Carmelo Anthony did so much for basketball in Denver that his No. 15 should hang in the arena rafters as a everlasting display of gratitude. So why would so many Nuggets fans prefer to see Melo hang in effigy, as one of the best players to ever wear the powder blue returns to town?

When Anthony takes the court in Denver for the first time since becoming a member of the New York Knicks, there should be a standing ovation.

But, if I had to bet, there will be angry fans wearing "Melo out!" T-Shirts, itching to boo him.

There will be hate where there should be joy.

Nuggets coach George Karl deserves props for winning more than 400 games in Denver. General manager Masai Ujiri fooled a Big Apple of bloated egos when he refused to fold under pressure of Anthony's trade demand, and struck a deal that gave the Nuggets hope for the future. Stan and Josh Kroenke love basketball, and their passion has made them owners that Colorado is lucky to have.

But here's the truth: Anthony did more for pro basketball in Denver than Karl, Ujiri or the father-son Kroenke tandem.

Melo made basketball matter in Colorado again. He pulled the Nuggets from league laughingstock to a Western Conference finalist for only the second time in team history.

Go ahead, try to name a better player for the Nuggets. David Thompson was as spectacular as a comet, but flamed out fast. Anthony refused to let Denver miss the playoffs in any of his seven full seasons with the Nuggets, even when he joined a 17-65 team as a 19-year-old rookie.

You can talk about the delicate beauty of those soft-as-cloud floaters Alex English shot in the lane. But I covered English as a beat reporter, and Anthony is without question a more versatile, dangerous offensive weapon. Melo has also been a more efficient scorer, producing more points per shot than English did.

If Dan Issel richly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, then the door will be swung wide open for Melo.