Carmelo Anthony has started his tour of America, or at least his tour of American markets in need of a high-scoring forward, and he will enjoy every precious minute of it. Hey, we all want to be wanted. We all love to be loved.
The Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers have so much to offer him, including star players on their rosters and owners who have won NBA championships. The New York Knicks? They offer familiarity, Phil Jackson, and tens of millions in additional income.
But along with everything else, the Knicks can provide Anthony a unique opportunity. They haven't won a title since 1973, and deep down Anthony knows that's a pro instead of a con. Someone, at some point, will end this biblical basketball drought in New York, and that man will be lionized forever.
If Anthony re-signs with the Knicks, there's no guarantee he'll end up as the next Walt Frazier or Willis Reed. Of course, there's no guarantee he won't end up as that figure, either.
That would be a hell of a possibility to walk away from at age 30, in the heart of an athlete's prime. Since the close of the '73 basketball and hockey seasons at Madison Square Garden, 81 Knicks and Rangers teams have attempted to win a championship (a canceled NHL season wiped out the 2005 Rangers), and 80 of them have failed. The 1994 Rangers represent the exception, the team with enough fortitude to end the franchise's 54-year drought.
Not yet born when the Knicks last won it all, Anthony was 10 and only two years separated from his move from Brooklyn to Baltimore when the Rangers completed their magical run. He remembers. Everyone remembers. The Rangers won their Game 7 against Vancouver eight nights before the Knicks lost their Game 7 against Houston, with the white Bronco carrying O.J. Simpson speeding through the madness of it all.
The leading goal scorer on that Rangers team was Adam Graves, who set a single-season franchise record with 52. "We were all pulling for the Knicks back then," Graves recalled by phone. "We had our own dressing rooms, but we'd run into them in the training room and in our common spaces. If we weren't playing that night, we were watching them. I think if you asked any Rangers or Knicks players, they'd all say there was a palpable energy among the teams pulling for each other to win a championship."
Twenty years later, the Rangers are the Garden tenants who are a whole lot closer to another title. They just lost in the Stanley Cup finals after the Knicks failed to reach the playoffs. Henrik Lundqvist is in better parade position than Carmelo Anthony, assuming Anthony stays.
Only Jackson is running basketball operations now, and he appears to be active and engaged and less inclined to be that distant figure on a California beach -- counting Jim Dolan's millions and sunning with fiancée Jeanie Buss -- than some Knicks people feared he would be. The rookie team president has already improved the roster (if slightly) through a trade and the draft, and there will be enough salary-cap space next summer to sign a second star.