Carmelo Anthony: New York’s Folk Hero

“Who wouldn’t want to go back home to play?”

– Carmelo Anthony

DividerYou might not agree with that title above, but let me explain. Carmelo Anthony was born in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and won an NCAA title with Syracuse in his home state.  He is defined as one of the purest scorers in the game, known for his quick jump-shot release and his uncanny ability to create contact at the rim. Still, he’s often criticized for not establishing a winning team or making his teammates better.

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It wasn’t too long ago that every single Knick fan was begging to have him on the team during the team’s 2010-2011 campaign.  Their dreams finally came true – Carmelo, Billups traded to the Knicks for a draft pick along with the Knick core (Felton, Gallinari, Chandler, Mozgov).  In retrospect, the Knicks gave up too much; but everyone wanted Melo to star in New York.  New York wanted him to revitalize the city’s basketball glory, and bring back the early 90’s Knicks’ successes.

They called Carmelo “Bernard King 2.0” and played “I’m coming home” during his intro.  I remember that season well; Carmelo single-handedly dropped 42 points on the Boston Celtics in a near-victory in a decisive Playoff game.

Remember those moments? Why the disdain for Carmelo?

Fast forward to the 2012-2013 Knicks – 54-30 under Mike Woodson. The Knicks’ were 3rd in the league in offensive rating, and Carmelo Anthony had his career year, establishing his three-point game by shooting six a game at 38%.  For once in his career, Carmelo had a talented team that was capable of helping him with all facets of the game: Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Steve Novak, and the never gun shy JR Smith helped Melo be Melo along with the Knicks’ plethora of veteran players like Kidd, Camby, Thomas, Rasheed Wallace and Kenyon Martin.

This Knicks team had a deadly combination of talent and veteran leadership, and was arguably the best assembled team to feature Carmelo Anthony as their go-to-guy.

One of their defining moments came in their much-anticipated matchup against their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Nets:

Sadly, the Knicks’ dreams ended in the 2nd round against the Pacers.  Glen Grunwald assembled his team to ‘Win Now’, losing sight of the future and failing to put structure the Knicks’ contracts in a sustainable fashion. Next season featured a completely different cast of players – the Knicks didn’t even come close to their previous success, ending the season with a 37-45 record.

Last year, the Knicks drafted superstar-in-the-making Kristaps Porzingis (“The Latvian Gang-Banger” as Michael Rapaport once stated on Bill Simmons HBO podcast) to play alongside Carmelo Anthony, who was coming off of an injury riddled season.  The Knicks came out the gates strong, seizing a 22-22 record; then, the flood-gates opened.  The ’15-’16 season ended an inglorious 32-50.

During the course of last season, Knicks fans demanded that Carmelo be traded by the deadline, insisting that we start from scratch with Kristaps as the center-piece of a new young core.  We wanted picks, Blake Griffin, a young star, etc – the Carmelo honeymoon had officially ended.

Every time the Knicks face adversity, it revolves around compounding losses and frequent injuries – yet the Knicks’ fan base responded with demands to trade the biggest star in the last 16 years of NYC basketball history.  I was one of those individuals that wanted Carmelo traded – it’s set in stone on my Twitter timeline.

After listening to all the negative comments, I focused on the man himself – Carmelo Anthony.  Most superstars in his situation would demand a trade to a contender, the combination of big city pressure and accruing losses weighing down too heavily on their backs; however, Carmelo assured NYC that he was here for the long-run, planned on retiring a Knick, and enjoyed being in New York City.  Melo is willing to be patient.

When will be the next time that a player of Carmelo Anthony’s caliber comes to New York?  In 2010, The Knicks were teased by thoughts of LeBron James coming to New York – they ended up with Amare Stoudemire instead, though he deserves a lot of credit despite the unceremonious way in which his career in NYC ended.

New York City needs to embrace Carmelo for who he is and accept him as a Knicks lifer. He loves the city of New York more than anyone, regardless of how the Knicks are doing. He’s had countless business ventures in the community, and takes advantage of the opportunities available in New York’s market:

“I don’t want to just be an athlete. I kind of obsess on that sometimes. I don’t want my son to be reading, oh, ‘disappointment, just a scorer, selfish, didn’t win enough, never quite the best’ — whatever. I want to be bigger than that. I want to shape my own destiny instead of just having him read about whatever on the back page.”

Eli Saslow, Carmelo Anthony Means Business

 

melo-porzingisCarmelo has roots in New York: his business ventures are here, and ultimately, he wants to play basketball with the New York Knicks.  He’s making a positive impact on developing star Kristaps Porzingis, and he’s embraced a mentorship role, helping Porzingis develop significantly since he arrived last season.  Without Carmelo, the 20-year old Latvian would be suffocated by opposing teams defenses – he would have been swallowed whole.  Porzingis would never have had such a successful rookie season without Carmelo’s guidance and his help.

New York: Appreciate what we have in Carmelo Anthony.  He is New York’s folk hero.

By Jim Mathew