Carmelo Anthony on Finally Joining Friend LeBron James on the Lakers: 'A Long Time Coming'

"We've been trying to figure this out for a long time, but through the time it didn't work... But we are here now, so we going to make the best out of it," Carmelo Anthony tells PEOPLE

Carmelo Anthony; LeBron James
Photo: Hugo Rodas (@hugoshoots)

Carmelo Anthony is ready for his next chapter — and this time, he'll have a close friend by his side.

The 37-year-old — who is coming off an impressive two seasons with the Portland Trailblazers — reached a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers in August, officially bringing him together with LeBron James.

Anthony and James played against each other as high school standouts and entered the league together in 2003. James with the first pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Anthony third to the Denver Nuggets.

The two have since suited up together on Olympic teams and in All-Star games, but they have never been on the same NBA team until now — and Anthony tells PEOPLE he's excited to have made it happen while they still have a chance.

"It's been a long time coming," Anthony says. "We've been trying to figure this out for a long time, but through the time it didn't work, the situations were different. But we are here now, so we going to make the best out of it."

Carmelo Anthony; LeBron James
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

With all that has happened over the last 18 seasons — from Olympic gold medals to multiple All-Star nods — Anthony has been unable to claim an NBA championship, arguably the only thing left missing on his resume.

Anthony came close to reaching the Finals when the Nuggets made it to the 2009 Western Conference Finals, but the opportunity was spoiled when they were beaten by Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, the eventual champs that year.

Now, more than a decade later, Anthony will be wearing the Lakers' purple and gold and may have his closest shot to winning a championship yet. James and the Lakers are only two seasons out from winning the 2020 NBA title and have a promising lineup entering the upcoming season.

Carmelo Anthony; LeBron James
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Anthony, who played for his hometown New York Knicks from 2011 to 2017, tells PEOPLE he's experiencing the same excitement for playing in Los Angeles as he did back then.

"New York being New York and playing for the Knicks, and everything that comes along with that — it being in an iconic organization — it's the same feeling that I'm getting now being in the Laker organization," he explains. "It's these big organizations, these big cities, big markets it's New York and L.A. It's two of the best cities in the world. So to be able to say that I represented both that's special for me."

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While he's no stranger to bright lights, Anthony knows the pressure is on to win this season. But everything he has experienced over the course of his career has prepared him for this chance.

"A different mentality," Anthony says of what he is bringing to the Lakers, "a different approach to the game, understanding my situation, understanding what's at stake, understand what we're trying to accomplish, but also understanding the journey that is going to take to get there, every step of the way from day one until the end."

The father of one adds, "That's what I'm most excited about. I'm excited about the in-between about the beginning and the end."

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