Bleacher Report's Howard Beck published a fantastic piece on the friendship between Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James -- a bond which goes so far beyond basketball. He covered their entire history together, from their first high school clash, through the what-might-have-been 2003 NBA draft (Missing out on the potential LeBron vs. Melo Cavaliers/Pistons rivalry remains a friggin' tragedy to basketball fans around the world), to the modern day, with LeBron playing on a shaky contender and Melo seemingly throwing his youth away in New York. I can't suggest it highly enough.
Let's cover a few of the Melo-centric highlights, shall we?
- Perhaps the ultimate testament to the change in perception, not only of LeBron and Melo, but to how NBA games should be played: LeBron started his career chafing from criticism that he wasn't the late-game killer Melo was:
"Melo has multiple game-winners, at the buzzer," James said, looking back. "And everyone was like, 'LeBron needs to take that shot.' Well, I've always just been the guy, like, I make the right play; that's just how I was brought up."
Back then, James was the one cringing at the chatter that pitted his style against his friend's.
"They say I should play more like Melo, like 'You should shoot the ball,'" James said, reflecting on those early years. "We are who we are. We're not going to change for anybody."
That was the era of Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson, when the best players took the final shot, no matter what. LeBron helped break fans away from that mindset, and now Melo gets killed for shooting too much in those situations.
- Remember that January game against the Spurs -- the night of the P&T meetup, no less! -- when Melo passed to an open Jose Calderon, who missed the game winner? Pretty much everybody at the bar that evening agreed it was the right play. Apparently so did LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul:
"It was the right play."
That was LeBron James' analysis, and when Anthony questioned it -- "Really?" -- James reiterated his point emphatically.
"It was the right f--kin' play. Live with the results."
Soon, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade were chiming in with similar affirmations.
"That was a great play. Don't be down on yourself."
"I was upset at myself," Anthony admitted. "So then when I start hearing that, from guys who have been in those situations, the same as I've been, I start getting a different perspective on it."
LeBron heaped praise onto Melo for his play-making abilities in this piece. He mentions a random pass Melo threw to Robin Lopez from a game against the Nuggets, so clearly this guy watches his friend play. We've all seen that play-making in action, of course, and we've seen it amount to very little winning of late. At least Melo is getting encouragement to keep up the unselfish play ... even if it has to come from dudes on rival teams.
- LeBron can gauge Melo's state of mind by watching him on TV. The key is to watch the smile and the hair:
"The only thing that I care about with Melo is when I'm watching the games that he's playing, that he's playing with a smile on his face," James said. "That's it. If Melo got a haircut and a smile on his face, that's when I know he's in a good zone."
James laughed deeply. "He start growing that hair out and that beard out -- he ain't feeling too good about himself."
- LeBron still hopes to get the Big Four -- "The Brotherhood" as they call themselves -- together:
"I really hope that, before our career is over, we can all play together," James said. "At least one, maybe one or two seasons -- me, Melo, D-Wade, CP -- we can get a year in. I would actually take a pay cut to do that."
- LeBron and Wade are free agents this summer and Paul in a free agent in 2017. MELO IS UNDER THE LONGEST CONTRACT! IF Y'ALL WANT TO PLAY WITH HIM YOU HAVE TO COME TO NEW YORK!
Clearly, this means we'll see a Kristaps/LeBron/Melo/Wade quartet at MSG next season, with CP3 joining a year later. I hate Wade and Paul, but I think I can make an exception in this case.