But at the end of the day, he simply hasn’t. As his 14-year career turns the corner into his twilight years, it’s time to wonder how he will be remembered.
Personally, I should have more love for Melo. He played one season at Syracuse — the team that I have been a fan of longer than any other affiliation in any other sport I follow — and it was arguably their greatest season of all-time. He averaged a double-double in that season — finishing with 22.2 points and 10 rebounds a night — en route to the Orange dramatically defeating a Kansas team that many felt was unstoppable.
That Cuse team was somewhat a feel-good story. They didn’t come into the season as your typical Syracuse team, sitting in the Preseason Top 20 or expected to do a lot of great things. They had too many young kids expected to do too much, like Melo, Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick.
They entered that tourney as a No. 3 and defeated two No. 1 seeds and a No. 2 en route to winning Jim Boeheim’s first title. Warrick’s blocked shot is still one of the most glorious things I had ever seen.
That’s where Melo’s underdog story ends. That following draft, Melo would be all the hype with this high school kid named LeBron James. The over-hype show began immediately, pegging them as the next Larry Bird and Magic Johnson combo to be drafted the same year and rise to NBA Championship heights.
Bird and Magic went on to become arguably two of the top ten players to ever suit up winning a combined eight NBA championships, five for Magic and three for Bird. King James and Melo have been to six championship series combined… all six have been by Bron.
Melo has had a fantastic career, don’t get me wrong. Just 31-years old, he probably has a good four years left in his career, and his overall numbers are definitely amongst the all-time greats. As of this posting, he has 22,160 career points — which is 35th all time — which comes out to a very impressive 25.0 points a game, which comes in at 13th all time. He became less of a rebounder throughout the years, but that’s because the teams he has been a part of have made him the premier scoring threat.
The knock on Melo has always been excuses. The biggest excuse? He never had any help.
“He’s trying to be the guy for us,” Porzingis told Sports Illustrated. “He is the leader, he’s trying to be a real leader to us and I think he’s been doing a great job. I kind of feel bad because we need to step up and we need to help him more. He’s trying to do everything for us: score, rebound, play defense, he’s been doing it all for us. So I think it’s in our hands to step up and play at his level.”
As one of Melo’s biggest fans of all time… that excuse doesn’t fly. Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao. Those were Bron’s starting companions when he took his team to his first Finals. George Lynch, Aaron McKie, Tyrone Hill and Theo Ratliff were all that Allen Iverson needed to reach an NBA Finals. Jason Kidd made it TWICE with Kerry Kittles, Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins.
Bron and Kidd proved that you may just need a second wingman superstar to win it all in today’s NBA, as Kidd would finally win alongside Dirk and Bron would snag a couple with D-Wade and Bosh.
That being said, a Hall of Famer and a legend should be able to propel his team to at least one NBA Finals over a 14-year career. Melo’s team’s haven’t even sniffed one. And I got news for you. A team that had Melo, Chauncey Billups, K-Mart, Nene, and Arron Affalo starting with Ty Lawson and J.R. Smith as the first two off the bench AND were coached by George Karl should have made it out of the first round of the playoffs more than once.
Maybe, just maybe, Melo doesn’t play well with others and that’s why no one wants to come play with him. Remember in 2011 when Melo was traded in the blockbuster from Denver to the Knicks? Denver was 32-25 the day the three-team deal was finalized. They would finish the season sans Melo 18-7 and win their division.
The Knicks? They were 28-26 when they got Melo. They finished 14-14, including a huge six-game losing streak down the stretch.
Remember Linsanity? When Jeremy Lin blew up on the scene, Melo was injured and not playing. Lin would average 25 points and nearly 10 assists a night over an eight-game span, a span in which the Knicks — a team that won a mere 36 games that season — won seven games. Melo came back, the two didn’t mesh, in typical Melo form his team lost in the first round and Lin was off the roster.
Now, Melo is putting up arguably the finest season of his career. Did you know he is the ONLY player in the NBA that leads his team in scoring, rebounds and assists? He is currently averaging a career best 8.1 rebounds a night as well as a career best 4.2 assists a game to go along with 21.7 points a contest.
And the Knicks are reeling. They are 7-18 over their last 25 games and the team that was once finally back to playoff aspirations may be playing for the first overall draft pick — who may or may not be Ben Simmons who is a joke in his own right.
Melo is playing his best basketball of his career and his team is playing at its worst. The guy simply can’t catch a break.
Is that all Melo? It’s hard to say, but he has history on his side that trends to the fact that he may be part of the problem.
Think of it this way. He is currently second in the NBA in isolation plays. Maybe Melo was never meant to be the LeBron or MJ or Barkley. Maybe Melo was meant to be the Scottie Pippen. There’s no shame in that. Pippen shines his six rings every night wearing his Hall of Fame jacket.
It’s one of basketball’s biggest enigmas, how someone so good could never win. Since winning it all as one of the most gifted 18-year olds in the land, Melo has made it out of the first round of the playoffs just twice in 14 years.
Maybe if Melo didn’t come in with Bron, maybe if all the hype before their careers started that foresaw them both intertwined for greatness, Melo would be simply who he is… an All Star player who is fun to watch score. But greatness was expected of Melo, and not any greatness, we’re talking about All Time Greatness. Melo and Bron were supposed to take the NBA to the next level, but guys like Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry came in and did it instead.
At the end of the day, when Melo hangs it up, he will probably be amongst the Top 20 scorers of all time. He’s won Olympic gold and will always be remembered as that freshman with the ear to ear grin and seemingly effortless play. That should get him in the Hall of Fame.
As far as his legacy? I think Melo shows how easily the word “superstar” is thrown around. A superstar needs to be just that, super. Has Melo been great? You bet. A superstar… well, I’m not so sure.