock to Cole’s system. It was just a continuation of what he considered to be his destiny.
College Life and a Global Pandemic
He then went off to Chapel Hill to play college ball at North Carolina, and as a pre-season All-American, was planning to shine all the way through March Madness. UNC's coach Roy Williams said Anthony was "a different breed," more worldly and mature than most guys he has coached. In his first college game, Anthony went off, setting an ACC freshman and UNC all-time debut scoring record with 34 points. He also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, matching an all-time best by a Tar Heels point guard. These were not normal numbers for a kid playing his first college game! He went on to average 19.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals across nine games before he partially tore his meniscus in his right knee. He came back later in the season to score 26 points in his first game after surgery. Then COVID-19 hit and the rest of the season was canceled. His roller coaster season was over and it was time to decide what was next.
With everything going on in the world, Cole and his family decided to forego the rest of his college eligibility and throw his hat into the NBA Draft system. With the pandemic at its peak, the process was stressful, from meeting with teams, to staying safe and training in New York. Questions surfaced as to where he would go in the draft due to the short whirlwind experience at UNC. Anthony worked out for three teams — the Heat, Magic and Wizards. Most scouts and draft analysts said Anthony solidified himself as a Top 10 pick in the draft. Even the draft itself was unique, as it was done virtually with all players in their own safe bubbles due to Covid-19 restrictions. The iconic scenes of players sitting in a green room waiting for their names to be called, walking up to grab a hat, and shaking hands with the commissioner, would have to be tabled.
“It was a long day for me and my whole family,” Cole said. “We honestly didn’t know which team was drafting me, so there was no floor to where I would go. It wasn’t until after the 13th pick that my agent called me and said Orlando will take me. Everybody was hyped. I remember my boy Mo Bamba calling me about four times asking if I knew where I was going.”
Steal of the Draft
The prodigal son from New York City’s famed hoops pipeline - known for scoring, athleticism and pedigree - was off to Orlando.
Cole’s rookie year was a trial by fire, as he was thrown into the gauntlet. And yes, what they say about cream rising to the top is accurate here. Cole proved that he was the steal of the draft after falling to the 15th pick. With the NBA becoming a scoring guard's league, the top point guards all put the ball in the basket. This is a strength of Cole’s. Highlights of his first season were hitting - not one - but two game winners. Very rare for any player, let alone for a rookie.
“To be blessed enough to hit two game-winners in one season as a rookie, that really doesn’t happen that much, so I’m just extremely blessed,” Anthony said.
When he wasn’t busy hitting game winners, he would hang at his Orlando pad playing Call of Duty into the night. Some of those sessions could be found on his Instagram stories and across the YouTube or Twitch gaming world. We forget that with all the accolades and adult expectations, he’s still just 21 years old and should just be heading into his junior year of college.
Instead, he’s heading into his second season in the league and spending the summer working out with elite shooting coaches like Lethal Shooter.
“The main thing that I think will complete my game is getting to that jump shot consistently,” Cole says. That will allow me to take the next step and will open up every aspect of my game. That’s why Steph Curry and Damian Lillard are so deadly. They are always a threat to shoot from anywhere on the court. It makes it easier for them to get teammates involved and also get to the rim.”
With a strong family base and elite talent, the future is bright for a young man spreading his wings, balancing work and play.