Behind the Numbers: Melvin Ely

Behind The Numbers: Melvin Ely

Behind The Numbers
Gilbert Arenas 0, Wizards
Marcus Banks 3, Timberwolves
Mike Bibby 10, Kings
Andrew Bogut 6, Bucks
Kobe Bryant 8, Lakers
Jarron Collins 31, Jazz
Tony Delk 00, Pistons
Melvin Ely 2, Bobcats
Pau Gasol 16, Grizzlies
Manu Ginobli 20, Spurs
Drew Gooden 90, Cavaliers
Grant Hill 33, Magic
Royal Ivey 36, Hawks
Linton Johnson 43, Hornets
Dikembe Mutombo 55, Rockets
Eric Piatkowski 52, Bulls
Paul Pierce 34, Celtics
Shavlik Randolph 42, Sixers
Earl Watson 25, Sonics

There is usually a story to tell behind the uniform number that is stitched on a professional athlete’s jersey. Whether it’s worn in representation of a childhood hero, passed down from generation to generation within the family or just something that feels lucky, most numbers have meaning for those who wear them. Bobcats forward Melvin Ely is no different.

He wears number 2 as a tribute to his college coach at Fresno State University, the legendary Jerry Tarkanian.

“He took me under his wing and basically made sure that I became a man,” Ely said of his days under “Tark” at Fresno State. “He put the idea of the NBA in me. At first it wasn’t that big of a dream. I honestly didn’t take basketball seriously until I had him in my life. If I had attended any other school I don’t think I would even be here. He would tell me I could one day get paid for playing the low post position.

“Not only that, but he was a great mentor, as well. Coming from Chicago all the way out to California, I was by myself. Tark made sure I never felt alone and always had someone to talk to. Wearing the number 2 is simply to honor a great coach -- a legend. He put himself on the line for me several times. The least I can do is wear his old number.”

With 778 career wins under his belt and a .803 career winning percentage (fourth best all-time) in 38 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Tarkanian will be remembered for always putting the interests and accomplishments of his players over his own. Pacing the hardwood for major colleges like UNLV (19 years) and Fresno State (seven years), Tarkanian coached Ely and 41 other players into the NBA, 12 of them being selected in the first round.

Ely isn’t the only former player to represent Tarkanian’s number in the NBA, either. UNLV standouts Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon have donned the number 2, as well.

“The older guys that made it into the league set the standard, and I’m just following it,” Ely said. “If you’ve ever been coached by him, while you're there he’s not only your coach, he’s a father figure and a friend. The least you can do is honor him by taking his number. That’s something I think all players should do for someone who has meant so much to them.”

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