Almost a year removed from the bookend to Anthony’s Knicks tenure, and in the twilight of his career, we debate if ‘Melo did enough to earn permanent jersey retirement—and if the Knicks did enough for the forward.
Kevin Gamgort: Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Earl Monroe. Willis Reed. Patrick Ewing. These are the legends I think of when looking at retired New York Knicks numbers.
Not Carmelo Anthony.
These players are champions, franchise leaders, and the ultimate competitors who spent most of, if not their entire career, in orange and blue. As good as Carmelo was in his prime with the Knicks, I would find it disrespectful were his name to hang in the rafters of Madison Square Garden alongside these all-time greats. After practically forcing himself to the Knicks in a trade from Denver, Anthony had one of the most tumultuous careers I have ever seen from a Knick. There were many highs and many lows. The highs include his signature Garden moment on Easter when he dropped 43 points, including a game-tying three and later game-winning three to beat the Chicago Bulls. He was the regular season scoring champ in 2013 and set the franchise record with 62 points in a victory against the Charlotte Bobcats in 2014.
The highlights from Melo’s 62 point night ?
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) August 2, 2018
However, all of these signature moments came in regular season play. As for the playoffs, Anthony’s best moment with the Knicks was leading them to a 54-win season in 2012–13, which ended in Game 6 of the second round at the hands of the Indiana Pacers. Other than that, Carmelo was the star of a Knicks team that suffered first-round exits three times and multiple seasons missing out on the playoffs. Ultimately, this is what separates him from the legends hanging in the rafters. Are we really going to put Carmelo with the likes of champions and franchise record-holders when he only won one playoff series with the Knicks? That would be embarrassing. Keeping in mind the Jeremy Lin situation, his battles with coaches, and the constant questioning of his leadership skills, it’s safe to say his career in the Big Apple was controversial. When he left, many Knicks fans were happy to see him go.
Ultimately, Carmelo Anthony will be remembered as a great Knick reflecting back upon his seven-year career with the team. However, Anthony’s arrival brought such hope that his career in New York is ultimately a disappointment. While he made multiple All-Star appearances and posted good individual regular season statistics, Carmelo failed to prove that he is a star capable of carrying a team to the promised land. This has become a common theme throughout his career.
Once a Knick Always a Knick. Carmelo Anthony was a top-scorer in the league during his prime. However, he didn’t ever bring the Knicks to any glory that would warrant his name to hang in the rafters of the world’s most famous arena.
Tyler Marko: I was five years old the last time that the Knicks were in the Finals. I was one the last time they made it past a fifth game in the Finals. I wouldn’t be born for another 20 years after Willis Reed, Clyde, and the rest of the ‘73 team raised the last banner in New York.
This is to say that I have no real memories of those awesome 90’s teams. Most of what I remember from that time involve Nickelodeon and Nintendo 64, not Patrick Ewing. Yes, Pat’s shadow loomed large in the collective memory of the Long Island suburb in which I grew up, yet it wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized the Knicks were more than just a place for past-their-prime-stars to give fans unrealistic expectations.
Until Amar’e Stoudemire showed up in 2010, the only positive memories I had to associate with this team were stories of the battles with Michael Jordan and Chris Childs rocking Kobe Bryant—which subsequently led to talking trash to all the kids with Kobe-decorated folders in elementary school. An ugly end to Anthony’s tenure in New York soured too many people, and arguably a worse year in Oklahoma City has shown just how bad our memories have become. ‘Melo arriving made more waves than anything else the team had done for years.
I could read off stats, but I’d rather recount some moments.
In 2013, Carmelo led the Knicks to their first 50-win season since 2000, a high mark of a campaign in which they set the now-broken record for most threes in a season that same year. He was absolutely dominant, winning the scoring title and in the process becoming the first Knick to do so since Bernard King in 1985.
The next year Anthony set another Knicks record, putting up 62 points against the Bobcats. We won’t soon forget those threes he hit to beat the Bulls on Easter in 2012, just like Kevin recalled.
Did he force out Mike D’Antoni out? Yes. Did he depart without a ring? Yes. Were many Knicks fans happy to see him go? Again, yes, but at least personally, it was a sort of Harry and the Hendersons situation. Go, ‘Melo! Get out of here, chase a ring! Leave us alone! Can’t you see we don’t want you anymore, let us rebuild!
It was for the best.
Seriously, think back to when Carmelo showed up at the deadline. Remember how awesome that was? The video tribute with the Diddy song, the Wiz Khalifa “Black & Yellow” Stat & ‘Melo remix, the tabloid back pages. Anthony’s time in New York didn’t go as planned—the Knicks never reached even the Eastern Conference Finals—but LeBron represented the East in all seven seasons that ‘Melo spent in New York. It wouldn’t have mattered.
LeBron being in the way wasn’t always the reason the reason the Knicks underachieved, but would getting spanked by Miami in the third round have really made a difference? Or would naysayers just move the goalposts a bit further?
There is no set of requirements for retiring a number. Moses didn’t bring down a third tablet that just said “XI: RINGZZZ.” Maybe growing up a Yankees fan made me more liberal when it comes to retiring numbers, but it just feels right.
Carmelo defined the an era for the Knicks. Who could be a better personification of the 2010’s Knicks?
This, this is New York. Hell, I’ll compromise, if you don’t want to see his no. 7 hanging from the rafters, stick that robe up there. Enshrine some of his hats, preferably his Darkwing Duck special, Tin Man on New Year’s Eve, or his Cuban revolutionary look.
Billy Joel has had multiple banners raised at MSG. You can’t convince me that the rafters of “The World’s Most Famous Arena” are some hallowed ground when Billy Joel’s name is next to Patrick Ewing’s—this coming from a native Long Islander!
The ‘Melo Knicks deserve to be memorialized. Seven years have passed since Anthony arrived. It’s no wonder that those highs have been overshadowed by his last few years in orange and blue. No one is arguing that Carmelo is a greater Knick than Pat or Clyde, but Don Mattingly having his number retired doesn’t take anything away from Babe Ruth.
Donnie Baseball retired in 1995 with a .307 average, over 2,000 hits, and more than 200 home runs. He won nine Gold Glove awards, three Silver Sluggers, a batting title in 1984, and an MVP in 1985, but do you know what’s missing from his trophy case? A ring. The Yankees made the playoffs exactly once during his time with the team and he fell off the ballot for the Hall of Fame in 2015 after 15 attempts.
‘Melo is a Hall of Famer. He’s a scoring champion and he’s responsible for some of the highest points in recent Knicks history. No, he couldn’t carry them the whole way, and no, it wasn’t always the easiest journey, but I want to be able to look up and remember those moments, the good and the bad. This era of Knicks history was nothing to be ashamed of—unlike the Isiah Thomas years—and while it may take a little time, nostalgia will win out. It always does. Years from now, there will be kids tapping three fingers to their headbands after draining threes, because those Knicks teams will live forever; in our hearts, in our stories, in YouTube highlights and, if the Knicks do it right, in the rafters of their home building.