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
RankPlayerTeamPositionPos. Rank
50Luol DengBullsSF8
49Andrew BogutBucksC7
48Ray AllenCelticsSG9
47Marc GasolGrizzliesC6
46David WestHornetsPF15
45Kevin MartinRocketsSG8
44Andrew BynumLakersC5
43Brandon JenningsBucksPG11
42Lamar OdomLakersPF14
41Gerald WallaceBlazersSF7
40Brook LopezNetsC4
39Joakim NoahBullsC3
38Carlos BoozerBullsPF13
37Kevin GarnettCelticsPF12
36Eric GordonClippersSG7
35Tony ParkerSpursPG10
34Andre Iguodala76ersSG6
33Al JeffersonJazzPF11
32Al HorfordHawksC2
31Stephen CurryWarriorsPG9
30Tim DuncanSpursPF10
29Josh SmithHawksPF9
28Manu GinobiliSpursSG5
27Tyreke EvansKingsPG8
26Rudy GayGrizzliesSF6
25John WallWizardsPG7
24Danny GrangerPacersSF5
23Monta EllisWarriorsSG4
22Joe JohnsonHawksSG3
21Paul PierceCelticsSF4
20Steve NashSunsPG6
19Zach RandolphGrizzliesPF8
18LaMarcus AldridgeBlazersPF7
17Chris BoshHeatPF6
16Kevin LoveTWolvesPF5
15Rajon RondoCelticsPG5
14Blake GriffinClippersPF4
13Pau GasolLakersPF3
12Russell WestbrookThunderPG4
11Amar’e StoudemireKnicksPF2
10Deron WilliamsNetsPG3
9Carmelo AnthonyKnicksSF3

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.