By the time Jackson has his team ready to contend, if that time ever comes, Anthony might not stand as the team's centerpiece, as the Mark Messier of the Knicks. He might have to be a Mike Richter, or a Brian Leetch, or an Adam Graves -- a big-time player who would certainly qualify for the first float in the parade, but who would belong a half body's length behind the not-yet-acquired Mr. Big Shot.
And that's OK. Just as Knicks fans never forgot Amar'e Stoudemire's commitment in 2010, despite all of his physical breakdowns since, those fans would never forget that Anthony stayed in 2014 when he could've bolted for a team with better postseason odds. Melo would get his due.
Graves, a Rangers team official, is among the few people around the Garden who know what Anthony would feel. Derek Jeter and Eli Manning have delivered a combined seven parades since the last Garden team proved ticker-tape worthy, and Graves will never forget the ride before the ride through the Canyon of Heroes, his morning commute from White Plains with his wife.
"We took a Metro-North train, and I didn't think much of it," Graves said of the day of the '94 parade. "We just wanted to avoid the traffic, and within two stops that's when it first really hit me, just how much this meant to everyone. Our car and the two cars bookending us were suddenly full of fans in Broadway blue, and they were singing and chanting and telling stories about what it meant to them and their parents. It was the best ride I ever had."
Graves had won a Stanley Cup with Messier in Edmonton in 1990, and he recalled his parents drinking from the Cup in the visitors dressing room inside Boston Garden. But the Edmonton celebration was nothing like what he'd experience in New York, where an estimated 1.5 million people gathered to honor the first Rangers' title since 1940.
"I'd seen other parades in black and white from a long time ago, like in the movies," Graves said. "But to be right there and see everything in color, all that ticker tape coming down on you, it was like, 'Where is this all coming from?' It was an unbelievable moment."
In so many ways it was Messier's Cup, his sixth and final. He guaranteed victory in the sixth game of the Eastern Conference finals against New Jersey, the Devils up 3-2 in the series, and he scored a hat trick in the third period, adding a little Joe Willie Namath to a legend that didn't need to be enhanced.
But the other Rangers stars still bask in their own glory. The third-leading goal scorer in franchise history, Graves had his No. 9 retired and lifted to the Garden rafters to join the numbers belonging to Messier (11), Richter (35), and Leetch (2). Nobody from that team will ever again be allowed to pay for a meal or a bar tab in the five boroughs.
"We overcame a lot of hurdles and defeat and adversity along the way," Graves said. "We missed the playoffs in '93. We were down 3-2 in the series with the Devils in '94. We were up 3-1 on Vancouver in the final and they forced a Game 7. It took everything we had to just get by, but nothing worth attaining is ever easy."