Master Chief: Carmelo Anthony
USA Today Sports
In the year 2517, Dr. Catherine Halsey, accompanied by Captain Jacob Keyes, traveled to the planet Eridanus II to speak with a young boy named John. Halsey and Keyes identified John as an ideal candidate for the preliminary pool of recruits for the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) SPARTAN-II program. At age six, John stood a head taller than the majority of his schoolmates, had greater physical proportions, and possessed greater strength, superior reflexes, in addition to his aggressive drive for success.
Shortly after meeting with Halsey and Keyes, John and 150 other SPARTAN-II prospects left home, their families and departed for planet Reach. This group of children, each no more than 10 years old–while physically and mentally gifted–would ultimately be responsible for saving the human race. Humanity was in the midst of a war with the Covenant Empire, a theocratic hegemony consisting of multiple types of enemy alien species. The UNSC’s goal was to create elite soldiers that would subdue enemy insurrections in their infancy, minimize civilian casualties and substantially reduce the cost of conventional pacification.
By age 14, John had grown into one of the finest soldiers Captain Keyes and Dr. Hadley had ever seen. After eight years of training, each of the children in the SPARTAN-II program possessed the build of Olympic athletes. However, it wasn’t his stature–nor skillset–that separated him from the other recruits.
“He is neither the smartest nor the fastest nor the strongest of the Spartans. But he is the bravest–and quite possibly the luckiest. And in my opinion, he is the best.”—Dr. Halsey
The 2003 NBA Draft is considered to be the best pool of talent to have arrived together in the league’s stoic history. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were four of the top five selections. Three of these players have been crowned as a champion; they’re the most decorated players compared to their peers. However, it wasn’t immediately that each of these player’s acts of valor yielded results worthy of the highest NBA accolades, three of the four–James, Wade, and Bosh–were unable to complete their goal of becoming a world champion on their own. Wade became a champion aside a roster of players that were in the twilight of their careers, but, each had been to battle in the postseason enough to know what was expected of them. Each member of the 2006 Heat fulfilled their role and achieved success as a unit. It wasn’t until Bosh and LeBron joined forces with Wade that Miami accomplished the same feat for a second time, but it had been the first for each of the other 2003 draftees.
Anthony remains alone, with little aid around him, in New York — without a championship.
When humanity began settling on Reach, the UNSC found a complex that was constructed well-before their arrival. CASTLE Base is located 2,000 meters below Reach’s Highland Mountains and is protected by massive amounts of granite, reinforced concrete, plates of Titanium and other types of hardened metal. The fortification is capable of withstanding an 80 megaton nuclear blast. Dr. Hadley and other UNSC officials used the base as an office, and the SPARTAN-II recruits oft trained deep within the tunnels of the structure that had been built by an elder civilization known as the Forerunners.
Years after the recruits graduation from the SPARTAN-II program, Keyes, now Captain of a destroyer known as The Iroquois, noticed a fleet of Covenant ships approaching the Outer Colonies, and an airborne battle between species commenced. Outnumbered, Keyes used the weaponry aboard the Iroquois to inflict as much damage possible before escaping to the safer, inward colonies. Both sides suffered many casualties before the Covenant began to retreat, but only after they planted a tracking device aboard the UNSC destroyer. Unknowingly, Keyes had led the Covenant to humans most sacred settlements.
Dispersed throughout the inner, and outer, colonies former SPARTAN-II recruits returned to where they began their careers with the UNSC. During training and post-program graduation, John had become notorious for fighting on his own. Unlike some of the other Spartans he was not interested in emotional connections, or making friends. This is believed to be the reason John wasn’t paired with other super soldiers when the the Spartans received their orders. Now under immense, ruthless and barbaric Covenant attack; Reach began to fall, and if the aliens were successful, a genocide would follow.
What separated John from the other Spartans, according to Dr. Hasley, was luck — however — within his highly advanced MJOLNIR armor was an artificial intelligence construct, called Cortana. Cortana essentially worked as a supercomputer; using radar, sending and receiving transmissions, unlocking doors, all while intercepting and tracking enemy data along the way. A facsimile of her creator’s body and mind, Cortana shares Dr. Halsey’s memories, thoughts, opinions, as well as values. When Hasley asked Cortana to elect a carrier Spartan” Cortana chose John, just as Halsey did years ago when she discovered him when he was only a boy.
