NEW YORK -- One of the greatest performances in Knicks history was inspired by the guy known worldwide as “The Greatest.”
Hours before he dropped 62 points at Madison Square Garden, Carmelo Anthony sat with his teammates in the locker room and watched a video interspersed with Knicks plays and inspirational words from Muhammad Ali.
“It was one of his speeches about greatness,” Tyson Chandler said. “He said, ‘I’m going to show you that I’m great.’ Everybody was against him. Obviously, Melo took it to heart.”
He certainly did.
Channeling his inner Ali, Anthony delivered a flurry of blows early on against the Bobcats and didn't stop until the fight was over.
Carmelo had 20 points in the first quarter, 37 at halftime and 56 through three quarters. He finished with a Knicks and MSG single-game record of 62 points on 23-for-35 shooting.
“Hearing the words of Muhammad and then getting out there making those first couple shots, I felt like it was going to be a good night,” Anthony said.
Ali is one of Anthony’s favorite athletes. He has tattoos of Ali on his body. Back in 2012, Anthony changed his Twitter avatar to a picture of Ali being hit with arrows. It was during a tough stretch for Melo. He was being questioned during Jeremy Lin’s run to prominence and in the aftermath of Mike D’Antoni’s “resignation.” At the time, the Ali reference was believed to represent Anthony taking all the slings and arrows from media and fans.
On Friday, though, Ali’s presence took on a very different meaning for Melo.
“I always knew Muhammad Ali was his favorite athlete, so just hearing his words and stuff like that, I knew that had a big effect on him,” longtime Anthony teammate J.R. Smith said.
Ali had a rough moment at the Garden in 1971 when he was dropped by Joe Frazier’s hook and eventually beaten in what was dubbed “The Fight of the Century.”
There was no such misstep for Anthony on Friday. It was all good.
“They said I had an Ali mindset tonight,” he said. “It was special for them to say that. It was a special moment.”
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