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SU Basketball: Carmelo Conundrum

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He's the most high-profile player to come out of Syracuse since...maybe ever. But Carmelo's legacy, and his personality, is such an oddity.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Carmelo AnthonyBall-Stopper.

Maybe? But I have my arguments against that line of thinking. Points about Melo's efficiency increasing; about Melo's assist rate actually improving last season; about how he is a scorer and scorers score; about how he is routinely the first, second and third banana on teams.

But when it comes to Carmelo, there's always The Championship, which skews a lot of things. A little "Us verses Them" when it comes to Melo. At least, if you care about the NBA -- which a lot of people around here don't seem to. Players "graduating" to that Next Level might as well be taking space-shuttle flights to Pluto for some SU fans.

Still, though, that win over Kansas in New Orleans is what everyone around here will likely always remember when thinking of Carmelo Anthony. Memories refreshed on our mind's home page this week when the former fab frosh returned to The Hill. And yet, for practically everyone else, he remains one of the most criticized players playing basketball today.

Carmelo AnthonyMe-first player.

Be it ripping his style of ball or even going back to the whole "stop snitching" thing, that became, for a time, to him what "Whoop-De-Damn-Do" became to one Derrick Coleman. Anthony is a lightning rod of sorts, sometimes justified sometimes not so much.

Actually, Carmelo and Coleman remind me a lot of each other.

D.C. was also a winner at SU, flashing that brilliant smile every time his Orangemen got rolling in a big game. After leaving here, though, he became synonymous with what was wrong in sports back then. Paying off a season's worth of fines before the very first game all because he didn't want to wear suit coats or ties to games? He was that guy. Uncoachable? Chuck Daily seemed to think so at one point in time.

Here was one of the biggest stars in sports, straight out of Syracuse, acting in a way that made a lot of us cringe.

DC

Credit: Sports Illustrated (Spoiler: San Diego didn't remember the '69 Jets)

Coleman has turned around his public image now, receiving a hero's welcome every time he sets foot in the Carrier Dome. Rightfully so, too. He was such a cornerstone of that era of Syracuse hoops -- no title, but a whole lot of winning. Plus, he has shown nothing but public love to the fans. He's become an unofficial mayor of SU hoops, bridging the past with the future; Jim Boeheim then to Jim Boeheim now.

He's gone away, grown up and come back.

Carmelo Anthony has had some mistakes (the brawl in the Garden, the DUI, the friend with the pot in his car...) but he's never been the pariah that Coleman was back in the early 90's.

Melo's situation is a little fuzzier.

He's gone away and grown, but he's still away and he's still growing. He's taken heat for things like his "free agency drama" this past summer and at the same time is beloved for something like donating $3 million back to Syracuse University -- helping fund a practice facility/recruiting edge!

That's some legacy, right? A national championship in 2003 and now a gift that seems to keep on giving in a form of a modern practice facility/recruiting edge. One-and-done? Maybe technically speaking for Carmelo and Syracuse University, but not so much for fans who will always be ready to cheer the now-New York Knick.

Still, watching Melo go to battle with another mostly forgettable collection of teammates on Tuesday night at the Dome, it struck me: Carmelo Anthony: Syracuse Star and Carmelo Anthony: NBA Star just will never mesh. There will always be something a little off about him and his ways on and off the court to the general public.

There's nothing wrong with that, obviously. Melo's done enough to warrant the extra unwanted labels. And at the same time, for what it's worth, he's made over $135 million playing hoops and has been pretty successful off the court, too. He could retire right now and still have left a pretty big mark on the game of basketball.

It's just a different mark than I expected it to be.

The biggest star to come out of Syracuse since Derrick Coleman (maybe?), one that's definitely lived up to the hype more so than DC ever did. But one that hasn't fully caught the public's imagination, similar to Coleman.

It's all kind of...strange to watch play out. Anthony will have the money and the accolades, not likely a championship, but he'll end up with more critics than apologists. He'll keep bringing the good even on the bad teams. He'll keep up his All Star weekend trips...He'll keep hearing...

Melo's a ball-hog with no shot at winning!

He'll have the haters and Syracuse will always have that banner.