Thursday, March 3, 2011 Updated: March 4, 9:15 AM ET
Melo's impact goes beyond the court
By Ian Begley Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- About 30 people lined up outside of the Herald Square Modell's at 9 a.m. last Thursday, hours after Carmelo Anthony made his debut with the Knicks.
And they weren't there for the sale on sweatpants.
"They all wanted Carmelo jerseys," said store manager Matthew Krenza. "We've been selling them as fast as they're coming in. It's been pretty hectic."
Yes, Knicks fans' reaction to Anthony's arrival has been anything but Melo.
Modell's is selling Knicks apparel at a rate not seen since the team's run to the NBA Finals in 1999, according to a company executive. Television ratings for Anthony's four Knicks games before Wednesday night's win over the New Orleans Hornets have set or approached station records. And, according to industry researchers, ticket prices for the remaining Knicks home games have increased by more than 85 percent since Anthony's arrival.
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Just call it the Melo Effect.
"Customer demand hasn't been like this in a long time," said Jed Berger, Modell's senior vice president of marketing. "It's been unbelievably intense since Carmelo arrived."
Melo-mania hasn't been limited to department stores.
Madison Square Garden's team store was packed at halftime of the Knicks' win over the Hornets on Wednesday night. A manager and security guard kept 20 people waiting in line outside to avoid a fire-code violation. Inside, the authentic Anthony jerseys, selling for about $250 a pop, seemed to be the hottest item. A manager said about half of the jerseys in the store for that night had been sold before halftime.
"I needed this," a Knicks fan named Carl said as he walked off with a home white No. 7.
Fans who ordered Anthony jerseys through the NBA Store's website (the retail store closed in mid-February) will have to wait eight to nine weeks for their shipment, according to a sales agent at the website. Jerseys are being produced in China and will be shipped overseas in bulk to fill the large demand. "I don't know how many jerseys have been sold, but it's substantial," the sales agent said.
The Knicks have sold more than 4,000 units of Melo merchandise at the Garden and on the team's website, according to a Garden spokesperson.
Anthony also has boosted the team's social-media presence.
Since reports of the completed three-team trade to land Anthony began circulating on Feb. 21, the "likes" on the Knicks' Facebook page have increased by nearly 48,000 (a 7 percent jump). The team also has gained approximately 11,000 followers on Twitter (a 17 percent jump). This was the largest amount of growth by an NBA team during the eight-day period on both platforms, according to a team spokesperson.
Television ratings also have been juiced by the Melo Effect.
The Knicks are 3-2 since Carmelo's arrival. Local businesses are happy to have him as well.
Sunday's Knicks-Heat game on ESPN was seen in more than 4.2 million households across the country, making it the third-most viewed regular-season game televised by the network.
In New York, the game scored a 4.3 rating, the network's highest rating in the market.
On the MSG Network, which televises Knicks games, the increase in viewership has been staggering. Anthony's first four games as a Knick averaged a 4.17 rating, up 174 percent over the 51 games before his arrival. His Feb. 23 debut against the Milwaukee Bucks was the highest-rated regular-season game in 16 seasons. It scored a 6.75, just below the rating for Michael Jordan's famous "Double Nickel" game on March 28, 1995, which registered a 6.78 rating.
Ticket sales have increased similarly.
According to the website tiqIQ.com, which tracks ticket-pricing trends on secondary markets, prices for tickets for the remaining Knicks home games have risen by 89 percent (from $206 to $389) since Anthony's arrival. They've increased by 58 percent for road games ($104 to $164), according to the website's editors.
But not all businesses have benefited from the Melo Effect.
A scalper named Jeff (he declined to give his last name) figured his profits would go through the roof after the Knicks acquired the Brooklyn-born Anthony in a three-team, 13-player trade completed on Feb. 22.
But as tipoff approached on Wednesday, Jeff was stuck with the same six tickets that he had at the beginning of the night. He was trying to sell the 400- and 300-level seats for $60-$70.
"I don't know what it is," said Jeff, who says he's been scalping outside the Garden since 1979. "I really thought it would be better than this."
Another scalper outside MSG who declined to give his name was more optimistic that sales would pick up thanks to Anthony.
"It's just going to take a little time," he said. "As long as Carmelo's here and the Knicks win, we'll be fine. The bottom line is, he's good for business."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.