The Denver Nuggets are not what you would call a traditional powerhouse. For most of nearly a decade and a half Denver was a doormat. It is true there were some inspiring players and some exciting, even historic, moments. The Nuggets also tortured fans with the Paul Westhead experiment Dick Motta and the dreadful backcourt of Junior Harrington and Vincent Yarbrough. For the most part Denver suffered from poor management, lacked talent, some of their best players suffered debilitating injuries, see LaPhonso Ellis and Antonio McDyess, and the franchise was largely irrelevant.via Roundball Mining Company » Should I be Mad at Carmelo Anthony?.
That all changed when Carmelo Anthony arrived. Since Melo was drafted by the Nuggets in June of 2003 Denver has yet to have a losing season or miss the playoffs. After being one of the best teams in the ABA, once the Nuggets joined the NBA in 1976 they had never even had more than three consecutive winning seasons. Alex English never lead the Nuggets to seven straight winning seasons. No Nugget player has. Carmelo was the catalyst of the longest stretch of prosperity this franchise has ever experienced.
So that's an element here to be considered. Carmelo Anthony really did give the Nuggets the most success they've had in the history of their franchise. Which of course says a lot about the history of their franchise that habitual first-round exits with one great playoff run in a weak conference year is the best you've ever had, but still. Carmelo Anthony brought the most success to the Nuggets they've ever had. And now he's vapor trails.
That's a complicated situation for fans. On the one hand, he's given that franchise more than they've ever had before. He's given them seven good years of consistent playoff-caliber seasons. He's put them on the NBA map, made them into a contender, if you take that word to its loosest interpretation. It's easy to argue he's given the fans more than they've ever had before, and so he doesn't owe them anything.
On the other hand, how this shapes out is more similar to "The Decision" than some people would like to admit. By dragging this out, by having it hang over the team, even though those are decisions above him, he's hurting the fanbase and making them suffer through his departure. People have argued that the reason James is hated is because of how he left, not that he did leave. But in the end, results matter. The fans want Melo to stay, and he's not going to. And had he slipped off in the night under cover of free agency, the backlash would likely be palpable as well. At least Melo's been smart enough not to exacerbate it with public comments (which would get him fined).
At the heart of this, again, though, is the question of whether players have a right to determine their own futures in terms of where they want to work. That same right is afforded you and I. However, the difference here is that Melo signed a contract and then an extension with the Nuggets to play in Denver. He wants an adjustment of that contract before its completion. Perhaps that's the issue.
In a related note, check out Chris Webber's passionate but extremely insightful and lucid discussion of the Melo situation (starting at 1:18):
(HT: TheDailySegWay on Twitter)