Defining legacies has been a relatively unexplored topic in the realm of Melee. During Ken Hoang's retirement, he earned the title "King of Smash" for his years of dominance from 2003 to 2007. Since Ken, other players have made their case as the best overall player, but no one has done it as long as Joseph "Mango" Marquez and Adam "Armada" Lindgren.
Both Armada and Mango have dominated the competition for years, winning the lion's share of majors. If competitive Melee were to end today, it becomes incredibly tough to determine who had the better overall career. Both have an interesting case and similar parallels to two NBA players who may have stepped on the basketball court for the last time this season: Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan.
Bryant and Duncan
Pundits debate between the two for who's the greatest player of this current generation. They both are proven winners who stand above their contemporaries, with Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers and Duncan's San Antonio Spurs having won five championships each during their careers.
Bryant's career was encapsulated by his retirement tour, as fans flocked to see him play one last time. They didn't come to watch the Lakers; they came to watch Kobe. His strong individual performances will always be the popular topic among fans, whether it's his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors or the numerous times he single-handedly carried the Lakers in a crucial playoff moment. In certain games, Bryant was completely unstoppable as he continued to make shot after shot. Throw multiple defenders at him and he would find a way to the basket or shoot over them with his patented turn-around jumper. In many games, the plan was simple: Give Kobe the ball and watch him work his magic.
In contrast, people flock toward the San Antonio Spurs for its teamwork and fundamental play. Duncan preferred to work within the dynamics of his team, and while his bank-shot and arsenal of moves in the post were unstoppable during his prime, he was more concerned with making the right play. But he'd take over a playoff series if the opportunity presented itself. Take his performances against the New York Knicks in the 1999 NBA Finals and the New Jersey Nets in 2003, for example. Instead of relishing in the spotlight, Duncan knew when to hand over the mantle of leadership to teammates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Duncan's game has never been flashy, but it was fundamental and consistent, two traits that don't really make the highlight reels. You could easily make a compilation of Kobe's impossible shots, but Duncan's elite skills were not always visible in the box score. Despite that, Duncan's game will always be respected. As a player, he'll be heralded for his accomplishments, which includes two season MVPs and 10 All-NBA first team appearances, in addition to his five championship rings.
Mango is the Smash equivalent of Kobe Bryant. They both garner a large amount of attention and have created many iconic moments. Worldwide, basketball players will continue to scream "KO-BE!" when someone makes a difficult jump shot. Crowds yell out "MAN-GLE!" when someone makes a difficult recovery with Fox. Undoubtedly, Kobe's time on the court has inspired countless young players to mimic his style and Mango's exciting play-style has encouraged numerous players at home to dust off their controllers and practice.
Mango grew many aspects of his game to prove critics wrong. Many said he won only because he played Jigglypuff, a gimmicky character choice. So he decided to pick up Fox and Falco to prove he could win with more standard characters.
Just as we praise Kobe for making difficult shots, he has also lost his team games. Likewise, fans highlight Mango's difficult combos or edge-guards, but he has thrown away leads because of his risky decisions.
When Mango wins, it's a delight to watch creativity combine with intricate movement. The possibility that Mango can play at such a high level is what brings large audiences to flock to Twitch streams and to fill the venue when he's in the top eight.
Mango challenges viewer expectations because of his unpredictable yet incredibly intelligent options; he has a nearly unmatched ability to see multiple steps ahead of his opponent. Mango might not always win, but there has always been an aura of invincibility that loomed around him. Although it did seem unrealistic that Mango could, at any given moment, destroy his opponent, it always fit into the realm of possibility.
Armada's no-nonsense demeanor earns him comparisons to Tim Duncan, since both are well known for their robotic levels of consistency. Tim Duncan's Spurs finished with at least 50 wins in every year aside from the 1999 NBA Lockout season. In the past decade, Armada has never placed below fifth place at any tournament he has entered (save for a forfeit at EGLX).
Duncan rarely will take over a game offensively, but his impact is always felt. His skills were not as flashy, but he always seemed to be in the right position to make a decision and control the pace of the game.
That seems to be the tough part about appreciating them both. Armada's game, in many aspects, seems boring until you examine how he plays and sees the game. Duncan's Spurs has always predicated itself on finding small advantages on back-screens, intricate passing, and movement until it can find the easy bucket. Armada's game play predicates itself on taking stage control and eliminating options until his opponent is forced into a tough decision.
He finds openings methodically among a sea of well-thought decision trees. While it seems robotic, there is beauty to uncovering the depths of his preparation to the plethora of options that Melee presents. Top players can recite Armada's game plans, but Armada will still win with his solid execution and mechanical consistency.
Often, consistent excellence is ignored because it's what people eventually come to expect. Duncan makes another good defensive play to seal the game? Armada nails yet another Peach combo to clinch the major? These are to be expected from them. When they make a bad play, that's when the surprise hits. These expectations, after all, are a form of respect.
The lasting impact
While that may be the case, the question of legacy remains nebulous. Armada may continue to outperform Mango, but people are more likely to remember Mango in the history books. Armada's consistency will always be a hallmark of Melee, but the fan bases will clamor over Mango's highlight reel of classic moments. Likewise, while Duncan has performed more consistently at a high level, people will more likely remember Kobe for the excitement and buzz he has generated in games.
Still, Mango and Armada both leave iconic marks on the community. Mango has had his fair share of win streaks and exciting moments that people will talk about for decades. Armada's defense and punish game will always be the highlight for analysts. The fortunate part on our end is that their tales haven't come to an end and we'll see them continue to add to their long list of accomplishments. For them, history is still being written.