HOUSTON—Nugget's forward Carmelo Anthony made no secret of his displeasure with game officials Monday night after being whistled for a rarely called traveling-through-time foul late in the fourth quarter of Denver's 125-123 loss to the Rockets.
"Everybody knows they only call time-traveling when they want to," said Anthony, who could clearly be seen taking two steps back in time to warn himself about an impending pick by Rockets forward Shane Battier. "You see it called, what? Every other game? Once a week? But everybody knows that guys are doing it all the time out there."
The NBA traveling-through-time call is a longtime bone of contention for fans and players alike, most of whom claim that, although the rule is on the books, officials are reluctant to slow down the flow of the game by calling it too often.
"All I'm asking is that they be consistent," Anthony said. "You're gonna call me in the fourth quarter for a piddly little case of going back to warn myself about a pick, then call me in the first quarter for going back to take the same jumper three times until I hit it. Me or anybody."
While the NBA did not respond directly to Anthony's allegations, vice president of referee operations Joe Borgia did tell reporters that the traveling-through-time rule "has been, and will continue to be, enforced in order to preserve both game integrity and continuity and to preserve the fundamental fabric of the universe." Borgia noted that the NBA rulebook clearly states that a player may not progress the ball by sliding into parallel dimensions, and said consideration must be made for human error on the part of the officials making the call, as well as for the reality-altering nature of the offense itself.
The NBA claims it has always taken a hard stance on flagrant and repeat violators of the traveling-though-time rule, saying it wants to avoid a total breakdown of basketball causality as we know it. Borgia said he has evidence suggesting there are several parallel-universe NBAs, including one in which the Nuggets won 16 straight championships before moving to Luna City, a timeline in which Anthony's name figures heavily. In other alternate worlds, where time-traveling is never called, the Utah Jazz of the 1990s were led by famous married couple Karl Malone and John Stockton, who won five championships together; a great Magic Johnson/Larry Bird partnership blossomed in Atlanta; and the WNBA challenges the men's league for sports dominance.
"Already we have some questions we'd like answered in our own league, such as why the Celtics are struggling more than you'd think, why Kevin Durant is almost unstoppable all of a sudden, and why Shaquille O'Neal has suddenly turned up in Mathew Brady's Civil War photographs," Borgia said. "And as always, our biggest worry is potential gambling."
Anthony, for his part, said he would accept the NBA's ruling, but maintained that the league has a different set of space-time rules for their favorites, a common belief among pro players. It is reportedly an article of faith in today's NBA that LeBron James regularly travels through time during games, including every time he uses his trademark Evolution Crossover move, but James has not been the subject of a traveling-through-time call since January. Perhaps the most infamous time-traveling perpetrator is Michael Jordan, acknowledged as the greatest player of all time; Jordan eventually became infamous for executing a move of almost superhuman skill and grace at one moment, and in the next, throwing a no-look pass to a future Jordan who would take four steps after exiting a wormhole and dunk the ball.
"No, of course Jordan never got called. But me? I'm not a golden boy, so they decide to whistle me for a rinky-dink little time-jumper in a game we lose to Houston by two points," Anthony said. "Come on! It's not like they're going to catch the Blazers for eighth place anyway unless they rewind the clock and stop Yao from breaking his foot."
ESPN basketball analyst Bruce Bowen, discussing Anthony's remarks on Wednesday night's SportsCenter, was sympathetic to player frustrations, but said the answer was to make the call more often, not less. While Bowen acknowledged that referees seem to let the call slide more often than not, he was quick to point out that Anthony clearly took an extra step into the glowing energy portal just minutes after he stepped out of it to speak to himself. In addition, Bowen said these actions were messing with the integrity of both the game and the fourth dimension, and will ultimately have unpredictable far-reaching implications on more than just player morale.
"For instance, did anyone who watched the Rockets-Nuggets game Monday night notice that mustache on Shane Battier as he threw that pick? Clearly this is an alternate Shane Battier from a parallel time continuum, possibly an evil one, brought into our world by the time-traveling abuses of our NBA players. The league has to crack down on this behavior before it's too late."