Hate the game. . .

Shakin' sticks, Vol. 1: Tonight I was up in the sports bar, talking shit with a friend of mine. I believe at one point I actually let fly the sentence "any league where Nick Collison can drop thirty is not for me." There was some fiendishly average kid sitting next to us, trying to concentrate on his Celtics getting stamped by the woeful Sonics. Didn't pay him no mind until I noticed he was frantically texting someone; after about the third loud flurry of key-punching, I looked over and saw he was complaining about us to some faceless third party. For a second I felt kind of guilty for, umm, shouting about sports in a sports bar when nothing worth watching was on. But then I noticed that he pumped his fist and chirped breahtlessly every time Scalabrine made one of his patented decent, well-deserved, one-for-the-team-when-they-need-it buckets, and in that instant it became one of the great validating experience of my many years of constant teething. Official.

Back to business. I've come to the conclusion that redeeming Melo's game is a waste of it all. At best, he's a blotchy, failed effort to remake the classic three for the new age. The Alex English's of this world were smooth, fluid, and elegant; someone like Richard Jefferson is economical and dangerous, the shrewd sidekick answer to off-guard badness. Melo, though, is smooth only because he moves so little, but doesn't have enough burst to make those few steps into burning holes of statemant-making. Doesn't hush himself, doesn't hush others, he's just kind of dumb-founded and dumb-founding. If you want to be less charitable, Melo's the spare parts left over from the Frankenstein experiment that gave birth to Kirilenko, Marion, KG, and all the other rabid and weird 3/4 hybrids who make this Association a place among strangers.

But is there seriously one among us who does not positively adore Melo the person? There will never be another Iverson on the court, but I will now drop a gem of immeasurable proportions: Melo is Iverson II off of it. Not the thugging, or the bleak background, or the hip-hop tie-in—it's the love. He's honest, charismatic, winning, engaging, and genuinely soulful in a business that's got its share of idiots, enigmas, and jerky-brained pretenders. I'm with the Recluse on the wonder that is Rashad McCants and the media, but compared to Melo's ease and expressiveness, McCants might as well be butchering a florid monologue of his own making.

And then there's the city. Basketball is a game of cities, city spaces, city environment. Iverson's real as fuck not just because his friends got shot, he spent some time in the pen, and his crew is mega. That's one of the reasons you'd call him street, say the streets are a captive audience, whatever. But beyond all that, Iverson's like the city walking, "the streets" and "the corner" before pop music made them famous. He has that kind of authority of neighborhood blocks, old folks sitting outside, restaraunts that might as well be monuments. I would call it wisdom, but it's more in the bones, veins and voice than the brain, and it's nothing you could ask about. And this isn't just a black thing. Come to Philly, as much as I hate a lot of things about that place, and you'll know in a second why he's its Jordan (right down to half of the population bitterly criticizing him, which they would've done to MJ, and the terminal coming up short in spite of the back-break).

The new Melo commercial gets at just why he's next in line, or at least it did on the strength of my one viewing. If Iverson is Philly, his adopted hometown, Melo is straight B-More, from Stop Snitching to infinity. And the spot gets this dead-on. Melo strolling through shadows and decay he makes his own, Jim Boeheim big upping him at a bus stop, a helicopter circling suggesting The Wire if the show (or the police there) had a budget. He steps out into light, delivered. But then the riddle: "B. More." He leaves the city, but it's what's made him; he's beyond it, but it's gotten him there. Boeheim and Baltimore indistinguishable, a love thang.

(I apologize for any Scoop-isms there. We all have our moments of weakness. Perhaps you'll find it reassuring that I did put a comma between "indistinguishable" and "a love thang," since a period would've been way too much. I also might've been flying high since, in succession, I just watched Kwame twirl down the lane looking like #1, Curry dunk in his face, and then a typically sublime Odom drive that outdid both of them in the "the small things that remind me why I do this" department)

THC called Larry Hughes a bitch yesterday. Or ventured that Hughes might be "kind of" one. The thing is, I've never liked Hughes as a person (or personality), but his play last year gave me goosebumps. It's kind of a relief to see him no longer the basketball avatar he was in '04-05, largely because I can once again create harmony between my (irrational) dislike for him and what he does on the court. O the tension in mine soul as I was stuck with a prototypical case of hating the player, loving the game. And not as in "T.O. is such a phenomenal gamebreaking receiver, too bad he's also an egomaniacal headcase." That comes with the territory, gift and the curse and all that. Hughes, it was like personality and style were two different people, thus breaking one of the cardinal rules of my NBA cosmology.

