Saturday, February 26, 2011

Throwbackz: LeBron vs. Melo

Magic vs. Bird 2.2
They were supposed to be the Bird and Magic of our era but it hasn't been that way.  LeBron brought one Cleveland Cavaliers team to the Finals and Melo never did with the Denver Nuggets in the first seven years of their respective careers.  Larry's Celtics and Earvin's Lakers met twice in the Finals in the first seven years of their careers, and for a third time in 1987.  Its an unfair comparison, I know, because those 80s Boston and L.A. teams were stacked with hall-of-famers and legendary role players (if being a "role player" can be considered legendary) up and down the rosters.  For James and Anthony, they really haven't played with any HOFers (unless you want to count Melo playing with an aging-but-still-good-for-20-points/shot attempts-a-night Allen Iverson or LeBron with the "Big Fossil" Shaquille O'Neal) to make their matchups significant, entertaining, or even a little bit memorable.  But all of that changes on Sunday when the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat play for the first time since the Melo trade and the Decision have made New York and Miami relevent in the Eastern Conference again.  Melo has been the buzz of the NBA for a good three months now with all the speculation of him being traded by the Denver Nuggets before the trade deadline.  Before that, it was all LeBron and the Miami Heat anybody wanted to talk about.  Both players are extremely popular and if you were a GM wouldn't mind building a team around either guy.  However the one glaring difference between these two guys is the image that NBA fans have of them.  Melo is still loved just about everywhere while LeBron is feeling the full effects of the villain treatment, booed basically everytime he touches the ball at opposing arenas.  If I said I saw this coming years ago you wouldn't believe me, but let me take you back to the high school days to illustrate the difference in personalities.  A friend of mine attended the famed first ever matchup between LeBron and Melo back in 2002 and gave me a little insight.  In case you weren't aware, that year 'Bron was rated the number one junior in the country at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, OH and Carmelo was rated the top senior playing for powerhouse Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, VA).  If you haven't seen the highlights, then you're probably not really a basketball fan.   If you have seen them, then you know they never get old.

Oak Hill won 72-66, and they should have because they had alot more talent than the S.V.-S.M. team that LeBron carried.  Melo dropped a cool 34 and had 11 boards.  James had an ill stat line: 36 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and six steals.  The numbers predicted how versatile a player LeBron would become on the court in the NBA but something before the game occurred that the cameras didn't catch that may be telling of how LeBron is perceived off of the court.  My friend attended the game and told me it didn't feel like a high school game; the game was played at Soverign Bank Arena in Trenton, NJ which seats 8,500, and arguabally the two best players in the NBA at that time, Shaq and A.I. (kinda funny right?), were in attendance.  But it is what my friend told me about what took place before the game that stands out for me the most.  He told me that before the game Melo was signing autographs and taking pictures with kids and that LeBron declined to do any of that.  LeBron as a junior in high school, 16 years old, and its too much for him to sign an autograph?  This could mean one of two things:  (a) He was so focused and committed to the upcoming game that he didn't want any distractions or (b) he is and has been very full of himself and his personal celebrity.  He's a great player no doubt, probably the most physically gifted human to ever touch a basketball.  But I guess he's just never been able to tone down the ego a few notches.  If that's what makes him go than he should keep doing it, because either way, LeBron being loved or a villain, its good for the NBA.  He says he doesn't mind getting booed, but if he does, then I bet he really regrets not taking those pictures and signing autographs for those kids because LeBron knows what karma is . . . As far as Melo goes, his positive karma brought him a National Championship in one year at Syracuse and now a big contract with the Knicks, and a reality show to boot for himself and his wife LaLa.  Melo definitely brings the swagger to New York that the Knicks have been missing since John Starks played for them.  The Knicks and the Heat were rivals at one point too with some classic playoff battles, and the unforgettable fight that ended with Jeff Van Gundy wrapped around Alonzo Mourning's leg
Might not see any of that but the court will be filled with very good talent from Dwyane Wade, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, and Chauncey Billups as well as LeBron and Carmelo. 

No comments:

Post a Comment