The curious case of booing Carmelo Anthony

May 24, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony (00) is held back by assistant coach John McCullough (L) as he argues a call with referee Ben Taylor (46) at the end of the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets during game two in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Ball Arena was loudest during Games 1 and 2 of the Denver Nuggets playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers when those in the can rallied around the common cause of booing Carmelo Anthony.

The former Denver Nugget is in the midst of his first playoff series against the team that brought him into the NBA, and the negative reception has caused quite a frenzy amongst Anthony, Nuggets fans, and national pundits who act like they have a clue how the Denver market works.

“What else can they do?” Anthony said of the fans. “I don’t know what it is. I gave my all here for seven-and-a-half years. I’ve never said anything bad about Denver, about fans, the organization, players. I never complained. I took everything on the chin even when it wasn’t my fault.”

Anthony famously requested a trade during the 2011 season, two years removed from a Western Conference Finals appearance and recently removed from the cancer diagnosis of then head coach George Karl.

Anthony was eventually traded to the New York Knicks prior to bouncing around between Oklahoma City and Houston before finally landing a bench role with the Portland Trail Blazers.

After trading Melo, Denver put together the best regular season in franchise history, winning 57 games during the 2013 campaign without Anthony. That said, Denver’s successful run eventually ended, which led to a complete overhaul of the organization.

The remnants of the Melo era were officially put to rest, and Denver turned the page during the middle of the decade, sifting through a couple of permanent and interim head coaches before finally settling on Michael Malone.

As Malone and front office head honcho Tim Connelly worked to revamp the franchise, Melo worked to stay relevant in a league that was shifting away from a style of play that played to his strengths.

In the time between Melo’s departure and the current playoff series, he returned to Denver a handful of times, each instance being greeted with a bundle of boos. The Blazer’s victory in Game 1 marked Melo’s first time beating his former team since his departure.

It’s clear a majority of Nuggets fans in the stands during those game nights still hold a vengeance towards Melo for how things ended, and those emotions have been amplified given the current nature of the season.

The boos have taken some people by surprise, which begs the question… does Melo deserve this type of treatment?

On the one hand, Melo did good by the Nuggets for letting the organization know he didn’t plan to sign a contract extension, which allowed Denver to recuperate assets in exchange for trading away their golden child, unlike LeBron James, who teased his hometown before ultimately departing to chase rings with his buddies down in South Beach.

The Nuggets made out well in the Melo deal, but it was still a gut punch knowing one of the most exciting players in the NBA at the time wanted to kick the Nuggets and the city of Denver to the curb.

Yes, Denver had great years with Melo. Yes, Melo is a top player in franchise history, but there is certainly a massive sense of “what if” that hangs over the situation. It’s not like Melo’s career took off in New York. When it’s all said and done, the best years of his career will have come in a Nuggets uniform.

Part of the reason Nuggets fans are so aggravated with Melo is the manner in which he departed. It was clear he never fell in love with the city, fans or anything about the Nugg Lyfe. It was clear he always had his sights set on bigger and better things outside of the Mile High City.

While Melo played exceptionally well for the Nuggets, it never felt like he gave himself to the city like Damian Lillard is in the midst of doing with Portland, which is really ironic when you think about it.

Damian Lillard is to Portland what Carmelo Anthony was to Denver. In a way, Melo is like Portland’s Allen Iverson on the back end of his career looking to help a dynamic franchise get over the hump.

Denver always seemed like the first act in Melo’s career, and with strong outside influence from La La and company, it was clear Denver was never going to be the place for Melo.

“Listen, I used to live in Denver with him.” La La said back in 2014. “If I can live in Denver, I can live anywhere.”

All in all, Melo’s departure was far from smooth, which brings us to the current situation.

It’s easy to understand why Nuggets fans are booing Melo. Oh, did we forget to mention he’s playing for the opposition in a PLAYOFF SERIES? What are the fans supposed to do? Clap and say thanks for the memories?

There’s bad blood between some Nuggets fans and Melo, and when you combine that with a playoff series against a team that is already considered a rival of Denver, it’s not shocking to see this reaction.

What is shocking is the court of public opinion trying to make Nuggets fans out as the bad guys for booing a player who turned his back on their team and city. Why don’t we get on Boston sports fans for laying into Kyrie Irving or Cavs fans for burning LeBron jerseys?

It’s because Melo is still considered a darling child in the eyes of the general basketball public. He’s an iconic figure from the early 2000s, and any slander thrown in his direction is not tolerated amongst the basketball masses, especially during the player empowerment era. Of course, it’s all about the player while the fans continue to get kicked to the curb as if the disrespect from the MVP race wasn’t enough already.

Denver is still considered a flyover city by the masses. Many think Melo made Denver relevant again. Well, Nikola Jokic has accomplished more than Melo in nearly half the time. And last I checked, Melo never won an MVP.

To each their own. If you want to boo, boo. If you want to clap and love the man, go ahead. But please, please, please don’t tell fans how to be fans. At the end of the day, Melo is a franchise icon, but remember, he won’t even be the best #15 in franchise history when it’s all said and done.

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