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The Knicks should not retire Carmelo Anthony’s jersey

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Melo’s time in New York is appreciated, but he’s not rafter-worthy

Milwaukee Bucks v New York Knicks
This jersey does not belong in the MSG rafters.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Carmelo Anthony, who missed the playoffs in four out of seven seasons in New York before requesting a trade as his relationship with the organization crumbled, hopes the Knicks will one day retire his jersey. Sorry, Melo; although you were a very good Knick, you simply aren’t deserving of the honor.

The resurgence of Melo in Portland has led to a revisionist history of his tenure with the Knicks, in which he was a savior who carried the struggling franchise on his shoulders. Anthony wanted to be in New York, the thinking goes, unlike ungrateful peers including Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.

There’s no question that Anthony enjoyed playing under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, but a savior he was not. As noted above, Anthony made the playoffs a mere three times with the Knicks and got out of the first round only once. Roy Hibbert’s rejection of Anthony in the second round of the 2012-13 playoffs will forever haunt our nightmares as we wonder what could have been if Melo had just taken, and splashed, his usual turnaround jumper.

Still, he may very well have been the best Knick since Patrick Ewing, and as the Knicks routed the Trail Blazers, 117-93 on New Year’s Day, Anthony talked about a potential jersey retirement for the second time in less than a month.

That comes after Melo, in December, said he envisions his number 7 one day soaring into the MSG rafters alongside the Big Fella’s number 33, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“Do I think about it? Anybody would want to get that opportunity if it’s there. We’ll see when that time comes. Hopefully, they’ll hang ‘7’ somewhere up there,” Anthony said.

Melo was a very good Knick, not a great one

Some might take issue with calling Anthony very good instead of great, but those people are fueled by the emotion Melo’s “Coming Home” commercial elicited. To be fair, that commercial itself is worthy of being raised to the Garden rafters. Great commercial.

Anthony was great for a few seasons with the Knicks, and he should be a lock for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but his greatest greatness came during the seven-and-a-half years he played in Denver.

The Nuggets hadn’t been in the playoffs for eight years before drafting Anthony with the third overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, and the team proceeded to make the postseason every year Melo was on the team. Though most of his Denver playoff appearances ended in a first round exit, the team did make the Western Conference Finals in 2008-09. In Denver, Anthony earned his way onto four All-Star and All-NBA teams.

The statistics he put up for the Nuggets and Knicks are very similar, but his lack of overall success for the latter matters. In New York, Anthony averaged roughly 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists per contest over 412 total games. In a vacuum, those are rafter-worthy numbers.

This isn’t a vacuum, though

Anthony pushed for a trade to the Knicks instead of waiting until the summer and signing with the team in free agency, which greatly impeded the franchise’s ability to put together a true contender. The Nuggets took everything of value the Knicks had in the Melo trade, including their entire starting lineup besides Amar’e Stoudemire.

Melo did make six straight All-Star appearances as a Knick, but was only All-NBA twice. In 2015, he was injured and shouldn’t have played in the All-Star game, but put off what ended up being season-ending surgery until after the All-Star break because the game was being held in New York. In 2017, he was an injury replacement for Kevin Love.

When it comes to team success, Anthony’s case for a New York jersey retirement suffers greatly. After making the playoffs in each of his first three seasons in New York, Anthony’s Knicks began a steep drop-off that included 2014-15’s worst record in franchise history. All in all, the Knicks were roughly 221-283 with Melo on the team, which, obviously, is below .500.

But the team’s deficiencies can’t all be blamed on Melo. He was great!

There’s plenty of blame to go around for New York’s lack of postseason success in the Melo era, and we should definitely not forget to point a finger at the front office. And look, Melo was great in 2012-13, when he reached his peak, led the team to a 54-28 record and finished third in MVP voting. Anthony’s accolades include being one of only seven players to score more than 10,000 points with the Knicks, and as detailed by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, he took fewer games to do so than everyone else on the list.

But if Melo deserves to have his jersey retired, he must surely be among the top in numerous Knicks statistical categories. Alas, he is not. He’s 7th in total points with 10,186, which is quite impressive, but he’s not in the top 10 in any of the other major stats. Well, he is 10th in turnovers with 999, but that’s not a good stat to be top 10 in.

He did accomplish some specific feats of greatness, like the time he poured in 62 points against the Charlotte Bobcats in MSG, or the time he nailed those clutch shots down the stretch against the Chicago Bulls during a 43-point performance.

But he and STAT never quite gelled, and Melo never materialized into the savior he was promised to be. He briefly became a really good 3-point shooter, but then came back to Earth, and the high-flying antics he displayed in Denver weren’t seen very much in New York. Overall, the Melo era in New York was disappointing, which is not entirely his fault, but he certainly shares some of the blame.

A Carmelo Anthony appreciation night would be wonderful down the road, but if guys like Bernard King, Allan Houston and Charles Oakley can’t get their numbers hung in the rafters, Melo shouldn’t either.