Melo Comes Home

Carmelo returns.

The superstar that was the face of the Knicks for some seven seasons returns to The Garden for the first time since being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder this summer.

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To say Melo was a polarizing figure in his final seasons in New York is fair. He liked the ball in his hands, loved to shoot and sometimes his defense wasn’t Kawhi Leonard-like.

But here’s the undisputed truth about Brooklyn own’s Carmelo Kyam Anthony:

He gave everything he had on the court and faced the media after every game, even in his final season when there was obvious tension between him and former Knicks President Phil Jackson.

“Not enough credit given to him on that,’’ former Knicks great and Brooklyn native Mark Jackson said. “Never hides. Never afraid. Great in the community. Speaks his mind. Has been a leader throughout this league.’’

Did Melo lead the Knicks to an NBA title? No. Did he stagnate the offense on occasion? Yes. Even his former teammates acknowledge that.

“You can’t fault the guy for just playing hard and leaving it all out on the court,’’ Courtney Lee told reporters. “He tried to help the team win whether it was the style some fans want or didn’t want but he competed night in and night out. I think it will be more cheers.’’

It shouldn’t be more cheers tonight. It should be no boos.

Melo was one of the few homegrown stars who embraced his role as the face of one of the most iconic franchises in all of sports.

“How can I not miss New York?’’ Anthony told reporters in Philadelphia after the Thunder outlasted the 76ers, 119-117 in 3OT’s. The 33-year-old logged 47 minutes so he’s going to need all the adrenaline he can muster to bring his best game home.

“I became entrenched into, not just the Knicks, but the city as a whole,’’ Anthony told reporters. “Those are my roots. The people there, I became one of them. I’ve embraced New York City. I’ve embraced the culture. I’ve embraced everything about that city. I’m definitely one of them.”

The Knicks will honor Anthony with a pregame video tribute. Despite playing for his third team in his 16th season, Anthony acknowledged that tonight would be emotional.

And for those that never got to see beyond the professional mask, Anthony is emotional, loyal and dedicated to his craft.

Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse coach who won his national title when Anthony was a freshman, considers his former star one of the most loyal people, not just players, he’s ever known.

“We wouldn’t be what we are today without him,’’ Boeheim said. “The impact he made on the university. The generosity he’s shown. Syracuse isn’t Syracuse without Carmelo Anthony.’’

Melo will go down as one of the greatest Knicks of all-time. His parting was bittersweet as was Patrick Ewing’s. Ewing also never won a title but the body of his work and the day in and day out effort endeared him to a city that values an honest day’s work.

[Hahn: For Better or Worse, Melo Forever a Knick]

Duke and former USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski raves about Melo’s contributions and standing in Olympic basketball circles.

“He’s been a warrior for USA Basketball,’’ Coach K said. “He’s willing to do anything. In the last Olympics, he was willing to come off the bench. He’s been great to coach, upbeat. Internationally, he’s one of the best players ever. I mean, he’s one of the best players anyway.’’

So that brings us to tonight, in a hollowed building that has seen more than it’s share of emotional, nostalgic moments. Anthony will be wearing a Thunder jersey, which might not be easy on the eyes.

[4 Facts to Know for Knicks-Thunder]

But New York sports fans don’t pull the nonsense we see in other cities that win titles or belittle former players on their return. They are passionate, but they are savvy, classy. That should be on display.

“I think he was as professional as he could be in his time here in New York,’’ said Kristaps Porzingis, who considers Anthony his mentor. “I don’t see why they wouldn’t receive him with love.”

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