Exactly one year ago I wrote a letter to Carmelo Anthony about his inevitable departure. With the Nuggets preparing to face Anthony and the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden tonight, I am posting the letter. A couple notes about this:
- The full text of the post is below; you can find the original version of the letter here (with the full array of links). You should also check out my friend and fellow blogger/Nuggets fan Mike Mason’s take on Carmelo after he was traded.
- Stuff I got wrong: I thought trading Carmelo meant the Nuggets had to rebuild; instead this team is more fun to watch now and arguably better overall (28-12 record since the trade). We now see what a good coach George Karl is when he has players who will play team basketball.
Dear Carmelo Anthony,
It’s me, Hayden Kane. I am one of the many, many Denver Nuggets fans who are grappling with your imminent departure. Since the beginning of the season, I’ve been on your case pretty hard for taking our season hostage (as my 4 loyal readers can attest). So in this letter, I want to tell you a few stories in hopes you’ll understand where your fans are coming from on this situation.
I played on a recreation YMCA basketball team my senior year of high school (2004). We called ourselves the YMCA Men at Work (respect). I selfishly snagged #15 out of the box of baby blue and white jerseys. Why? It was out of excitement for the player who was rescuing our Denver Nuggets from oblivion, the player who was leading us out of the days of sub-20 win seasons. In case you’re wondering, I did not play like you. I think I averaged like 0.6 points a game. Anyway…
Later that year, you were arrested for having marijuana in your backpack. Shortly thereafter, it came to light that you were in an underground DVD entitled “Stop Snitching.” Remember? A lot of fans struggled to continue cheering for a gangster (whether it was fair to call you that or not). You also announced in the video that you threw your Olympic Bronze medal in a lake. Writers questioned your class and your maturity. Ultimately, along with most Nuggets fans, I decided to stick it out with you. Why? Because you were our guy.
Two years later, the Denver Nuggets were officially relevant again. In a town that was lacking a true superstar, you had stepped up. Year after year, our team made the playoffs. No matter how unceremoniously you were dismissed in the first round, we were all grateful that you had returned the franchise to relevance. Then comes the second story of which I want to remind you.
A collective sadness overcame fans and journalists who follow the NBA on December 16, 2006. Many said the league would take a long time to recover from this most recent stain on its image. From what? There was an ugly brawl involving the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks in which you, among 9 others, threw punches. Your role became especially well known because of your hasty retreat after your punch. The result was a myriad of insults directed at you: coward, (expletive), thug, idiot, so on. We could not help but ask ourselves, “Can we keep cheering for this guy?”
And yet we stuck with you. We knew you were not a thug. I even went the extra mile, defending your apparently cowardly retreat. I confidently told my friends: “He just got out of there because he realized what a mistake he had made, and he didn’t want the situation to get any worse.” The video played again and again. You were suspended for 15 games. Yet again, fans and writers questioned whether you had the maturity to be a franchise player. We defended you. Why? Because you were our guy.
Fast forward two more years. Story #3. The Nuggets were playoff bound again, and there was a buzz among fans about the duo of ‘Melo and Allen Iverson. Nobody could defend you two. We talked trash to our friends who cheered for other teams: “You’re going to guard ‘Melo and AI? Get serious. Our guys have a shot this year.”
Then came the last day of the season, April 16, 2008, and you got arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. We could not believe it. Now? Of all times? We hoped against hope that your actions would not hamper the playoff run. We were angry that you were so irresponsible.
In the end, we accepted your apology. You were our franchise player. We were willing to move on and cheer for you in the playoffs. Why? Because you were our guy.
To your credit, you seem to have completely moved on from these character issues. That excited us as fans, because we stuck with you all these years. After each incident (drugs, video, fight, arrest), we hoped that if we stayed loyal, you would come out on the other side.
We got our pay-off. An exciting run to the Western Conference finals. A team that looked ready to continue to challenge the evil Lakers. The 2009-2010 season was a setback. But we figured it would not be any more than that. This past offseason the Nuggets offered you an extension, and we were told you would most likely sign it. You would remain our franchise player. The Nuggets were here to stay.
Not so much. You know the story from there. ‘Melo drama. Will it be the Nets? Will it be the Knicks? Will the Bulls part with Joakim Noah? Would you ever change your mind and stay? Why are fans booing?
Let’s be clear about what you did do. You did not sign the extension. You formally requested a trade to either the Bulls or Knicks. You announced, in no uncertain terms, your intentions of leaving this team. When we learned about those developments, we were upset. We’ve got hurt feelings. (cue Flight of the Conchords).
We wish that you wanted to stay. We wish you would reward our loyalty. Yes, we understand that you appreciated the loyalty over the years. We understand that you have every right to move on to another team. And we hope you know we will always appreciate what you did for this franchise.
You should also know we are fans. We reserve the right to be irrational. We reserve the right to overreact. Right now, we are mad that you are not staying. We are mad that you are not rewarding us after we stuck with you through all of your issues. We are mad that we have to watch our team rebuild (again). So we are booing you.
In a Sports Illustrated interview, you got after us for booing: “People throw away that whole seven-and-a-half years, and that’s what makes me laugh. Because I’m like, me? Out of all people, you’re booing me? Out of all the people.” (courtesy of “What Is This Man Thinking?” by Ian Thomsen in 1.24.11 issue).
Here’s where you’re wrong. We are not throwing away those years. I’ll say it again: we will never forget your years here. We’re booing because we’re upset now. Our actions today do not automatically link to our feelings about the last 7.5 years. If that was how things worked, we could just as easily accuse you of throwing away those years, of throwing away our loyalty to you.
So let us deal with it, and we’ll try to let you deal with your departure. Hopefully some day you’ll return in another uniform and get a huge ovation when you are introduced. Because once these wounds heal, most fans will gain perspective and settle on the most important thing we can say to you, which is thanks.
We just don’t want you to leave. So don’t treat us like idiots who don’t understand. We do understand, and we’ll get over it.
Until that time, we’ve got hurt feelings.
Hayden W. Kane