Back in September, it was all the rage for Chicago sports fans to speculate whether Denver Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony would don a Bulls jersey at some point in the possibly near future. With the Bulls spurned by the summer's elite free agents, rumors of a possible trade involving polarizing big man Joakim Noah and oft-maligned swingman Luol Deng swirled around the web with Bieber-esque fervor.
While that particular rumor has long been put to bed, it was likely still on the minds of many fans Monday night as Melo lit up the Bulls for 32 points as the team snuck past the Nuggets 94-92 at the United Center. Bulls fans' desire to see Melo in a red No. 15 jersey was clear in the introductions when the level of applause he received came in a close third behind Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
The experts, including ESPN Bulls writer Nick Friedell, call the probability of a Melo-to-Chicago trade "farfetched" at this point. Even still, the annals of Chicago sports tell us that many of the city's blockbuster deals have happened when fans are least expecting them (see Peavy, Jake; Cutler, Jay).
Since journalistic rules dictate that three like storylines comprise a trend, bringing Melo to Chicago would signify that building Super Teams in the in the Eastern Conference is now the norm if you're trying to show fans you're in it to win it.
First there was Boston's Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Then came Miami's bout of superstar hoarding with LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.
Carmelo Anthony's arrival in Chicago would signify the formation of a third, arguably less sexy, Big Three with Derrick Rose and, depending on what the Bulls would give up in a trade, Carlos Boozer or Noah.
Anthony's contract with Denver expires at the end of the season. He has an extension offer on the table from Denver. If the Nuggets are going to lose him, they'll want to trade him before the February trade deadline to recoup some losses. If he just leaves, a la LeBron in Cleveland and Bosh in Toronto, the Nuggets will be left with little more than a gaping hole in their roster and a fan base taken to burning powder blue Melo jerseys in effigy on YouTube.
Simply put, the Super Team route simply isn't the Chicago Way. Among Carl Sandburg's famous poetic descriptors of this city -- tool maker, stacker of wheat, player with railroads and freight handler to the nation -- "short cut taker" is nowhere to be found.
The Bulls championships of the 1990s were built on the sweat equity of a solid core of players who lost -- painfully together -- long before tasted victory. There was no magic bullet that was added to the 1985 Bears' roster prior to their championship run. Or the core of the 2005 White Sox.
We build our legendary teams the old fashioned way: we earn 'em.
If going out and spending like Scrooge McDuck were a key to building a championship team, we wouldn't be sitting around lamenting 102 years of title-less baseball on the North Side.
Chicago as a city has never been into trend conformity.
Cookie cutter we are not.
Anthony was asked about the possibility of ending up in Chicago prior to Monday's game. And of course, he played off the notion with the usual focused-on-my-current-team sidestep. He praised Chicago as a basketball Mecca and said, "Everybody knows what Chicago basketball is about."
As for the reception he received from the crowd in the introduction, "It did surprise me that I was able to come into somebody else's arena and get some cheers. I'm not used to that. But, it is what it is. I accept it."
That was one of Melo's favorite phrases in his post-game interview: It is what it is.
It's like when two people who are friendly start to wonder whether there might be a potential for romance. They say nice things about each other to the rest of your group of friends. Third parties start to talk about how they'd be a good match if they ever decide to take the next step. But it's never that easy.
With 11 seconds left and the Nuggets down by three, Deng fouled Anthony. The boos came in full force as Melo stepped to the line. The message from fans was loud, clear and threefold: A) We don't want you to make these free throws. B) Perhaps we don't need you here after all. C) However...
It's interesting. It's intriguing. It is what it is.
But alas... it's not the Chicago Way.