Melo 2006: Love the player, hate the game.

(Is Tolbert really talking about "biggest buttocks in the NBA?" I guess that's okay if you're reminiscing, but to bring an active guy like Curry in is wrong. And not only because I think that Toine is the alpha and omega of disproportionate rears in this league.)


At 11/17/2005 10:25 AM, Anonymous aug said...

Seriously. I mentioned that in the other post. I just hope you didn't watch the duke game before unless you wanted to hear more about the great buttocks of our time.

I think a big thing with melo is his lack of athleticism. I mean, coming out of college i believe the guy only had a 33" vertical. That's only a few more than me. He's not that quick or anything either. I don't like to feel like a star like Melo is about on the same level as me with the exception of height. As far as larry goes. I hate his game for some reason. I don't like how he can't play defense whatsoever but everyone thinks he can because he plays the passing lanes and gets steals. I don't like his seemingly selfish game (he seems more selfish than he really is). That Odom dunk made me happy. I'm in love with big guard/forwards who can play point(odom, diaw, etc...)

At 11/17/2005 11:07 AM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

This is strange...I had it confused. In our behind the scenes back and forth about this, I always thought it was hating Carmelo the player, and loving Carmelo the game. At any rate, thats how I view it. Carmelo is the closest thing to Barkley we've seen in a while (minus the rebounding). No athleticism, yet makes it happen. I really can't back this up, but it kind of satisfies me that

Lebron = Magic
DWade = Jordan
Melo = Barkley

At 11/17/2005 11:20 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i guess my use of "player" to mean "as a person" is kind of arbitrary and weird. could just as easily been "basketball player" and "game of life."

so you don't like melo, the man? is this fire in ranks?

At 11/17/2005 11:24 AM, Anonymous aug said...

Larry Bird also had little athleticism, but made it happen. He just had the best shotmaking ability ever. He just scored and won. I think comparing melo to bird is a little more accurate even though melo will never be half the player bird was. It's kind of similar to how unathletic white people related to Bird more than Dr. J and Jordan. I feel that way about Melo compared to Bron and Wade.

Was i the only one to catch John Saunders talking about the high scores for the night and when coming to Mike James, had a freudian slip and called him Mike Jones. He just said what we were all thinking.

At 11/17/2005 11:31 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i made that joke last year in the playoffs; i wonder if james himself has picked up on it (not because i made it, but because it's been that obvious for so long and he played in houston, for lord's sake)

At 11/17/2005 11:31 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

barkley had no athleticism?!?!?!?!?!


are you too young to remember the thunder dunks??

next you're going to tell me he couldn't shoot or rebound.

sir charles: BEST POWER FORWARD EVER! fuck a karl malone, fuck a tim duncan, and fuck a kevin mchale.

At 11/17/2005 11:34 AM, Blogger ForEvers Burns said...

That was easily as good an analysis of Melo's "street" appeal as any I've read, and I want to take it a bit further.

I just spent two years teaching and coaching basketball at a staggeringly impoverished and 100% black middle school in Mississippi. I was always consistently surprised at how often, when playing around with my students on the court after school, they'd shout "just like Melo!" None of my students ever claimed to channel Wade, Jordan, or even LeBron; they almost always emulated either Anthony, AI, and, to a lesser extent, Kobe (but only after his trial ended). There was also never any correlation with their actual move and the player they were modeling. I frequently had to remind Willie Ryas, a 6'4" behemoth of an 8th grader, while backing in a 12-year-old half his size was reminiscent of any number of great players, Allen Iverson was not one of them. So why not pretend to be Shaq?

There was no lack of "bad" kids at my school. They'd shuffle in and out of reform school, fight anyone who stepped on their backpacks, and make lewd and largely incoherent advances toward anything with breasts. While these kids were always perceived as "scary", no one ever thought they were cool. The actual cool kids also loved getting in trouble, but never really did anything that bad (refusing to stand in a straight line, not calling a teacher "sir" or "ma'am"). They knew exactly what buttons to push to get their teachers to hit them (that's how discipline works down there) and always made it happen in plain view of the other students. What made them cool was not their being bad, but their being punished unjustly for things that weren't that big of a deal, passing it off as being misunderstood rather than doing something wrong. The cool kids had total authority over the students and any attempt at "putting them in their place", as teachers were wont to do, only had the effect of further empowering and mythologizing them.

