Carmelo Anthony is perhaps the greatest player in Syracuse basketball history, and arguably one of the greatest freshman to play the game. He won Syracuse their one and only national championship before he went to the NBA. Little did we know, Carmelo's decision to leave Syracuse after one year would have an immense impact on NBA history. Welcome to the "Educated Melo Universe".
To start things off, lets look at the 2003 draft: No.1 Lebron James (Heat), No.2 Darco Milicic (Pistons), No.3 Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets), No.4 Chris Bosh (Raptors), No.5 Dwyane Wade (Heat).
Now let's say Melo loves the college game too much, and needs one more year at Syracuse before turning pro. Taking Melo out of the equation leads Denver with a whole new selection with the third pick in the 2003 draft. Due to the fact they already had a quality front court with Nene and Marcus Camby, they would pass up on Bosh, and pick Wade in order to fulfill their back court needs (Andre Miller and Earl Boykins weren't exactly getting things done). Toronto would then select Bosh. The Heat, still in need of a guard, would choose between Heinrich and TJ Ford.
Meanwhile in college ball, Syracuse would be the preseason number one, as they would have a starting lineup including more experienced versions of Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick, a consistent big man with Craig Forth, young talent off the bench with Dimitris Nichols and Terrence Roberts and of course Carmelo Anthony (who in reality had a stellar season in the NBA and was robbed of ROY). This lineup would demolish their way to a one-loss regular season, and an eventual Big East showdown against UCONN in the National Championship. Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon would not be able to handle an experienced Melo, along with the size of Forth and Warrick.
Which Reality Would You Prefer?
Fresh off back-to-back championships, Melo would be the clear cut number one pick in the 2004 NBA draft. Despite the teams effected by the Melo-less 2003 draft, the back of the league would experience no drastic differences. Orlando receives the number one pick and takes the safe route by choosing Melo over a high schooler (Dwight Howard). Charlotte then decides to take Howard, pushing the rest of the draft back a few spots.
Back in Syracuse, the back-to-back championships allow Jim Boeheim to offer top recruits,Gerald Green, Josh McRoberts, or Monta Ellis a chance to be the next Melo and an opportunity to play with Orange veterans who hoisted two trophies. This would allow Syracuse to remain atop the Big East instead of relying on the Big East tournament to make the field of 64.
As the NBA develops, Shaq is looking for a new home. Instead of picking the Heat who are in a complete muck after Heinrich leads them nowhere, he decides to team up with Melo and the Magic.
That team wins a championship in 2006 against Dirk and the Mavs. Lebron still can't win anything in Cleveland and wants out. With no one to attract him in south beach, Lebron decides to "take his talents" to a city he almost went to anyways, New York City.
Since Lebron is in New York, Amar'e is offered a huge contract by the Heat who are trying to rebuild. Since the Knicks didn't have to gut their entire team to get Lebron as they did for Melo, they have enough pieces to become a title contender. These events finally lead to the Melo-Lebron rivalry that basketball fans have been craving for seven years.
Meanwhile, Dwight is still immature and definitely wants out of Charlotte, so he takes the job in Brooklyn with no hesitation. Bosh wants out of Toronto and after seeing the success Melo had in Orlando with Shaq, and decides to go to the Magic as Shaq has already been dealt to the Celtics. Bosh and Melo are able to reach the finals in 2011, but still wind up falling short to the Mavs in a finals rematch.
Over in the west, Wade wants out of Denver, because Nene and Camby got old, and aside from two conference final appearances with the help of Chauncey Billups, nothing happens in Denver. Wade then decides to go to Miami and pairs up with Amar'e, mainly because a "big three" wouldn't work out in Orlando with Melo, and the Heat have more money to offer Wade. So this year (2012), instead of the Heat battling the Celtics for the Eastern Conference Crown, It would be the Knicks up against the Magic.
In a world where Melo played an extra year of college ball: Syracuse becomes a powerhouse, Lebron is a Knick, Orlando becomes a constant contender, the "Big Three" never happens, Amar'e and Wade team up in Miami, the Dwightmare still exists and Briane Scalibrine wins MVP.