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Though Madison Square Garden rocked from the screams of longtime fans, stomps of newcomers, and heckles of visitors from the opposing team, for him, he might as well have been in an empty gym.
He only heard the bouncing of the ball. He picked it up, beginning his signature jab step pump fake combo. The defender didn’t bite. Melo didn’t care, elevating over his man’s outstretched hands, gently releasing the basketball at the top of his jump. Swish. Nothing but net. Game.
For the last six years, New York fans have been both blessed and charmed by the subtle calculus of Anthony’s basketball ability: a simple jab step, a deceiving pump fake, and the gentle touch of his jumper before it finds a home at the bottom of the net.
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However, as Kristaps Porzingis, a seven foot Latvian with the rail thin figure of a pre-pubescent teenager and the lovability of a German Shephard, arrived, the calls to trade have reached a crescendo. It won’t be long until Melo finds himself in another jersey and we find ourselves on the wrong end of his buzzer beating heroics.
Rather than cry ourselves to sleep like heartbroken lovers, let’s instead have a toast to the wonderful times that we’ve received.
Goodness, playing this video back and reliving his first points in Knicks blue and orange, he evens has that new car smell! Melo, probably a mixture of thrilled and incredibly nervous, drops 27 points and 10 rebounds to the cheers and chants of a New York fan base who could not believe their good fortune. Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo? Looking back at that team, who didn’t believe it was the best of both worlds?
Carmelo’s biggest strength continues to be his scoring prowess. However, for all that hype, the feeling of watching your home team hero essentially transform a professional basketball game into his own personal round of Pop-A-Shot is still a sight to behold. Melo, on the road against the Boston Celtics’ militia of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and a hot-handed Rajon Rondo, hits shot after shot to keep his team in the game. Forty-two points and a three-point loss later, the game still stands as a microcosm of Carmelo’s time in New York: drag a team to the finish line but ultimately, fall short.
Carmelo dazzled New York sports fans day in and day out as the Knicks would: start off the season 6-0, win 54 games (the first time they’d win more than 50 games since the turn of the century), and clinch their first divisional title in almost twenty years. We even managed to make it to the second round of the playoffs!
Throughout it all, Melo was the rock of the team. During the regular season, though he only played in 67 of the possible 82 games, he only scored under twenty points 7 times! Put another way, he scored at least 40 points as many times as he scored under twenty…unreal. I’m trying my best to hyperbolize how fantastic watching Carmelo drive that team while managing to pull breathtaking performances from God knows where but…just take this video of his franchise tying nine threes and game-winning layup (and free throw) as tribute.
Where would a list be without this? A performance representing the absolute pinnacle of all things Melo, everything fans wanted from their hero and more, he delivered. Obviously, we have the jab steps we all know and love, the impossible backbreaking fadeaway jumpers in the eyes of the opposition, and the signature three fingers to the head celebration after each and every three pointer. More so, however, we’re graced with the one handed slams that punctuated his athletic prime, a half court buzzer beat that arches high enough into the air for the basketball gods themselves to kiss before swishing—nothing but net—into the basket, and a childhood Knicks fan surpassing his own idol, former Knicks star Bernard King, as he secured the franchise record for most points scored in a game.
While Kobe will always be the go-to name to yell when shooting crumbled up paper into the garbage can, on that particular night, I couldn’t help but yell Melo.
Technically and admittedly, a national championship at Syracuse wouldn’t constitute as one of the great games of his New York Knicks tenure but when you win the only title in our school’s history, this will be the final spot every time. A young baby faced Melo, alongside the always treasured Gerry McNamara and coach Jim Boeheim (who, wow, had a lot of hair on his head in 2003), finally broke through against a rowdy Kansas squad with a score of 81-78 to officially make him a legend in our eyes.
Regardless of whether he departs this season or next (#freeMelo), Carmelo Anthony has long paid his due to New York sports. I can only hope we paid him the love and respect he always showed us. Thanks, Melo, for a wonderful run. You will be missed.