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Inside Hoops: Why Melo Is Actually One of the Greats

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First, I’m a Knicks fan. As much as it hurts to write that considering the last 15 years, II remain a Knicks fan. Even when I lived in San Diego, I was a Kobe fan, but I remained a Knicks fan. While I’ve moved back to Memphis, and I go to Grizzlies games often, and I’ve become a Grizzlies fan, I started as a Knick fan. Maybe it was the book I read on Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Maybe it was my love of Hip-Hop. Maybe the color combination of Blue and Orange was appealing to me, actually it was confirmed when Patrick Ewing became a Knick. I played high school ball and our team colors where green and white. I wore number 33 and Ewing’s Adidas. I thought I was going to grow to be a 7 footer. I was 14 years old in 10th grade and 6-2. My growth engine shut down and my grades shut down with it. I didn’t play basketball again until Junior College, but that’s another story. I’m a Knicks fan and this article is about Carmelo and why he should be considered one of the greats.

I didn’t like the trade that brought Melo to the Knicks. We had Danilo, Chandler, Mozgov and Stat and for the first time in years the Knicks were making noise. That core would have challenged in the East, but the squad was tossed to bring in a guy that I thought was a one dimensional player who lacked the discipline and work ethic to carry the Knicks anywhere. I mean what had he done in Denver? To be honest what has he done in New York? This is the problem with making a claim about Melo being a great.

He has zero MVPs

He has 1 scoring title

He has one Conference Final appearance

He’s been All NBA a few times

…But, yesterday I realized something that changed my perception of Melo. He has something in basketball that is one of the hardest things to attain. An NCAA Championship. You know who has one of these? Of course you could name some random bench player who never made the league, but all time greats like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Isaiah Thomas, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar have NCAA Championships. You know who doesn’t have one? LeBron, Kobe, and Shaq. if we look at current greats in what we would consider the top 10 players in the league according to Sports Illustrated: not a single player has an NCAA Championship. But if you want to bet every one of the players on that list is just like me and they can all sing every word to “One Shining Moment” (the Luther Vandross version). The NCAA Championship, to me, is just as important as an NBA Championship.

What I realized yesterday is that the NBA Championship is called a World Championship. I didn’t realize this yesterday, really. It isn’t. It’s the US Championship. Well, the US and Canada, but you get my point. The only true World Championship is the Olympic games. In the late 80s the US found itself suffering in the world basketball game’s biggest stage. The NBA and USA basketball formed a super team of NBA players. The Dream Team. Why? People realized that the perception of dominance begins and ends with the gold medal. if the US couldn’t win a gold then the US was not the most dominant basketball nation. It didn’t matter that the rest of the world took its best players and matched them up against our college guys, we weren’t winning anymore and The Dream Team was born.

The gold medal matters and Carmelo has three. In LeBron’s words, not 1, not 2, 3. No one else in the history of Olympic basketball has 3. More important to consider is that the Olympic season comes after the full NBA season. This means that including pre season during each Olympic year Melo played in over 100 basketball games that year. He has never suffered a major injury and outside of his dumb friends and playing “gangsta” in that “The Wire” styled video from a few years back the dude hasn’t been in any trouble. While these things don’t mean anything in terms of basketball, to me it carries weight. If Carmelo never wins an NBA ring (which is very likely) if he becomes an analyst like Charles Barkley who has rings thrown in his face by Shaq and Kenny on TNT, Melo can easily bring out his NCAA Championship and three gold medals. If that doesn’t impress you, I guess you forget that winning the gold medal is not a given.

2004 Olympic Gold: Argentina

1988 Olympic Gold: Soviet Union

1980 Olympic Gold: Yugoslavia (We didn’t compete)

1972 Olympic Gold: Soviet Union