By Jason Keidel
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For decades New Yorkers have formed a Gregorian chant in praise of Madison Square Garden, the “Mecca of Basketball.” Its history is ample, evident, and endless.
What history are we talking about?
If anything, MSG is far more renowned for boxing. If anything, Rucker Park is endlessly more decorated. At least the asphalt kingdom in Harlem is where Julius Erving, Lew Alcindor, and Earl Manigault made their basketball bones.
The edifice above Penn Station is a graveyard of hardwood dreams. And no player represents the misguided regalia than Carmelo Anthony. Ever since the Knicks traded for the gunner exemplar, I said they could not, would not, win a championship with Anthony. And nothing has happened to disprove that assertion.
Native New Yorkers, of which I am the proudest member, hold all teams to task — from the Mets to the Jets to this year’s wretched Giants — except the Knickerbockers. And I will never know why.
If you think I was born with my Ph.D in player hating, you’re wrong. I was born and raised three stops on the 3 train from MSG (96th Street). I was reared on Red Holzman. I walked through the portal of puberty worshiping Hubie Brown’s Knicks, awestruck by Bernard King’s balletic, baseline fadeaway. I have a Rain Man’s recollection of those teams, from Rory Sparrow to Sky Walker to Trent Tucker to Truck Robinson.
Then Pat Riley faxed his resignation, and I had an epiphany. Any franchise dumb enough to let Riley leave was stuck in the muck of mediocrity. It’s the only time I’ve abandoned a team. And just as Mets fans find the Wilpons nearly intolerable, I refused the refuse of the Dolans.
It pains me to quote anyone from ESPN, but Mike Greenberg, a Knicks devotee since the 1970s, said that no team will win a title with Anthony as its best player. The only difference between Melo and Marbury is Anthony is on the right side of psychosis. He hasn’t lost his mind, and hasn’t gulped Vaseline and waxed romantic about kissing his sister. But he has Marbury’s game.
What more evidence do you need? Isn’t 11 years of early playoff exoduses enough? One — one! — trip to the (Western) conference finals? Another second-round manhole last year to the inferior Indiana Pacers? Has anyone noticed that the Denver Nuggets, without one player with half of Melo’s talent, have a better record since the trade?
New Yorkers are too spellbound by Carmelo’s Q Rating, celebrating his celebrity rather than his latest victory. He is, by every timeless metric we use for basketball icons, a losing player. This has nothing to do with his personal life, his wife, or anything he does away from the paint.
He has the skill, but not the sense to make his teammates exponentially better. Just look around at those who do. Magic. Michael. Larry. LeBron. All of them cared more about the score than their scoring average. As long as Anthony is celebrated and compensated, he’s happy.
And now he wants to become a free agent. Let him. Please. In fact, pack his backpack, buy his ticket to whatever NBA wasteland that will let him plant his me-first, 30-shot, assist-allergic flag.
But that would mean the Knicks would actually have a chance to build a championship team. And we don’t want that. Not as long the Dolan Tribe is under the tent.
Please stay, Carmelo. The Larry O’Brien Trophy is safe while you’re here.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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