Don’t Boo Melo

by March 13, 2013

by Cub Buenning / @cubbuenning

Tonight, the Knicks travel to Denver to face the Nuggets in a relatively important game for two competitive teams still battling for Playoff positioning. While the Knicks are not likely to come away with a victory due to Denver’s staggering 28-3 mark on the Pepsi Center floor, one player will lose regardless of the scoreboard’s final say.

Carmelo Anthony played in Denver for eight years and led the team to the Playoffs in each of those seasons. He returns tonight to the arena that chanted his name for almost a decade. To the fans who saw their team become a perennial Playoff team and a major draw at visiting arenas around the League.

But, the types of chants he will hear tonight will be of a different sort. The vast library of insults at the disposal of Nuggets fans will be on full display. He will hear it all. With the Nuggets playing amazing basketball over the past two months, few seats should be available come game time.

I have lived the majority of my teenage and adult life in the state of Colorado, and I have the utmost respect for the majority of sports fans in this region. On the matter of Carmelo Anthony, I am largely in disagreement.

Carmelo Anthony is the most important employee in the 46-year history of the Nugget franchise. He was in the past when he actually played for the team and he is now in his role as a New York Knick.

There is a lot of talk (some true; others contrived) about exactly why Carmelo wanted out of Denver. The direction of the team, whether they were building a winner around him, wanting to be in a better market for his brand and even his wife’s wishes have been bantered about since he left the Mile High City.

The truth is that Melo asked to be moved before the current regime (the one that actually made the trade) was in place. The truth is that Carmelo’s time in Denver had run its course and a move was likely to benefit both parties.

What is still a bit unclear is the question regarding whether the Nuggets’ brass actually made the proper moves or “did enough” to build a Championship contender around Melo. Moves were certainly made during the Kiki Vandeweghe regime, some worked, many didn’t. But throughout it all, Melo showed up to play, the Nuggets were a winner and the years of shame were long gone.

When that fateful 2010 season kicked off, Melo was a Nugget but all knew that was only a temporary proposition. The season was difficult at times, as the rumors swirled about where he might end up. His on-court effort was questioned. Which teams actually could be considered viable partners with the Nuggets? With just a year remaining on his second professional contract (one which Melo took more years for less money, hence why his deal come up a year after those of LeBron and DWade), Melo publicly made his desires to leave Denver and hoped a deal could get done during the year before he became a free agent. An impending offseason, where the Nuggets could have seen him walk away with no compensation other than a League-mandated compensatory pick.

The deal was finally made on February 22, 2011. What is rarely brought up, but must be considered a slice of the Nuggets’ fan ire toward Carmelo, was the trade also meant the departure of the city’s most beloved athlete this side of John Elway, in Chauncey Billups. The local product was the second piece (among a few other random pieces) in the trade that brought in Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton (later moved for Andre Miller and the chance to draft Jordan Hamilton), Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufus and Wilson Chandler and a couple picks. Not too bad of a haul for the newly hired/bequeathed front office staff.

So, Carmelo gave the town’s team hundreds and hundreds of great nights of basketball during his days as a Nugget. And before he left town to pursue a more attractive position with a larger company (something most Americans spend lots of time trying to accomplish, as well) he made sure his first employers got compensated. In this case, they got compensated with a future.

Denver, don’t boo Carmelo Anthony.

Thank him.