Carmelo Anthony - Getty ImagesThe NBA is the image-conscious league. The players-must-dress-appropriately league. The no-violence-and-no-controversy league. But David Stern has it messed up. Controversy sells, violence sells. Look at the NHL. Do you honestly believe people are watching hockey for the game? They're waiting for the fights to break out. Do you honestly think people are watching NASCAR to see who wins? No way, they're waiting for someone to crash into the wall and take out all the other cars. That is what America wants. A spectacle, a travesty, high drama. And one of the reasons the NBA has been so successful is because of its hood icons. Like Allen Iverson, who has carried the torch since he entered the league, and now Carmelo Anthony, who is ready to take that title and run with  it into the future.

But first things first. Let's not get it twisted. Both of those dudes can play. They are first-rate ballers. Superstars even. They both have mad  skills with the rock and on the court. But let's keep it real. Both guys are from the hood and they represent the hood. Ain't no faking it. And in the hood, if it ain't rough it ain't right. That's why David Stern and the league have been cracking down with the suspensions. They don't want a thug league. They don't want a bunch of goons. And they are right. But when you get a baller with the skill of a Melo or AI, please just let them do their thing on the court and if they get a little wild off it, why criticize them like they are a presidential candidate?

The world needs to realize where these players came from and what they rose up out of. White, middle-class America has no idea. And don't  get it wrong. White, middle-class America represent the largest percentage of NBA fans. But a lot of times the white middle-aged sportswriter who caters to the white, middle-class American fan denounces players like AI and Melo. They call them thugs, or hoodlums, or even criminals. But I ask you, what do these white, middle-aged sportswriters know about the hood and what it's like to come up out of the gutter? Nada, zilch, nothing. The big zero. So in reality, they need to stop talking about something that they know nothing about.

The NBA needs its hood icons. No matter how much David Stern doesn't want it, he needs to realize that the NBA is a hip-hop league. Its players  are from the ghettos of America and all they are doing is being themselves. The  should be commended for rising up out of their circumstances and taking advantage of the opportunities afforded them due to their basketball  skills. Because for every talented ball player that makes it there are probably three just as talented or more that didn't make it. Those who fell to the lure and temptations of the streets and were either killed in those same streets or fell victim to the War on Drugs and are now doing time in federal penitentiary.

Players like AI and Carmelo who transcend their environment and make good in the league should be applauded instead of torn down and criticized at every opportunity. When will America learn? You can't knock someone for being themselves. You can't knock them for where they're from. You can't knock them for the color of their skin or how they grew up. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, the land of the free. The American Dream of free enterprise, capitalism and rags-to-riches story form the foundations of what this country is supposed to stand for. Players in the league shouldn't have to conform to white, middle-class America's standards of what is wrong and what is right. Right is right and if you are on the side of virtue then it should all be good. And both AI and Melo are very righteous dudes. But they are also very loyal dudes. To their homies prior to entering the league and to their hoods.  And in the eyes of this writer, there is nothing wrong with that.