The New York Knicks made a somewhat surprising return to relevancy this year as they not only captured the Atlantic Division title, but also the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Throughout the bulk of the season, they have been fueled by Carmelo Anthony, the superstar the city has been desperate for since the late 1990s. However, if you listen to the radio or read the papers, it seems Anthony is criticized for every misstep he takes.
Sure, being drafted in the same class as LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh has left Anthony a little behind the eight ball, and his sometimes childish behavior during his tenure in Denver surely did him no favors.
Yet, no one can deny that Anthony is playing the best basketball of his career and has the Knicks in position to make a deep run in the playoffs.
If you would ask any Knicks fan at the beginning of the year if they would sign up for the team winning 50-plus games and a division title, I bet they would say yes in a heartbeat. The team was genuinely fun to watch, and Anthony carried himself with a different demeanor during the season.
He would regularly speak more of putting the team first and wanting to do what was necessary to make the leap to championship gold.
When the team began to take on water during a disastrous road trip out West in early March, it looked like the Knicks would fade back into mediocrity. Anthony was fighting a lingering knee issue and the team generally looked apathetic on the court. All across the city, there were cries that these were the same old Knicks and that they would bow out with a whimper in the first round.
Anthony would respond to the criticism and go on an absolute tear over the course of the last six weeks that included impressive wins over several playoff teams including Memphis and Oklahoma City en route to winning the scoring title.
Anthony was the first Knick since Bernard King to take home those honors.
During that impressive stretch, the Knicks locked up their first division title in nearly two decades and set up a first-round matchup with the Boston Celtics.
After talking a 3-0 series lead behind the strong balanced play of Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton, a sweep seemed inevitable.
Then during Game 4, Anthony admittedly had one of the worst shooting games of his career as he went 10-of-35 from the field and missed many big shots down the stretch.
Yet again, fans were ready to jump down Anthony’s throat.
How could he keep shooting? Why is he such a ball hog? Didn’t he realize he was shooting the team in the foot?
Never mind the fact that Anthony had been playing out of his mind for nearly two months, including three impressive games in the playoffs.
Or the simple fact that you always want the ball in the hands of your best player during “crunch time.”
Carmelo Anthony wanted to come to the Knicks and bring a championship to a city that hadn’t had a relevant basketball team in well over a decade.
Several members of the media and countless numbers of fans don’t feel like Carmelo Anthony is a good enough player to build a team around, and that he will never win a title.
That may be true, but remember guys like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone never won titles either.
And we all know those guys were awful basketball players, right?