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On This Date in Sports February 23, 2011: Melo in the Garden

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Carmelo Anthony makes his debut with the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony one day earlier in a three-team trade with the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves. With fans cheering Melo throughout, the Knicks beat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-108. Carmelo Anthony leads the way with 27 points and ten rebounds. The deal helps New York a six-year playoff drought, as the Knicks finish the season with a record of 42-40, their first winning season in a decade.

The first decade of the 21st Century was not kind to the New York Knicks. After losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 NBA Finals, the Kicks nearly made a second magical run in 2000. Still, they were upended by the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. After trading Patrick Ewing, the Knicks fell in the first round of the 2001 Playoffs. The Knicks would make the playoffs just once in the next nine years, getting swept by the New Jersey Nets in 2004. 

The Knicks had hoped to get back on track for the 2010/11 season. After their pursuit of LeBron James fell short, the Knicks signed Amare Stoudamire in the offseason. Led by Mike D'Antoni, the Knicks were hovering near .500 and on the playoff bubble as the trade deadline approached during the All-Star Break. All season it had been rumored that the Knicks would land Carmelo Anthony. Anthony, one of the top scorers in the NBA, was a pending free agent and let it be known that he would not return to the Denver Nuggets. His preferred destination was the New York Knicks. 

As the NBA was entering the second half with the trade deadline at the end of the All-Star Break, it became time for everyone to make the big decision. The Knicks could have been patient and try to land Carmelo Anthony as a Free Agent. That had been the preferred approach of GM Donnie Walsh. However, Owner James Dolan wanted the star right away and stepped in and made the deal. It would be a three-team deal involving the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

As part of the three-team trade, traded Carmelo Anthony went to New York with Renaldo Balkman, Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter, Shelden Williams, and a 2016 first-round draft pick (Jakob Pöltl was later selected) to the New York Knicks; the Denver Nuggets traded a 2015 second-round draft pick (Richaun Holmes was later selected) to the Minnesota Timberwolves; the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Kosta Koufos to the Denver Nuggets; the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Corey Brewer to the New York Knicks; the New York Knicks traded Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, cash, a 2012 second-round draft pick (Quincy Miller was later selected), a 2013 second-round draft pick (Romero Osby was later selected), a 2014 first-round draft pick (Dario Šarić was later selected) and a 2016 first-round draft pick (Jamal Murray was later selected) to the Denver Nuggets; and the New York Knicks traded Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph and cash to the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Nuggets acquired the right to swap 2016 first-round picks with Knicks) (Nuggets acquired the right to swap 2016 first-round picks with Knicks).

It was a night of great anticipation at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks entered the game with a record of 28-26. The Bucks, meanwhile led by Scott Skiles, were having a lost season at 22-34. The crowd cheered Carmelo Anthony from the moment he stepped on the floor for the shootaround. Melo did not disappoint, making 10-of-25 shots, scoring 27 points with ten rebounds as New York beat the Bucks 114-108.

Carmelo Anthony gave the Knicks the star that they have been looking for. In his first full season with the Knicks, Melo helped New York grab the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They won their first playoff series in 12 years but went down in the second round. It has all been downhill since, as the Knicks have not made the playoffs since 2012. The last few seasons were filled with frustration for Melo and the Knicks before he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2018.