For better or worse, NBA players are judged by the championships they’ve won or the impact they’ve left on the game. Barkley is the best example of this. He’s famously remembered for not winning a championship but he’s just as famous for once being a truly unique player that also happened to have an incredibly brash personality. Both of these elements have helped people remember what an incredible player he was for both his ability on the court and the imprint he left on the NBA. Make sense?
Well, despite NBA Twitter’s effort, Carmelo Anthony is in the midst of being the anti-Barkley and instead is doing his best Doc Brown and fading from the NBA polaroid right before our eyes. The cornrowed, head banned, righteously named freshman with the inside/outside game who led Syracuse to the national championship in 2003 was an NBA darling in his time but is quickly becoming more and more irrelevant by the day and it is only going to get worse for two reasons – The decision by Denver with what they will eventually do with their 15 non conundrum and the sharing of his once singular nickname.
First, the number. When Carmelo Anthony played in Denver as a Trailblazer a while back, he of course took the opportunity to thank the fans (standard procedure) and then predictability dropped the not-subtle-at-all-hint that they should retire his 15 when he’s done playing. This of course was awkward at the time and will continue to be awkward as long as Nikola Jokic insists on being a year in and year out MVP candidate and stays with Denver while wearing 15. I honestly think the whole situation is just hilarious. Carmelo Anthony forces his way out of Denver (where he was part of a good team) to go to the worst run franchise in the NBA in the Knicks but before his Denver corpse turned cold, some measly, doughy, second round pick comes in and decides he wants to wear 15. I wonder if Carmelo Anthony thought anything of this at the time. I’d like to think that he did and that he was annoyed but in the end didn’t think Jokic would amount to anything and that Carmelo Anthony and 15 and powder blue would remain synonymous with one another until the day he retired. But something happened on the way to that retirement that really messed with his plans and now Carmelo Anthony would like to think that the Nuggets have a tough decision to make when in reality, they don’t. During their respective times in Denver, Carmelo was the superior scorer. However, Jokic during his 6 seasons in Denver bests Carmelo in FG%, FT%, 3PT%, Assists, Rebounds, Blocks and having better highlight reels. In the end, the Nuggets’ 15 will no longer belong to Carmelo Anthony and will one day singularly hang in the rafters at the Ball Arena with the name Jokic above it. And if Denver plays the diplomatic game and retires both 15s then what the heck are we even doing?
Along with the number thievery, a new threat to Carmelo’s relevance emerges in a young, smiling, brash, teenage TV/YouTube star named LaMelo Ball and now the NBA world isn’t sure what to do with the name Melo anymore. The people out on NBA Twitter who want to say that Melo *still and always will* refer to Carmelo hang on to the idea of Carmelo Anthony being a relevant basketball player or worse yet, branding him the player for which people say, “bro, y’all don’t know about Player X and what he did. The boy was bad” (A treatment normally reserved for a player that’s been retired for 10+ years in an attempt to remind a younger generation of a player’s greatness and not normally used for a player THAT IS CURRENTLY ON AN NBA ROSTER). Social media sees this vanishing of Carmelo Anthony and has tried to keep him alive over the years by making “Hoodie Melo” a thing or posting videos of him chewing people up at his local Lifetime Fitness or trying to convince themselves that he’s still a serviceable piece on the Thunder, Rockets and now Trailblazers but people who know, know. But this happens to everyone but LeBron. Players get old, they get worse, they retire. If Carmelo wants to keep playing and teams want to keep giving him a shot, then more power to him. But now something even more dire that the end of a great player’s career is happening in the social media world/NBA conscience – Carmelo Anthony is no longer who we automatically think of when we hear the name Melo (Hence the reason I’ve been referring to him by his full name this whole time. To avoid confusion). First Anthony’s 15 was snatched from him and now a young, hotshot, famous-before-he-came-into-the-league player (sound familiar?) who also goes by Melo has started the debate on who we should think of when we hear ‘Melo’ from this point forward. If you thought the Carmelo stans were bad before, just wait until the newer Melo continues this trend of filling up NBA Twitter on a nightly basis with no look, behind the back, one handed passes in that timeless Hornets teal blue look and the name Melo in reference to LaMelo Ball will eventually eliminate the original Melo from relevance or at least continue to cause confusion. Does this mean that LaMelo will be better than Carmelo? No, and if he one day is, then the Hornets would be ecstatic. But that’s not what’s important here. What it does mean is that in the end the truth is coming out about Carmelo Anthony’s career and legacy. He was a guy who put up points at a relatively (?) efficient pace but in the end is really just everybody’s favorite memory hero instead of the NBA giant he was supposed to be.
This “Who is the real Melo?” pseudo debate on social media is admittedly a silly one but it does speak to the larger issue of Carmelo Anthony’s lack of impact on the game and it is being proven out symbolically in the movement to the new, better 15 in Denver and now a newer, more fun to watch Melo in LaMelo Ball. For my baseball fans, Carmelo is on his way to being Pudge Fisk’d by Pudge Rodriguez.
It’s a sad state of affairs for Carmelo Anthony. He was once an exciting player and he really should be remembered for being one of the best scorers of his generation. Some poor career choices, a game that didn’t adapt with the times and some bad nickname luck has brought him to where he is today and now he’ll end his career without a number nor a nickname that is synonymous with himself. Still, he was a great player worthy of being remembered as the 4th best player from his draft class. I mean, who wouldn’t take that?