The star New York Knicks forward, who is competing in the Olympics on the U.S. men’s basketball team, visited one of the Brazilian city’s low-income favelas, or shantytowns.
Favelas tower above the Olympic venues on Rio’s mountains and are home to more the 25 percent of the city’s population, according to NPR. They’re also notoriously plagued by danger – often crime-ridden, with some ruled by drug lords.
Yet Anthony, 32, was undeterred. “This was on my bucket list, to be honest with you; specifically to go to the favelas – forever,” he told USA Today.
“I just always wanted to see and experience that,” Anthony said. “Growing up in Baltimore, and knowing what that was like, in my own favela, you know what I mean? So I wanted to go and experience that for myself. I wanted to touch that.”
Road to Rio: How Did Team USA Train for the Olympics?
Despite police presence in several of the communities, there are still reports of frequent gun battles and deaths: On Tuesday, three people were killed and three arrested at Complexo da Maré, a group of slum areas, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Anthony said he visited a favela with “seven or eight” other people (but no security), and the experience was caught on camera for his Vice Sports video series, “Stay Melo.” The walkthrough was organized just one day earlier.
For more of PEOPLE’s Olympic coverage, pick up our collector’s edition, The Best of the Games, on sale now.
“The police really wasn’t around. I had people with me, but you had to really trust the people who run that community,” Anthony told USA Today. “I didn’t feel nervous. I was just enjoying the atmosphere. Once you get in there, you don’t really feel … I felt very comfortable.”
The basketball star spoke with residents, but said many didn’t want to be featured on camera and wore scarves over their faces. Still, his presence made an impact: A local artist spray-painted a mural of Anthony on one of the favela’s concrete walls.
Of the tribute, Anthony reflected, “That’s humbling. That puts a lot of things in perspective.”
He also documented the experience on Instagram, posting a photo of himself amid the brightly colored homes.
Anthony captioned it, “I discovered that what most people call creepy, scary, and spooky, I call comfy, cozy, and home.”
The U.S. men’s basketball team will play in the quarterfinals on Wednesday night against Argentina.