For you folks who love symbolism, Carmelo Anthony’s decision to cut off his cornrows was much more than just a hairdo change. In this his, what, third (?) This Year Is Going To Be Different campaign, Melo had his trademark locks snipped in favor of a more serious look.
It’s important to note this “change” in Melo, because if we’re honest with ourselves, that’s what we want him to do: Change. Not the way he looks, or the way he dresses, or necessarily the people he hangs with (although his off-court troubles make this debatable). We want Melo, the player, to change. To unleash his talent over an 82-game marathon instead of serving it in periodical doses–extend how he played in college and for Team USA.
While owning a statistical compilation through five seasons that is the envy of any 24-year old, Anthony’s footprints aren’t yet in the sand. He hasn’t given us anything defining as a pro; a season, a playoff series, or something concrete that we can hang on to when his detractors (and there are a few) wage battle on his status.
The closest Melo has come was the first six weeks of the 2006-07 season. He was averaging 31, 6 and 4 for the 13-9 Nugs, but then he slugged Mardy Collins, got suspended, and by the time he came back he’d not only lost his rhythm, but a large chunk of his looks on the offensive end to newly-acquired Allen Iverson. Anthony hasn’t come close to that level since.
Worse yet, as one-third of the holy trinity from the 2003 Draft crop (along with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade), Melo is the one trailing. If LBJ or DWade were to quit tomorrow, they’d have still given us enough as pros where we could live with their laurels. Can’t say that about Anthony. Not yet.
Back to the haircut. Why even bring it up? Because Anthony has acted on a promise. He said during training camp that things will be different, and this is different. If you think hair is just hair, you’re dead wrong.
Prior to the 1976 season, Pete Maravich went away from the wispy mustache and flowing mop, trading it in for a clean-shaven, conservative look; he started throwing chest passes, making fundamental plays and was named First-Team All-NBA.
Larry Bird cut off his blonde road-kill mullet for the 1988 season. He responded with a 30-9-6 season and by far the greatest shooting campaign of any forward ever.
MJ went with the bald look in 1989, and put together his forgotten masterpiece–it was sandwiched between his first MVP and the subsequent Bulls dynasty–playing the point for Doug Collins, averaging darn near a triple-dip.
Steve Nash lost his locks for the 2006 season, and started barking at teammates, having guilt-free high shot-attempt games, and saw all of his talents concurrently peak.
Don’t say losing the hair means nothing.
And so the planets align for Anthony. Losing the ‘rows may have been one thing, but taking sole possession of the Nugs’ offense is another. With A.I. gone, and Chauncey Billups arriving, Denver basically traded a guy who takes 19 shots per for a guy who takes 11. Melo is suddenly firmly entrenched as the Numero Uno gunner. When he wanted to honor Barack Obama by busting the Warriors for 44 the day after the presidential election, he instead should’ve said, Screw that, I’m dropping 44 on everyone this year.
So it’s time to fulfill a destiny–that’s right, Melo has destiny. When you consider that he was born in May of 1984, the very same month that the two best to play his position–Bird and Bernard King–engaged in arguably the most competitive mano-a-mano playoff duel ever, you can’t help but wonder.
Also, I’m just waiting for the day where it occurs to him that the act of scoring comes easily; Anthony might want to make use of this, as his mid-range game is unparalleled, his post-game untapped. And this season presents a new challenge: Denver isn’t expected to make noise this year, so if they do compete with Melo leading the charge, it could indeed have a defining feel. Better yet, if they were to steal a playoff series, then the epitaph gets re-written.
The old Melo might have gone with the ‘rows, and there’s something defining about that.