Every year the NBA All-Star Weekend serves as a time to celebrate another successful NBA season. This year in Cleveland is no different. The Cavaliers are celebrating a successful season with two of their own in Sunday's main event and plenty of others participating throughout the weekend. The league will be celebrating its 75th diamond anniversary on the shores of Lake Erie, commemorating some of the league's all-time greats throughout its rich history.
Although it's a time to celebrate for the NBA it's also a time for players to celebrate as well. Many former NBA and WNBA legends will flock to downtown Cleveland to partake in the festivities. But, for a WNBA great and Cleveland Rockers legend like Chasity Melvin, it's a bit of a homecoming as well.
"It's quite surreal. Because after thinking about it, I hadn't been back for 18 years," said Melvin to Right Down Euclid. "I was just like, 'Wow, no one remembers the Rockers.' Since sometimes when I tweet about the Rockers or my players will josh me when I'm coaching or messing around and be like, 'Who are the Rockers? No one remembers the Cleveland Rockers.'
"They were always so special to me and all the other players that played there. "So to me, it is dear to my heart. When I tweeted it a couple of weeks ago, I haven't heard from Cleveland for 18 years. And then I got so many great responses and engagement and feedback. It was just like, 'Wow, the people of Cleveland still remember us.' For me, that really touched my heart. And I was just like, 'Wow, this is crazy. I'm actually just not even really going back to enjoy the festivities and to be a part of the Retired Players Association. And now just knowing I'll be back where people really do remember me and remember me as a player there is surreal. Like, nah, they didn't forget about that naive kid."
Melvin started her WNBA career with Cleveland in 1999 and was with the Rockers until the team folded in 2003. During that span, she helped lead Cleveland to three WNBA Playoff appearances, with the team going as far as the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2000 season. Melvin was also an All-Star for the Rockers during the 2001 season, joining teammate Merlakia Jones as a reserve. While her time in Cleveland was short, Melvin looks back fondly on her time with the Rockers, calling it the highest point of her playing career.
"Cleveland was a place where a lot of us really achieved our dream of playing professional basketball in the states," said Melvin. "The overall excitement of actually playing pro sports in the WNBA in the states was already right there on our mind. And then the fans in Cleveland were just awesome. We had great fans from the start that really supported the team. And you talk about a different culture in a different city, but you could really feel the culture of the city of Cleveland. They got hard workers, everyone was low-key. We really vibed with that because we were the underdogs as far as the league just starting out. It just seemed like the fans really blended in with what we did.
"For us, just being able to be in the city, see the fans engage in the different things that were going on over the summer and also play in the arena, which was Gund Arena at the time. It was just an awesome experience for all of us."
Former Cleveland Rockers forward Chasity Melvin is returning to Cleveland for the first time in eighteen years due to NBA All-Star Weekend. Melvin hopes to host an event for former Rockers fans during the weekend's festivities.
After the Rockers folded in 2003, Melvin spent the remainder of her career with the Washington Mystics and the Chicago Sky. But, Melvin shared with Right Down Euclid that she wishes she could've played the entirety of her career with Cleveland. Unfortunately, Melvin also realizes that professional sports is a business and, despite the overwhelming support from then team owner Gordon Gund, the team was ruled financially insolvent and folded.
In 2018, Melvin was the first female coach in Charlotte Hornets franchise history when she joined their G League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm. In 2019, Melvin left the Swarm and joined Loyola University Maryland women's basketball staff as an assistant coach. Soon after that, Melvin returned to the WNBA when she joined the Phoenix Mercury coaching staff in 2020.
As her coaching career continues to blossom, Melvin does think about what's next for her. She does hope to since she more than anything wants to give back and help the WNBA continue to grow. If anything, she hopes that that growth comes back to Cleveland with a hopeful Rockers return.
"I believe having a WNBA team in your city could do wonders if there is fan support and if there's organizational support and we had that in Cleveland," said Melvin. "But, I would be the number one proponent. I would have to fight with a couple former Rockers like Janice Braxton is still there and she's a part of the Retired Players Association. But, at the end of the day, I do think there is support there. And I think the way WNBA… not just WNBA, but women in sports, the trend that it's on right now, I think it would just definitely be important to have a team there."
Hopefully, the Rockers do come back someday and maybe Melvin will be able to coach them in some capacity. But, until then, she's just happy to return to where her professional career begins. She also wants to show some love to the Rockers fans that are still supporting her as well. Melvin is still ironing out the final details but she's planning on hosting a fan meet-up somewhere amidst all the All-Star festivities going on in downtown Cleveland.
"For me and my family, we grew up from humble beginnings," said Melvin. "So we just vibed with the city of Cleveland, the people of Cleveland. And you can't beat that. When you have people who are passionate, who are loyal to their city, you can't beat that. And you can't find that in every place. I've traveled all over the world and that's what's unique about Cleveland that's hard to find in certain other cities. Cleveland rocks and there's nothing like the people in Cleveland. They're real people there."