I have listened to many debates, conversations, and opinions about who the top five players are in the National Basketball Association today. In my eyes, the top four are clear cut, consisting of Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Dwayne Wade. So who would you say is the number five?
Carmelo Anthony has been tossed around in this conversation every time it’s brought up, and I’ve heard an array of respected analysts, former players, etc., give their opinion. With it almost being impossible to figure out which side the majority sways, I believe it’s a definite. Anthony is not only one of the best scorers we have in the game right now, but he’s one of the best all-time. I’ve heard Dwight Howard (prior to this season), Chris Paul, Dirk Nowitzki, and even Deron Williams at one point as names being thrown around. I think the most legitmate argue out of the bunch is Paul, and due to age, guys like Duncan and Nowitzki just don’t get that nod for me.
A team that has a dominant swingman with the ability to call for the ball and takeover in close games has proven to be a vital component of a championship contender. These are basketball traits know one can’t argue Melo possesses. The likes of Bryant, Michael Jordan, James/Wade, and Paul Pierce have accounted for 14 of the last 22 championships, and we all know those guys can close. The other eight championships were split up between the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, and the Dallas Mavericks. I’ll quickly add that it took the retirement of Jordan to open the window for the Rockets to win two, and as for the four championships won by the Spurs, it truly helped that they had, and still have, the greatest power forward of all-time in Tim Duncan. The final two remaining championships belong to the Mavericks and Pistons. We all know Nowitzki put on one of the most historical playoff performances in 2011 during Lebron’s inaugural season with the Heat, and the 2004 Pistons were one of the most well-balanced and consistent teams we’ve seen in our generation, beating the Lakers, who were gunning for their fourth straight title.
I know Anthony’s resume when it comes to finals appearances is non-existent, but let’s not be so quick to disregard his success. Anthony has never let his team miss the playoffs since joining the Denver Nuggets in the 2003-2004 season. No disrespect to Allen Iverson, the greatest little man the game has ever seen in my eyes, but I don’t think his style of play is what Anthony should have been surrounded with.
The Nuggets made an enormous splash two games into the 2008-2009 season, trading Iverson for Detroit Pistons legend Chauncey Billups, essentially bringing him back to his home town. With the Nuggets finally obtaining one of the most respected and clutch players in Billups to couple with Melo, the team marched to the Western Conference championship that same season. The dynamic duo did fall to Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers that round in six games, but Melo seemed to be headed in the right direction. I remember that series like it was yesterday, and I never have seen a small forward like Melo beat up, and push around two seven-footers in the paint like he did Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
After beating the Nuggets in that series, the Lakers went on to win the NBA championship. Which brings me to another intriguing statistic. Trust me when I say I’m not trying to give Melo a pass for never getting his team over finals hump, but isn’t it ironic that in five of the previous eight seasons, the team that has eliminated Melo’s squad from the playoffs has actually gone on to the Finals, with four of them winning it all. It’s all about timing, when your team can get hot, match-ups, or any other factor for that matter. Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, and John Stockton are easily among the greatest players of all-time, and ringless because of one guy: Jordan.
So has Melo run into a similar problem as these guys? Well not technically, he doesn’t have to face Jordan and the Bulls, but I do feel Anthony has run into some monster squads.
Although the Celtics swept the Knicks in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, Melo was not even a half a season deep with his new franchise, and Amare Stoudemire was dealing with a back issue. These setbacks proved to be detrimental to the team.
So yes, I’m very confident Melo has the capabilities to being in the driver’s seat for an NBA championship. It’s going to take the right matchup, the right attitude, intensity, and most of all, heart. The rap Melo gets for his defensive effort or lack their of, directly relates to playing with heart. It’s time we stop questioning that. Just because Melo’s skill set isn’t highlighted with his defensive prowess, does not mean he doesn’t try, or lacks heart. Melo knows his legacy is riding on winning a championship, and he’s trying to achieve that goal with his current Knicks team finally having a full season together.
I hate to make it look like it was everybody else’s but Melo’s fault that he doesn’t have a ring right now, but I’m simply saying he’s here to stay, and in it for the long-haul for the ultimate prize. I will remind everyone that Melo is only 28 years old, and last time I checked, he hasn’t had any retirement talk of late.
Time after time it’s been proven every championship team needs a closer. As we clearly know, Melo was born to close basketball games. In combination with that fact, it’s up to the supporting cast to hold up their end of deal.