Carmelo Anthony may not have left NYC in the good graces of too many, but he doesn’t deserve to be booed in his return to MSG on Saturday.

I think we can all agree that the New York Knicks are better off without Carmelo Anthony. After six and a half years, the union of Anthony and the Knicks organization was like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Passing the mantle of franchise player onto Kristaps Porzingis was the right thing to do, but that does not mean Melo deserves any level of animosity when he returns to Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Whether you agree or not, the right thing to do is to show some love for the former Knicks superstar, who despite all of his flaws, still shed a fair amount of blood, sweat, and tears for this organization.

When the Knicks acquired Anthony during the 2010-11 season, it took a haul of players but paid dividends immediately. The three-team trade between New York, the Denver Nuggets, and the Minnesota Timberwolves saw the Knicks give up Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Anthony Randolph, Eddy Curry, two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and cash. While it’s true that Melo could have played out his contract and the Knicks could have pursued him in free agency that following offseason, the perennial All-Star was anxious to return to play for his hometown team. The arrival of Melo immediately snapped a seven-season playoff drought where the Knicks would play and eventually lose to the Boston Celtics in the first round.

Under Anthony, the Knicks would make three consecutive playoff appearances, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012-13 season. As a Knick, Melo was selected to six All-Star games and averaged 24.7 points over his time in New York. In addition to winning two Olympic Gold Medals during that span, Anthony also added an All-NBA Third Team nod in 2012 and an All-NBA Second Team nod in 2013 to his trophy case.

New York Knicks

Throughout his career, Carmelo Anthony has widely been acknowledged as a one-way superstar. His lack of effort on the defensive end has drawn the ire of many and ultimately played a major role in the negative perception of his play style. Additionally, his high usage rate and ball-dominant play, which slowed ball movement and hurt the club’s offensive efficiency, warranted a similar amount of criticism. I think we can all agree that these traits hurt Melo’s ability to lead the Knicks to a championship, but we must all take accountability in that we knew what we were getting when the organization traded for the superstar forward.

Anthony is simply a prolific offensive player. As demonstrated by his play in the Olympics, he excels when he can shift his focus to attacking the basket and does not have to worry about running an offense. After almost seven seasons, this team desperately needed a change, but Phil Jackson did not need to kick Melo out the door in such an unceremonious fashion. The former president of the Knicks completely destroyed any trade value the former All-Star had and eventually shipped him on his way for pennies on the dollar.

Given that this was a win-win move for both teams—Melo got to team up with a few fellow superstars and the Knicks were able to finally focus on the future—Knicks fans should hold no ill will towards Anthony. In fact, Melo’s return should be greeted with cheers when Saturday rolls around. We should show love to a player that instantly transformed our beloved basketball franchise back into a contender upon his arrival in New York.

When asked about Anthony’s impending return to Madison Square Garden, Kristaps Porzingis only had positive things to say about his former teammate. “I think he was as professional as he can be in his time here in New York, so I don’t see why they would not receive him with love,” said Porzingis according to ESPN’s Ian Begley on Thursday.

Courtney Lee also weighed in, anticipating a mixed reaction to Melo’s return, despite the high level of class he handled all of the trade rumors with. “I think it will be a mixed reaction – more cheers than anything,’’ he told the New York Post’s Marc Berman. “You can’t fault the guy for just playing hard and leaving it all out on the court. He tried to help the team win whether it was the style some fans want or didn’t want but he competed night in and night out. And you have to respect him for being a professional and how he handled everything with the media last year. I think it will be more cheers.’’

Berman asked Anthony about the impending return to New York City in October, and Melo responded that he believed he would receive a warm and positive reaction.

“(I have) a good feeling. I have a good feel about that one. Coming back and playing in front of those fans. I feel good about that.”

In the wake of his departure, I think it’s important that we all harp on the good times with Melo rather than the bad. Anthony accomplished a great deal during his tenure with the Knicks and that should not be so easily overlooked. From the three consecutive playoff appearances to the two Olympic Gold Medals, to the five seasons as the lone All-Star representative of the Knicks, and countless highlight-reel moments, do us all a favor and don’t boo Carmelo Anthony when he returns to the Garden on Saturday.

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