Memo to Carmelo Anthony: The next time you bestow the extraordinarily generous gift of a new car to an unsuspecting family that has known more than its share of hardship, please bring a box of Kleenex.
Anthony’s charity, the Carmelo Anthony Foundation, in conjunction with the Garden of Dreams Foundation and Kia, shocked 17-year-old cancer survivor Jarell Lara and his family on Sunday by presenting them with a new 2017 Kia Sorento prior to the Knicks 119-114 Christmas Day loss to the Boston Celtics.
Lara’s mother, Anne, staggered backward several steps before falling into Anthony’s arms and bursting into tears. Jarell’s father, Fernando, his 9-year-old brother, Alixander, his cousins, Markenson Almonte and Brandon Rodriguez, also welled up.
Jarell, who was the most composed, still couldn’t believe what had transpired.
“It hasn’t sunk in,’’ he told MSGNetworks.com at halftime. “It’s a blessing from God. There are so many people a player like Carmelo Anthony can help and he chose to help me. It’s the greatest Christmas you could ask for.’’
The car, however, is not the greatest gift.
The greatest gift is that Jarell, who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis more than 18 months ago, is in remission.
When he finished treatment, he had to go for body scans once a week for months. Then he had to go once a month. Now he goes once every six months.
Jarell said doctors are optimistic the cancer has met his match.
“I’m a strong person,’’ said Jarell. “I never thought I wouldn’t make it. I had some tough days but on those days, knowing Carmelo had my back helped me get through.’’
Jarell never imagined the two would meet again.
A month ago, Anne, who you do not want to play cards with, told Jarell the Knicks had invited him to the Christmas Day game. She said nothing about meeting Anthony again. She said nothing about a new car.
“We were sitting courtside before the game, watching them shoot,’’ said Jarell. “Carmelo came over and asked us to come with him. We went where they park the cars. He stepped aside and said, ‘Merry Christmas.’ I think that’s what he said. I’m not sure I remember exactly. I thought someone was punking me.”
Anthony knows the joy of getting a new car for a Christmas present. MSGNetworks.com recently asked each Knicks player for his favorite and least favorite Christmas gift.
Anthony’s fave was a 2015 Corvette compliments of his wife, La La. This Christmas, he was the one handing out the keys to a new ride.
“I don’t think you can put that in words,’’ Anthony said of the pregame meeting with Jarell and his family. “That is a family that I have gotten a chance to know.
“Over the years they came up to the facility. A while back I had an opportunity to do something with them. My foundation donated a car to them, working with Kia.
“Just to see the expression on their faces, the son, one of the kids wanted to cry but held it in. That is what it is all about.’’
The car is more than a gift to Jarell and his family. Anne and Fernando gave up their jobs to care for their son. Their old car was so rundown that the back doors didn’t open, forcing Jarell, and Alixander, to climb over the passenger seat to get to the rear seats.
Getting around will be a lot easier now. And Anne and Fernando are going back to work.
Jarell has plans on being a sports broadcaster one day, which means his idol, Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier, could be out of a job in a decade or so.
Anthony scored a game-high 29 points with seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocked shot against the Celtics. The Knicks used an 11-2 run to tie the score 112-112 on an Anthony layup with 1:06 left. But Boston made one more play to pull out the win.
“For me, I came in more focused on the game and trying to come up with schemes to beat Boston and try to enjoy this game, and then you have to shift completely to life in a snap of a finger,’’ Anthony said. “It was more emotional than anything.”
Prior to the end of the first half, the family was ushered on to The Garden court where they were shown on the video board with the car. They received a warm ovation from the crowd.
Anne was crying again when she came off the court. She might still be crying.
“I hope I don’t cry every time I get in the car,’’ she said.
If she does, they’ll be tears of joy.