I think Carmelo and AI draw much of their street credibility from being just like the cool kids. Grown people, and in particular white grown people, seemed particularly thrilled to trash Carmelo at every opportunity last year. But what did he do? He wasn't happy riding the bench during the olympics (sounds reasonable), he told people that they might get killed if they try to inform on drug dealers (unfortunate, but also totally reasonable), and he got caught with some weed (just not that big a deal). I think black males seem to identify so strongly with Carmelo (and AI for the same reason) because they see themselves as good people but feel like they just can't seem to do right by white standards. Given Brown Recluse's insights, McCants can absolutely fit into this mold with enough exposure.

As for Carmelo's game (sorry I'm so long-winded), it's like a guy who can't dance doing a really sweet robot. Lacking much of the requisite skills to be an incredible dancer, he can still do well in his own right by making a lot of herky-jerky moves that somehow exude grace through awkwardness. More in line with the robot-guy analogy, it's exciting to watch in spurts, but would just be staring-at-the-sun painful if everyone on the floor started doing it. So I'll take my Melo in small doses, but only provided there's still plenty of Marion and Kirilenko to act as its foil.

At 11/17/2005 12:03 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

forever burns, great anecdote.

recluse: i'm using "athleticism" in terms of the chad ford circa 2005 definition (i.e. physical attributes). barkley had no length, wingspan, or ability to break down defenders. i guess he could jump, though. and as far as best pf all time, karl malone. also, didnt sir charles play a lot of SF or am i buggin?

we really should be discussing Burns' anecdote, though

At 11/17/2005 12:38 PM, Blogger Ken said...

Carmelo is quick. How do you think he gets points down low?

Dude is skilled- people are getting used to these freak atheletes like Amare and Dwight Howard, if Carmelo was more cut up I don't think there would be any discussion about this.

At 11/17/2005 12:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

quick as in agile, maybe.

At 11/17/2005 12:54 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

also can someone please provide a more detailed/accurate summary of the commercial? i know there are some other people of note in there but i can't remember who, or maybe would never have recognized them even after a thousand viewings

At 11/17/2005 12:59 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

burns, do you have an email address? hit me up on the gmail.

At 11/17/2005 1:07 PM, Blogger Ken said...

Quick as in he can get a shot off faster than most defenders can stop him.

At 11/17/2005 2:11 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

foreverburns really needs to start his own blog.

shoals, i'm not sure of the other cameos, but the important one is Bernard King. it's a far more flattering comparison than the Lil Big Dog tag Melo's received from this blog.

At 11/17/2005 2:48 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

Since you threw down the gauntlet, I’ll take the bait and respond:

call barkley the most amazing power forward ever, but i think it's pretty inaccurate to call him the best. for one thing, as THC mentioned, he didn’t really play like a traditional power forward. Sure, he was a beast on the boards and used his “big buttocks” as well as anyone, but the chuckster loved facing up and hitting threes. In 94-95 he hit a remarkable 74 of them. We live in the age of the do-it-all 7 footer, yet none of these dominant big men will ever come close to that mark. And, contrary to THC’s recollection, Barkley could most certainly break people down off the dribble. I’m not talking about crossing heads up, but he was athletic enough to either get to the rack, or pull up and hit in their face (as evidenced by the pull-up he dropped over the Admiral to close down Hemisphere Arena, and break the heart of Young Brickowski).

Also, I think his height is simply too much to overcome. He could battle with a 6’8 Mailman, but don’t you think he would’ve been pretty helpless in the low block against Duncan? I almost think Chuck has said as much, and I haven’t even mentioned Duncan’s growing collection of rings.

At 11/17/2005 3:27 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

that bernard king cameo is crucial. if boeheim is coming into melo's (metaphorical) hood to prove that it's not like he doesn't fit there, king's doing the same for the hoops tradition

At 11/17/2005 3:28 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

notice i said "they fit there," not "he fits with them." they may be bigger than melo, but what melo stands for, socio-culturally, is much bigger than college ball or springfield

At 11/17/2005 3:46 PM, Blogger Ken said...

I guess I don't understand how Carmelo is much bigger than college ball and the Hall of Fame, could you explain that furthur?

At 11/17/2005 3:53 PM, Anonymous brickowski said...

the king and melo. old meets new, and game respects game. a love thang.

At 11/17/2005 4:05 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

because melo stands for the space in which what brickowski just said can take place, with feeling

At 11/17/2005 4:33 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

carmelo is the city, carmelo is love, and the city's love is bigger than us all, bigger than any league

At 11/19/2006 3:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw Melo play in Boston last year and he was worth the ticket price. Didn't miss a shot first half, except for a heave at the buzzer. This guy's for real and will be a star in the league for years to come.

Love & Basketball


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