Carmelo Anthony not only Knicks legend whose number should be retired

Carmelo Anthony not only Knicks legend whose number should be retired

The Mets have done some excellent work the past couple of years trying to honor their history in the unique manner only sports teams can: They have begun to recognize the importance of retiring numbers. In the last decade alone, Mike Piazza’s 31, Jerry Koosman’s 36 and Keith Hernandez’s 17 have gone up to the top of Citi Field. A few more will almost certainly follow suit in the next 10 years.

The Yankees, of course, mastered this art a long time ago. There are some who might argue against, say, Paul O’Neill’s 21 or Bernie Williams’ 51 because their careers did not have a final destination in Cooperstown, but if you watched them play in their times, and on their teams, there is little question they merited that honor.

It’s time for the Knicks to follow a similar path.

This discussion has arisen over the past week because Carmelo Anthony formally announced his retirement Monday, and no matter where you stand on the Melo Scale — either pro or con — there is no denying the fact that he is an all-time Knick: He was a seven-time All-Star and is seventh on the team’s all-time scoring list.

There is a faction of fandom that believes that merits his No. 7 being lifted to the banners. And there is time enough for a healthy debate about that.

But the Knicks, more than any other area team, have been slow to bestow such an honor.

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo AnthonyGetty Images

In fact, of the Knicks’ seven retired jersey numbers, seven were members of one of the team’s two title winners (Clyde Frazier 10; Dick Barnett 12; Earl Monroe 15; Willis Reed 19; Dave DeBusschere 22; Bill Bradley 24).

The lone outliers are Patrick Ewing (33), who is by all accounts one of the top three players in team history, and Dick McGuire, who had No. 15 a few decades before the Pearl did.

The Knicks have steadfastly kept to this plan, even as every other team in town has acknowledged players for their value either to the fans or as the lone bright spots in losing eras; even the Knicks’ corporate tent mates, the Rangers, for instance have added Vic Hadfield (who shares 11 with Mark Messier) and Andy Bathgate (twin 9s with Adam Graves).

So before there is even a discussion of Anthony’s 7 being elevated to those sacred rafters, the Knicks should do right by the following:

Bernard King: Yes, I’ve been a broken record about this for 20 years and will continue to be, and if it means grandfathering 30 to allow Julius Randle to keep wearing it, so be it. The argument against has always been that his time as a Knick was brief (just 193 regular-season games), but in many ways King was one of the essential players in team history, providing the one burst of prosperity between the title teams and the near-miss teams of the 1990s. The Garden was a mausoleum before King arrived in October 1982. He made it cool to be a Knicks fan again.

Bernard King
Bernard KingBettmann Archive

Richie Guerin: A six-time All-Star for the Knicks who gave his prime years in the late 1950s and early 1960s to some of the worst clubs in team history, but it certainly wasn’t his fault. Guerin is sixth all time in points, sixth in scoring average (20.1), third in free throws made (3,030) and attempted (3,892), and for a generation of kids with GO cards, he was the reason to use those cards and catch a game at the old Garden. No. 9 deserves a spot.

Carl Braun: He was the favorite player of ex-commissioner David Stern and for that first generation of Knicks fans who learned, thanks to Braun and his teammates from 1947-61, that there was another reason to go to watch hoops at the Garden besides the NIT. No. 4’s unique shot was copied across the city and landed him on five All-Star teams, as well as in the Hall of Fame in 2019 (with Stern giving the induction speech).

Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton: Even if No. 8’s biggest accomplishment was to be one of the first African-Americans in the NBA (and first on the Knicks in 1950-51), his role as a centerpiece of three straight NBA Finals teams would push him there. If need be, maybe the Garden could retire 8 jointly between Clifton and Latrell Sprewell, whose regular presence at the Garden has softened whatever lingering hard feelings might’ve existed there. And if you haven’t yet seen “Sweetwater,” do yourself a favor.

Vac’s Whacks

I’m very happy for Ben Rortvedt that he finally made it to the Yankees and debuted with a nice 2-for-4 against the Reds last week … and less so for my fingers, on deadline, making sure they spell “Rortvedt” properly. Though if they can handle “Antetokounmpo” …

Ben Rortvedt
Ben RortvedtGetty Images

The Welch family of Pearl River is enjoying a Kelce-family-level celebration this weekend at the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Final Four. 

Melanie is a grad-school captain for BC who has overcome two ACL injuries and Kathryn is a freshman at Northwestern.

The confidence I used to have with Jeter up in a big October spot is the same level I have waiting to see how Jesse Armstrong and the rest of the “Succession” crew land the plane Sunday night.

Let’s just say if Breanna Stewart has a few more games up her sleeve like the one she last week when she dropped 45 in three quarters on Indiana at Barclays, it’s going to be just as fun a summer in Brooklyn as it ought to be in Queens and The Bronx.

Whack Back at Vac

Bob Smith: Instead of Carmelo Anthony, what say we call the Yankees and ask if we can hang the Mick’s No. 7 in the Garden rafters instead.

Vac: Let’s just say that if my mail is any indication there will be no formal protests held on Melo’s behalf to get his number up there.

David Johnson: You’re absolutely right that Bernard King’s jersey needs to go to the rafters first.

Vac: This one, though, seems to gain more momentum all the time.

@drschnip: If Gary Sanchez were a Point72 portfolio manager he wouldn’t have made it to 9:35 a.m.

@MikeVacc: I could sense a rare moment of New York baseball simpatico this week as Yankees fans watched their Mets-fan friends watching Sanchez …

John Roe: I watch every game here in Bakersfield and can’t wait until the Yankees get the whole team healthy for a championship run this year, Mike. I feel this will be the Yankees’ year, feel it in my gut! The last time that happened was 2009.

Vac: Nothing warms my heart more than fan optimism. I mean … why not the Yankees?