by Sam Rubenstein (and Ramshar and Nasir)

Carmelo Anthony is not only a top-10 NBA player and arguably the best pure scorer in the NBA today, but he is the best thing to happen to the Knicks in years. Amar’e is the pioneer of the return of Knicks’ pride movement, pulling the team back into relevancy again, but it was Melo who made them a team that people actually would turn on their TVs to watch again.

Back when I was in ninth grade at a public high school in NYC, the city was crazy about the Knicks. I remember the day after the infamous Charles Smith game, kids in my school wearing Bulls hats were viciously beaten. My Global Studies teacher, Mr. Harris, was so upset about the game, he went around the room and demanded we all give a reason why the Knicks lost. People really, REALLY cared about the Knicks back when I was in ninth grade, and on through the Van Gundy era. People stopped caring as the ’00s were a lost decade.

I mention all of this because I now teach Ninth Grade English Language Arts at a public school in Canarsie, Brooklyn. Like the No. 1 movie at the box office recently, The Lion King (!!!!), it’s the Circle of Life. (And yes, The Lion King being No. 1 at the box office in 2011 is an example of the Circle of Life in itself.) I’ve been working with adolescents and teens in Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn over the past four years, and when I have talked to them about basketball, maybe 1 percent of them would admit that they were Knicks fans. I did notice that a lot of kids from NYC were Carmelo fans, even when he was with Denver.

Why?

Is it because, like Michael Jordan, he is technically from Brooklyn, even if it was just for the early years of his childhood? Is it because of the laid back, easy style of his game that masks flawless technique? Is it as simple as that he has a good personality?

All I know is that in my experience, today’s NYC High School kids have become NY Knicks fans because of Carmelo, and for that I thank him. Now the students I teach get to experience the same joy and pain I once felt back in the day. I chose to share this assignment with two of my ninth graders from last year, currently in the 10th grade.

For the official SLAMonline piece on Carmelo, we came up with the idea of recording some audio at lunch time one day. Think of it as SLAM Radio—all about Melo.

Enough pregame, this is Nasir, Ramshar and Ernie Johnsonstein on Carmelo Anthony.

I think we covered everything that matters. I promised them I would run their top-50 list:

They said Carmelo is better than the Golden Boy MVP! That will not go over well with the public. But as far as our mini radio show (podcast?) went, excellent work fellas.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6
46 David West Hornets PF 15
45 Kevin Martin Rockets SG 8
44 Andrew Bynum Lakers C 5
43 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 11
42 Lamar Odom Lakers PF 14
41 Gerald Wallace Blazers SF 7
40 Brook Lopez Nets C 4
39 Joakim Noah Bulls C 3
38 Carlos Boozer Bulls PF 13
37 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 12
36 Eric Gordon Clippers SG 7
35 Tony Parker Spurs PG 10
34 Andre Iguodala 76ers SG 6
33 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 11
32 Al Horford Hawks C 2
31 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 9
30 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 10
29 Josh Smith Hawks PF 9
28 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 5
27 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 8
26 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 6
25 John Wall Wizards PG 7
24 Danny Granger Pacers SF 5
23 Monta Ellis Warriors SG 4
22 Joe Johnson Hawks SG 3
21 Paul Pierce Celtics SF 4
20 Steve Nash Suns PG 6
19 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 8
18 LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 7
17 Chris Bosh Heat PF 6
16 Kevin Love TWolves PF 5
15 Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 5
14 Blake Griffin Clippers PF 4
13 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 3
12 Russell Westbrook Thunder PG 4
11 Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 2
10 Deron Williams Nets PG 3
9 Carmelo Anthony Knicks SF 3

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.