Carmelo Anthony received a hero’s welcome upon returning to Madison Square Garden to face his former team, the New York Knicks on New Year’s Day. The Portland Trail Blazers forward poured in a season-high 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting, as the road crowd cheered for every bucket their former star got on Wednesday, as the Knicks took a 117-93 win to start the year.
Yet many couldn’t help but wonder if Melo’s No. 7 jersey will one day be retired at MSG, a place people call the Mecca of Basketball. He was posed this very question at the end of the game by one of the reporters.
“I don’t know,” Anthony said with a smile, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “You gotta ask them.”
Then he added with a laugh, “I did glance up at the rafters today during the national anthem. You know, they say in life you’ve got to envision, so I was envisioning seeing Anthony hanging up there.”
Anthony enjoyed six and a half seasons in New York and while he didn’t bring the Knicks any hardware or palpable accomplishments, very little else could be said about any of the players that have donned the orange-and-blue in the past 19 years.
Anthony was one of the few stars that relished playing for the Knicks and fought his way out of the Denver Nuggets to get dealt to The Big Apple. He took on the challenge and withstanding waves of criticism along with the limelight that comes with playing at MSG.
Anthony became the NBA’s scoring champion in 2012-13 season and even poured an MSG all-time best 62 points the following season against the Charlotte Hornets, a record that still stands to this day.
While he only made it out of the first round of the postseason once in three years, he was the one constant the Knicks could always rely on.
Knicks fans implored the franchise to trade him in his last few years with the team, but that sentiment soon changed after he was gone, seeing how management couldn’t turn out a better product after shipping him out to the Oklahoma City Thunder. It took less than two years for rumors of a potential reunion to surface — a sign that fans still had plenty of love for him.
“The love was definitely felt tonight,” said Anthony. “From the fans that were here, just the city as a whole, just being back.
“I think that feeling is kind of hard to explain. But for me to kind of get that ovation, I think I’ve always had the love from the city like that. But to be back in this building where I spent so many years, that love felt extremely good tonight.”
While Anthony doesn’t have the superlatives of others who have gotten their jersey raised to the rafters like Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, who won championships with the team, or Patrick Ewing, who spent 15 seasons in New York, there’s very few other players who relished being a player and an entertainer as well as Carmelo Anthony did.
The Knicks are rich in history and already have eight numbers raised to the rafters. In due time, Anthony’s No. 7 should join the 10, 12, 15, 19, 22, 24, 33, and 613 that already grace the mythical arena, as the years and memories he gave to the fans of a struggling franchise won’t soon be forgotten.