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The Case Against Melo to Miami

Apr 6, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) is pressured by Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Miami won 102-91. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

You will have to forgive me if I don’t immediately dismiss the seemingly absurd idea of Carmelo Anthony joining the Heat and transforming them from the Miami Triad to the South Beach Quadrumvirate. After all, Bosh is the same person responsible for this quote when asked about the potential of him teaming up with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in 2010:

“I don’t see it happening,” Bosh told us this past weekend of the idea of the three playing together on the Heat. “I don’t even know how it would work. It sounds pie in the sky. Riley is known as a guy who is like a mastermind-type genius. He’s probably having a vision one day. But who knows? I don’t see it happening.” – Chris Bosh, June 30, 2010

While every NBA2K player would make this move in a heartbeat if they could, is this really best for the league? I would contend no, for a few reasons.

Losing the Casual NBA Fan

While it’s difficult to put an exact number on the following percentages, let’s hypothesize that the breakdown of people who have thoughts on the NBA are as follows:

10% of people are the true NBA diehards. They’re the ones who chat about, write about, tweet about, and otherwise eat, drink, breathe, and live basketball. They stay up until 1:00 AM Eastern time in the middle of the week in February to watch Orlando play at Sacramento just because they love the game. In short, these are the folks who will watch the NBA no matter what.

10% of people refuse to watch the NBA. Doing a Twitter search during the NBA Draft for “NBA rigged” is the best way to identify these people, but essentially these are the folks who are convinced that the WWE is less orchestrated than the NBA, no NBA star player is ever called for a foul, and referees go out of their way to ensure every single playoff series goes a minimum of six games because that’s whats best for the league. Regardless of any measure that the NBA takes, these people will never be satisfied and will never watch the NBA.

And there’s the rest of the pie, the remaining 80% of folks who fall into the casual NBA fan category. They go to three to four games per year, make sure they tune in to the nationally televised matchups when they can, still find the All-Star festivities entertaining, and can hold an intelligent conversation about basketball, but couldn’t tell you the specifics of the amnesty rule. Unfortunately, this is also the group mainly responsible for LeBron cramp memes and Chris Bosh Midol jokes generating thousands of retweets on Twitter and shares on Facebook.

If Carmelo Anthony joined forces with the Heat in Miami, what percent of fans from that last group of people are still going to remain casual fans? How many fans of Eastern Conference teams are going to take one look at the landscape and say to themselves, “Wait a minute. No one has challenged the Heat in this conference for four straight years, and now they’re adding Carmelo freaking Anthony, a guy who’s finished in the top eight in points per game every year since 2006, to the squad? Why should I even bother spending my time, energy, and money on my team when they don’t stand a chance to compete?”

The Effect on LeBron’s Legacy

Pretend you have just created a throw away account solely for the purpose of trolling LeBron fans on a Heat message board. And suppose your goal is to only post facts about LeBron’s career while simultaneously being very careful to obscure the entire truth. Wouldn’t your argument be to look at LeBron’s career through this lens since 2007?

2007 – Made the Finals for the only time in his entire Cleveland career. Failed to win a single game in the Finals, contributing to the most recent sweep in the NBA Finals.

2008 – Came up short against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

2009 – Failed to make the NBA Finals after securing 66 wins in the regular season, including a 39-2 mark at home, and the number one overall seed.

2010 – Absolutely melts down and turns in the worst game of his career in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Boston, turns the ball over nine times in a loss in Game 6, and gets eliminated for the second year in a row after earning the number one overall seed. Then goes on national television to announce he’s leaving his hometown team in the worst decision someone thought that the Hindenburg and hydrogen would be a good mix.

2011 – Despite forming a super team with other superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for the explicit purpose of winning not one, not two, not three…championship rings, the Heat are eliminated in the NBA Finals by the Mavericks in six games.

2012 – Finally wins his first ring, but it comes in a lockout shortened year. Questions remain whether LeBron’s body can take the toll of an 82 game season and still win a championship.

2013 – Heat repeat as champions, securing a back to back title. However, they need a massive offensive rebound by Chris Bosh (who is not LeBron James) followed by arguably one of the greatest shots in the history of professional basketball by Ray Allen (who is also not LeBron James) merely to force overtime in Game 6 against San Antonio.

