They may be estranged, but La La Anthony is still sticking up for her husband, Carmelo Anthony ... at least when it comes to basketball.
La La -- who wasn't wearing her wedding ring at LAX -- was asked about Melo not getting an invite to join Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, which kicks off later this year.
Instead of trashing Melo, La La defended him ... explaining that he's the greatest Team USA player of all time, according to the stats -- and should have gotten the call-out of "respect."
For the record, Melo is the only Team USA basketball player to compete in 4 different Olympics and he's also the first Team USA player to win 3 gold medals.
He also ranks 1st in games played (31), points (336), FGs made (113), FGs attempted (262), rebounds (125), free throws made (53) and he's 2nd in 3-pointers (57).
Melo also ranks 2nd in scoring all-time among all of FIBA Americas championship players.
Not too shabby ...
"Out of respect, they should [invite him]," La La said ... "Who was a better Team USA player than he was? Nobody."
La La says she doesn't know if Melo would accept at this point, but they should make the offer anyway.
Team USA could use the help -- with superstars like James Harden, Anthony Davis, Kevin Love, Dame Lillard and more not playing for the team, this year.