by Ryne Nelson

Sadly, there may never be a more relevant time to justify Monta Ellis than now.

When the SLAMonline crew finalized its Top 50 in early August, little did we know the explosive guard would sustain a serious offseason ankle injury.

Originally, I pushed for the 22-year-old to be higher than no. 46 (I’ll explain why soon), but now I wonder if this is the highest he’ll ever get.

To be real, we’ll probably never know the exact cause of Monta’s injury. And that’s fine –  who cares if Monta injured his ankle by ‘working out,’ riding a motorcycle or dropping his wallet on his foot?

What matters is this: A torn deltoid ligament and a high ankle sprain is no laughing matter. Right now, no one knows if Monta Ellis will ever play at 100 percent again.

You see, to say that he’s a good player isn’t enough now. With an injury of this magnitude, Monta’s character and leadership should also be at the forefront of discussion.

Some call Ellis’ injury irony, karma, or the SLAM curse (Ellis was featured prominently in KICKS 11). I call it fate – there’s never been a better time to talk about the Monta Ellis we all knew…

*****

Can anything diminish the true rawness of a healthy Monta Ellis?

You won’t find a player in the League with Ellis’ skill set. He possesses one of the NBA’s deadliest mid-range games and a petrifying first step. His blazing speed allows him to beat even the savviest defenders off the dribble.

Let’s talk anecdotally for a minute.

If there ever was a month last season when Monta proved how dominant he could be, that month was February. He shot over 60 percent, averaged 40 minutes and only 1.7 turns per contest. And those other averages: 26, 5 and 5.

In the four games prior to All-Star, Monta was even hotter, averaging 29.5 points on 69.4 percent shooting.

But Ellis didn’t just decide to turn-up his game in February.

During a 21-game stretch beginning Jan. 21, Monta scored over 20 points a total of 18 times and shot under 50 percent only thrice. Over those 21 games, he connected on an incredible 59 percent of his attempts.

Monta’s also a model NBA citizen. He co-hosts the Mo Williams and Monta Ellis Basketball Camp at Jackson State University and is heavily involved in Warriors community events.

Oh, and he’s never received a technical foul at any level.

*****

As No. 46 approached, I kept thinking about what embodied Monta Ellis the most to me. And a post-game interview with Warriors reporter Matt Steinmetz kept coming to mind.

There was only one problem – that interview was no where to be found.

I captured and uploaded over 375 clips during the season’s final months, but somehow I managed to skip this video. So I spent a several hours on Labor Day trying to dig-up the interview. Finally, I found it.

Now, I’m ecstatic to share a final tribute to Monta Ellis.

Around 0:56, Steinmetz asks Monta: ‘How would you guard you?’

There’s a brilliant pause for a second as Monta thinks over the question. Then, matter-of-factly, Ellis responds:

‘Ain’t no way.’

Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.