2014 – In the rematch everyone was waiting for, LeBron’s Heat die down in the moment and are easily dispatched in a gentlemen’s sweep by the Spurs. Feeling that being surrounded by three future Hall of Famers is still not enough help, Miami goes out and signs Carmelo Anthony in an attempt to stack the deck even further against the rest of the league.

Rather than recognizing LeBron as the greatest small forward to ever play the game of basketball, convincing Melo to come to South Beach makes it increasingly more likely that the narrative around LeBron’s career revolves around the above points regardless of the number of rings that he ends up winning. For someone who has his own marketing company, one would think that the last thing he wants to do is be labeled as someone who always took the easy way out. He has already been blasted for taking his talents to Miami in 2010, but even his most ardent defenders would have to admit that this would be borderline ridiculous.

The Loss of Compelling Matchups

Prior to 2010, we were treated to somewhere between six to eight games per year that featured LeBron James competing against Dwyane Wade’s Miami Heat and Chris Bosh’s Toronto Raptors. It led to some memorable moments including this game where Wade and James combined for 91 points:

Or when they went for 83 between them:

And then there was LeBron being fueled by Bosh’s cousin and girlfriend heckling him from their courtside seats which inspired a Cavs comeback in Canada:

Oh, and LeBron dropping a then-career high 56 points on the Raptors:

Since July 8, 2010, the basketball world has been deprived of competition between these three  which is tremendously disappointing. You could always circle Cleveland-Miami as a must-watch game on the schedule, and Cleveland-Toronto was typically entertaining as well. Now, Cleveland-Miami is only compelling to see how the Cleveland crowd reacts when James returns to his former stomping grounds as the Cavs have failed to win a single game against the Heat in the past three years, and the Cavaliers-Raptors games are merely just another game on the schedule during the year.

Even with The Big Three coming together in Miami, however, there was still the LeBron v. Carmelo factor that you could bank on twice a year when Anthony was in Denver and a minimum of three times a year when Anthony joined the Knicks. The individual rivalry between LeBron and Melo dated back to high school when the met each other at a USA Basketball development camp in 2001, and later locked up in a tremendous game against one another the following February:

For years, Melo seemed to frequently get the upper hand when he was with the Nuggets, posting an 8-4 record against James’s Cavs. When he was traded to New York, the stakes between the two rose even more. Keep in mind, LeBron playing at Madison Square Garden was always a marquee event, no matter who was wearing the blue and orange. After all, it was LeBron in the mecca, playing in front of who many thought would be his future fans. Dropping Anthony into a Knicks uniform not only renewed the Knicks-Heat rivalry from the 1990’s, but managed to combine the fun of Melo v. LeBron with the spectacle that was playing in MSG. It was the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, just like we no longer are treated to James going toe to toe with Wade or Bosh, acquiring Anthony would rob us of even more games that you would ordinarily circle on your calendar at the beginning of the year.

At the end of the day, would Carmelo Anthony to the Heat be entertaining? Sure. It would almost be worth it solely to see the answers to the myriad of questions that surround this potential move. Could the 2015 Heat rival the 1986 Celtics and 1996 Bulls for greatest team of all time? Could Carmelo Anthony co-exist on a team with three other superstars and play a similar role to his position on the Team USA Olympic squad? Will the Heat’s Big Three do something unprecedented and take a massive pay cut again, this one more substantial than the one they all took in 2010, in order to make this happen?  As interesting as the answers to those questions may be, to me, the negatives of the situation far outweigh the positives. Carmelo Anthony is certainly free to do what he likes this offseason. Whether he chooses to re-sign with the Knicks or sign elsewhere is certainly his prerogative; I just hope, speaking as a basketball fan, it ends up being somewhere other than Miami for the sake of the league.

Eric Maroun

Eric is a born and bred Cleveland sports fan who is convinced that if given the gift of immortality, he still would not see a Cavs title in his lifetime. He currently resides in Indianapolis where he gets to see the Pacers exist in basketball purgatory.