This completes the third of three close looks at the signature shoes of the three highest-profile players from the 2003 NBA Draft. It was appropriate, perhaps, to save the Melo M3 (hope BMW ain't mad) for last, as it's actually Carmelo Anthony's FIRST all-original signature shoe. Prior to this one, he wore Denver colorways of various Air Jordan retros (most notable the II, X and XII), and ".5" hybrid shoes, the Carmelo 1.5 and Melo 5.5 (which were technically Melo's first two signature shoes). This year, the ".5" line becomes a team shoe—the latest version, the 9.5, is being worn by Chris Paul, Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson, among others. Anyway, let's go inside the box.

The $115 Melo M3 (down $5 from the 1.5 and 5.5, and more appropriate for Melo's #15 jersey) is a pretty hefty-looking shoe on the surface—full-grain upper, big midsole. Pick it up, though, and it's not heavy. Certainly not big-man heavy. But with the near-high cut at the ankle and chunky midsole at the heel, it's clear that this shoe is built to do battle in the trenches. Where you can often find Melo.

Moving on to the lateral side of the forefoot, we find Nike's traditional "wing" stabilizer (the only part of the outsole that's molded in clear rubber), emblazoned with the stylized "M" Melo logo. You can also see the hidden-stitched toebox reinforcement (a nice touch) and the ring of ventilation holes around it (a detail taken from the Air Jordan II). There's also the contrast between the smooth leather of the toebox and the full-grain leather of the rest of the upper. Nothing less than what should be expected of a Jordan product.

Moving onto the ankle portion of the lateral side, you have the large, embroidered Jumpman (one of the four that appear on each shoe), and the exaggerated external lace loops (a detail taken from the Air Jordan XII). On the inside, the ankle padding is separate from the leather—bootie-type cushioning—which hasn't been used in a regular Air Jordan since (correct me if I'm wrong) the VII. I kind of like it. You'll also note that the blue heel counter portion of the shoe is hidden-stitched. Meaning it was stitched and then folded over. More labor-intensive, but cleaner looking.

Medial side of the forefoot. The medial outsole "pods" feature the names "IRIATE" and "KIYAN," both of which are repeated, among other phrases, on the heel portion of the insole (more on that later). Kiyan is Carmelo's middle name, Iriate was the middle name of his father, also named Carmelo, who died of cancer in 1986 when Melo was three. (Some sources actually have Carmelo's full name as Carmelo Kiyan Iriate Anthony.) I kind of dig the trend of names being part of a player's shoe—saves them the trouble of having to Sharpie up every new pair. Also, the cuts in the outsole remind me a little of the outsole pattern of the XII.

The toe area. Visible is the split "15," Melo's jersey number. You can also see how either side of the upper meets at the toebox in a V (thankfully the laces don't go all the way down, as they did in the Jordan XV), and the numerous ventilation holes in the leather portion of the tongue (it's nylon on the sides).

The outsole pattern is pretty basic—regular herringbone on the four "corners" combined with a modified herringbone based on the letter "M" (for obvious reasons). The yellow in the flex grooves is a nice touch, although I would have liked to have seen it carried over to the upper in some way. Visible towards the heel, under what appears to be a thick layer of clear plastic, is a silver woven shank. The midsole is elevated and curved—only the heel and the forefoot would contact the court.

Top of the tongue. More touches. The M on the tongue (there's more Melo branding than Jumpman logos on each shoe—a good move, I believe) and the "Melo" logo on the lace tips. Also notice that the laces are flat. Maybe they're not as cool as round laces, but through my experience, at least, they're more likely to stay tied and tight. You can also see how the front portion of the ankle collar doesn't come up as high as the outside of the upper. I'd leave those uppermost eyelets a little on the loose side.

The insole is where Carmelo's print (both literally and figuratively) can be seen most. It's a variation of Carmelo's own thumbprint—his DNA, if you will—made up of names and locations and words that make up who Carmelo Anthony is. Names of his mother and father, locations important to him (Baltimore, Brooklyn, Syracuse and Denver), his heritage (Puerto Rican) and just...words. Loyalty, smooth, powerful, respect. Another nice little touch which may not mean much to the consumer, but plenty for the athlete who the shoe is designed for.

Unlike the LeBron IVs insole, the M3's is just that—an insole. So it can easily be removed to make room for custom orthotics. The cushioning technology (Zoom Air) is buried within the midsole. I believe there's also a secondary, "normal," Air bag in the heel as well.


Last shot. Heel outers. Lots of branding here—the big MELO on the heel, tiny "Zm" logos on the outsole heels, and even tinier (invisible here) "410"s on the clear portion overlaying the silver weave (identical to the shank material). The Nubuck loop pull is a welcome touch as well, especially on a shoe this high.

Overall impressions? While I don't think the M3 is a great-looking shoe (at least not compared to actual Jordan models), I can understand where the design came from. This is Melo's shoe, obviously, and would be better judged on the court. And I probably won't be doing that. Do I like it as much as the LeBron IV? No. But it's also $35 cheaper. And touches like the hidden stitching and full-grain leather upper are very welcome. A black-based version would probably look even better. And I can't wait to see what they drop for the All-Star game—which Carmelo should actually play in this year. Finally.