“They let me pick. Did I ever tell you that? Choose whichever Spartan I wanted. You know me. I did my research. Watched as you became the soldier we needed you to be. Like the others, you were strong and swift and brave. A natural leader. But you had something they didn’t. Something no one saw, but me. Can you guess…? Luck. Was I wrong?”
Calling Carmelo Anthony a loser wouldn’t be entirely accurate, but he’s not exactly revered champion either. LeBron, Bosh, and Wade are all decorated peers accustomed to winning at the highest level, and not only in the NBA. All of these players, including Carmelo, were the best of the best and have been throughout their entire careers. It’s because the Miami Heat are accustomed to playing as a unit that they have redeemed such success.
Meanwhile, while Carmelo towers over teammates in terms of talent and ability, the Knicks are 16-21 at home, unlikely to make the postseason and–until recently–have been under the instruction of distinct ineptitude from within the front office. Now, with Phil Jackson atop the offices in Madison Square Garden, albeit they seem to plummeting to a cataclysmic, underwhelming finish–the Knicks future may not be so bleak.
When it came time to integrate Cortana with John’s armor, things didn’t begin clicking right from the get-go. Alas, the John and Cortana tandem were under pressure from other branches within the military that were negatively impacted by the SPARTAN-II program. In the first test of their partnership, they practically assigned a suicidal test in an attempt by Colonel James Ackerson. Despite nearly being killed, he and Cortana — a digital replica of Dr. Halsey’s knowledge — passed the assignment that should have destroyed them.
It became inevitable; the Covenant were going to destroy Reach. Under heavy enemy onslaught of plasma weaponry and gruesome instances of hand-to-hand combat, Dr. Hasley and a number of Spartans frantically searched for an artifact created by the forerunner many years ago, beneath CASTLE base. After attaining the John was ordered to rendezvous with Captain Keyes on the Pillar of Autumn before it fled the planet. Eventually, they planned to return to rescue Hasley and any other survivors. However, John, Keyes, and Cortana ventured into space hoping to divert the Covenant’s attention away from humanities oldest settlement — Earth.
Whether joining the Knicks was divine predestination, or not, the narrative of Carmelo Anthony playing professional basketball in New York City makes sense. Now, with the addition of Phil Jackson, the Knicks cyclical efforts to return to basketball prominence have reaching their pinnacle. Jackson and Carmelo are the newest Knicks forerunners, and they’ll aim to surface among the NBA’s elite. However, things for each of them reside in the doldrums compared to the previous successes of Carmelo and Jackson.
Last Tuesday, against the Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson looked on helplessly as Carmelo and the Knicks endured the worst lost in franchise history. Down more than 20 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the final quarter, Carmelo wasn’t on the bench despite the large, unreachable deficit inflicted by the–also–struggling and historic Los Angeles Lakers. Instead, he fought aside a less than desirable cast until being withdrawn from battle by head coach Mike Woodson with around seven minutes remaining.
If Jackson and Carmelo hope to revive basketball in Madison Square Garden to the point of decency, and beyond — it’s not going to happen overnight. Knicks fans must also remember that no matter how abysmal or ablaze things are on the surface, there’s never ample reason to give up hope on the future. Jackson, the mind responsible for seeing that Carmelo receives reinforcements, touts an aura of calmness and maturity. Perhaps that’s why he directed Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal to the NBA’s pinnacle, each on their own separate occasions.
While Carmelo’s physical attributes are rarely criticized, right now, his selfishness and immaturity is emphasized without warrant. Just because he has the opportunity to test the free agent market this offseason doesn’t mean Carmelo is going to retreat from battle. As Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal recently revealed, Carmelo is growing and maturing as an individual and a teammate. Herring points out that the Knicks have scored an NBA-high 1.38 points per play this season and own a league-best 71.7% effective field-goal rate off Anthony’s passes out of double-teams from the left side of the floor, according to Synergy Sports.
It’s up to the new body, one that scripted his story since departing from high school, and the mind, who possesses a collection wisdom obtained from previous experiences, to save the Knicks from complete despair, or go down honorably in the process. For Carmelo, the talent and ability has never been vacant, but maybe the addition of Jackson is the stroke of luck that basketball at Madison Square Garden needed to regain a presence atop the NBA.