Melo's flavor works as complement

April 20, 2004|By LAURA VECSEY

There I sat, feasting on Carmelo Anthony - or at least his candy bar.

That was after the real Carmelo Anthony was tagged for two quick fouls Sunday night in his first NBA playoff game.

Unlike nine years ago - the last time the Nuggets were in the playoffs - Anthony's eighth-seeded Nuggets aren't likely to beat the top-seeded Minnesota team that features the former No. 1 high school draft pick turned $126 million franchise player/Most Valuable Player candidate who made commissioner David Stern shut down the NBA five years ago to get the union to concede on a salary cap.

Remember when Kevin Garnett was the sign of the apocalypse?

Anthony, along with LeBron James, did his part this season to forever erase the idea that teenagers aren't ready for the NBA.

Et tu, Maurice Clarett?

This is crazy, but former Ohio State running back Clarett's challenge to the NFL is being fought by the league and NFL players union as if world peace depended upon Clarett's not being eligible for Saturday's draft.

Maybe the NFL should chill out, eat a Melo bar. Maybe the NFL would better prove its point by letting Clarett in the draft. If he can't get a candy bar named after him, then no more underclassmen in the draft.

Ah, the rush of it all.

Anthony was definitely too pumped for his postseason debut Sunday in Minneapolis. I could relate - thanks to a sugar high from The Melo bar. (As in "The Donald." ) All profits from the confection go to charity. Nice, but what about my hips?

Two hundred and sixty calories. Thirteen grams of fat. Thirty-five grams of carbohydrates. Goodbye, South Beach. Goodbye, Atkins.

"[Anthony] said he really liked it, but when he bit into one of the early bars, caramel ran down his chin, so he asked to have it thickened," Mike Schmid, spokesman for Wolfgang candy, said yesterday.

"I got an order for 60,000 from King Soopers Grocery in Denver on Friday, after they made the playoffs," said Melissa Heher, vice president of PLB Sports out of Pittsburgh.

PLB Sports, the people who brought us Flutie Flakes, sold The Melo bar idea to Anthony. Heher said PLB Sports has sold all 200,000 units of The Melo so far, with a third run to be ordered this week.

"We're watching how they play. I hope they play a little better. It would be good for the candy," Heher said.

We can understand why. From anecdotal reports, The Melo is better than the Reggie bar, introduced at Yankee Stadium on April 13, 1978. The Melo might even be better than Ken Griffey's 1989 rookie candy bar.

Up until a few days ago, four Melo bars used to be stuffed in a kitchen drawer. No more. Between April 12, when Anthony and the Nuggets secured the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, and Sunday's Game 1 loss to the Timberwolves, this correspondent is embarrassed to report supplies began running severely low.

The more I sampled The Melo bar, the more it occurred to me that the former Towson Catholic player is the wheel from which all sporting spokes emanate.

This is Carmelo Anthony season.

He is one degree of separation from almost everything relevant in sports.

Today, the Nuggets' 19-year-old forward is not going to be named the NBA's Rookie of the Year - according to news leaks that give the nod to LeBron James.

But imagine a player good enough to actually give the Cleveland Cavaliers' rookie sensation a run for the money - and votes - the way Anthony did. Anthony's accomplishments this season and the apparent lack of reward have made his coach and teammates scoff at the idea that a Nuggets' playoff spot did not warrant more consideration for Anthony over James in Rookie of the Year voting.

(Anthony averaged 21.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists; James averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists. Those stats would at least suggest the pair should share the rookie honors.)

Still, this is the healthy kind of sports rivalry. Ever since they were drafted first and third in June, James and Anthony, respectively, have treated each other as mutual beneficiaries of each other's presence.

It's a relationship by which an entire league can be bolstered, unlike the Boston/New York obsession with the Red Sox/Yankees. The baseball world has placed inordinate attention and focus on two teams that aren't even in first place of the American League East - at the moment.

Without Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James this season was merely a freak of marketing nature, a teenage phenom for which we can't find a suitable category.

With Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James isn't a one-man NBA life-support system. With Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James had a Sammy Sosa to his Mark McGwire.

The pair of rookies elevated two downtrodden NBA franchises. They didn't simply hold their own in a league some argued is diminished by too many teenagers. They did it by startling us and redefining the notion of talent, ability, maturity.

The Melo season continues.

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