Carmelo Anthony has long been considered by many to be overrated. He was seen as a sellout and a spoiled brat when he demanded a trade from the Denver Nuggets, especially because of the messy way it all went down. He’s never led a team to the NBA Finals. He’s had the reputation of being a ball hog, a spotty defender and despite his undeniable talent for putting the ball in the hole, Melo will probably continue to be “overrated” until he leads a team to the NBA promised land. But Friday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, Melo reminded us why he’s special and put some of that irrational Melo hate on hold.
The numbers speak for themselves: 62 points on 23-of-35 shooting to go with 13 rebounds and ZERO turnovers. The 62 points surpassed Bernard King‘s 60 points, setting a new single-game record for most points scored in Madison Square Garden AND New York Knicks franchise history. No player in NBA history has scored 58 points without committing a turnover, per Basketball-Reference. Reggie Miller came the closest, scoring 57 points without committing a turnover in 1992. Michael Jordan is the only other player in NBA history to record at least 54 points, 13 rebounds and zero turnovers in a game.
Even without factoring the rebounds or the lack of turnovers, Melo dropping 62 and setting new Knicks records is an enormous deal. It was one of the few nights in a dreary season that the Garden was buzzing in a good way. After dropping five straight games, the Knicks certainly needed something to cheer for, but that’s been the story of 2013-14 in New York. At 16-27, NYK is still two games out of the eighth seed in the East.
The Knicks were expected to be one of the best five teams in the Eastern Conference heading into the season. Melo was coming off a prolific year and New York had one of its best seasons in years despite falling to the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the playoffs. But instead of blaming the Knicks struggles on J.R. Smith‘s disappearance from planet Earth, Jason Kidd‘s retirement, Raymond Felton‘s deteriorating game/ever-expanding waistline, Tyson Chandler‘s health, the curse of Andrea Bargnani or Mike Woodson‘s shortcomings as a coach, it was just easier to blame Melo.
Melo haters have been aplenty in the past few months. The “Stay Melo” commercials were seen as jokes and made fans resent Anthony as an overrated star even more. Who’s never taken a team to the NBA Finals? Melo. Who has a couple of bad shooting nights and is suddenly the league’s biggest ball hog? Melo. And who isn’t enough of a leader to lead any NBA team to a championship? Melo. I don’t know about you, but a transcendent 62-point performance is one hell of a way to lead an injury-ridden team out of a five-game skid.
One terrific night does not make Carmelo Anthony a Hall of Famer. It doesn’t even make him a better pure scorer than Kevin Durant. Melo’s 62-point performance won’t guarantee the Knicks a playoff spot and it won’t lead this roster to a title anytime soon. But for the first time in weeks, Knicks fans had something to legitimately get excited about. No one knows what Melo will do in free agency. I don’t even think Carmelo Anthony knows that yet. But even if he does bolt for the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls or wherever else, Knicks fans will always have the memory of last night and no one can take that away.
Melo scored 62 tonight on the Bobcats, a franchise record pic.twitter.com/Wco0yafBeg
— Amazing Sports Pics (@AmazingSprtsPic) January 25, 2014
Sound familiar, Denver Nuggets fans? It probably does. There are plenty of Nuggets fans that still resent Melo for leaving, but none of them can deny it’s because of the wonderful memories they still have of his time in Denver. Knicks fans could be in the same boat in just a few months, but something tells me last night may have been a turning point in not only the Knicks’ season, but in Melo’s desire to remain in New York.
“Somewhere, Bernard King is smiling at me,” Melo said in his post-game interview, the historical significance of the moment clearly not lost on him. Anthony is smarter than people give him credit for; he understands that he has forever engrained himself in that everlasting New York Knick lore. By placing his name among the likes of Bernard King and Patrick Ewing before him, his worth is at an all-time high with New York basketball fans, even in a lost season. I would guess that means something to a guy who’s unfairly been denied his superstar status and called overrated or years.
True, Friday night’s 62 points makes him a much more attractive free agent to teams that have the cap space to sign him. There’s no guarantee this was nothing more than one last hurrah for the people of New York. Unless the Knicks can put some competent pieces around Melo, there’s little reason for him to stick around other than money and loyalty. But when you make history with one of the NBA’s most storied franchises, you don’t turn your back on that without reason. Carmelo Anthony is undeniably a superstar, and last night’s transcendent performance could be the turning point of New York’s season to not only get the Knicks in the playoffs, but also preserve a superstar’s status as a Knickerbocker.