NBA Superlatives: Melvin Ely

Sunday, November 18, 2007
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

Five-year NBA veteran Melvin Ely joined the Hornets in August, signing a free-agent contract. After two seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers and two-plus years with Charlotte, the 6-foot-10 forward/center won a championship ring as a member of the San Antonio Spurs’ 2007 NBA title team. However, Ely was not on the active postseason roster and will be seeking his first playoff appearance in New Orleans this season.

The personable Ely sat down with to discuss the NBA and his professional career:

Most memorable moments in the NBA: “Getting drafted (by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2002) and winning a championship ring with San Antonio in 2007. When I was drafted, I looked at it like all of my hard work paid off for me. And winning a ring was something that you can’t beat. Everyone wants one, but it’s not easy to get one.”

Most memorable dunk in the NBA: “I was playing for Charlotte and had just been traded there by the Clippers. We played against the Clippers and I dunked on the guy who replaced me in Los Angeles so hard that it made me feel really good, because the Clippers got rid of me for this dude. I don’t even remember his name, but it was a game where (Clippers starting center) Chris Kaman wasn’t playing. It was about 10 seconds into the game. I loved it.” [grins]

Most embarrassing moment in the NBA: “Right before one of our preseason games when I was a rookie, my teammates with the Clippers made me sing a James Brown song in front of the 20,000 people who were in the stands. They told me we had to either sing our (college’s) fight song or a song we knew. I picked a James Brown song that I kind of knew some of the words to, sang a little bit of it and walked off.” [laughs]

Most surprising thing about the NBA as a rookie: “The length of the season. Everyone is used to playing 30 to 35 games in college, maybe 40 if you make it all the way through the NCAA Tournament. Going from 40 to 82 games is a big jump. I know that this is all we do in the pros, and we don’t have to worry about school like in college, but 82 games is a lot of wear and tear on your body.”

Toughest player to face at his position: Boston forward Kevin Garnett. “Some guys, if they’re not making their shots, you don’t have to worry about them too much. But when Kevin isn’t hitting his shots, he goes and does other things, like blocking shots and rebounding, steals.”

Most underrated player in the NBA: Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom. “Everybody saw a lot of what he can do when he was with Miami, but I think being under Kobe Bryant’s shadow, in my personal opinion, isn’t good for him. Odom is one of the most versatile big men out there. He’s 6-10 and can play point guard, can shoot, handle the ball and post up guys.”

Best uniforms in the NBA (besides the Hornets’): Sacramento.

Favorite road arena: Chicago’s United Center. “The atmosphere is great, and playing at home is special for me. Trust me, whenever a guy plays in his hometown, everyone on the opposing team knows that the guy is going to play hard. I’ve never had a bad game in Chicago in my career.”

Favorite road trips, based on the city: Miami, Orlando. “I’m not a fan of the cold weather at all and I live in Florida during the offseason.”

Best trash-talker in the NBA: “(Recently-retired) Gary Payton, hands down. I’ve never seen anyone use words the way he uses them. [laughs] He’s just all-around mean. He will get in your face and start talking. Kevin Garnett also says some slick stuff, but nobody degrades you like Gary Payton. And I like the fact that he gives it to everybody – players, coaches, referees, reporters, fans… He doesn’t pull any punches.” [laughs]

Best heckler stories: “In college, I played for (frequently NCAA-sanctioned head coach) Jerry Tarkanian at Fresno State. Early in my NBA career, there was a fan in Philadelphia sitting near our bench, and one game I was playing really well. During the first timeout he yelled to me ‘How did your five years in college go?’ The second timeout he said, ‘Your college career must have gone really well, because you’re playing great tonight.’ So I’m thinking, ‘Wow, this guy is really being nice to me.’ But during the third timeout he says, ‘Did you ever pay Coach Tarkanian back any of that money he gave you to go to school there?’ Everyone in the stands was laughing. That was pretty funny.

“Here’s another good story. I played with Sean May when I was with Charlotte. The same fan in Philadelphia wrote the names ‘Sean May’ and ‘Charles Barkley’ on a sign. Then he wrote, ‘What’s the only difference? Sean May outweighs Barkley by 30 pounds.’ [laughs] Please put that one in, in case Sean reads this.”

Change he’d make if he were NBA commissioner: “I would make them officiate games the way they did back when Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson were playing. David Stern has done a great job of cleaning the game up, but if you look at my game, I’m old school and always banging people – I don’t mind contact and mixing it up in the paint, or getting hit. And I don’t mind hitting somebody, either. [laughs] The 1980s was the era that I loved. There were great rivalries, and when you went to the basket, you were going to wind up bleeding. [laughs] And everyone was wearing shorts that only hung down to the middle of their thighs.”