It’s only been a week since Carmelo Anthony got traded to the New York Knicks, but the NBA and all its fans are still going giddy. ‘Melo in the Big Apple? Come on, what else could you ask for? Big time stars are supposed o play in big time cities (sorry small market munchkins)… it’s what the league is all about. Think Jordan in Chicago, Magic in Los Angeles and Bird in Boston. Now, remember LeBron in Cleveland? ‘Melo in Denver? Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix? Boring, I know, but thanks to free agency, the league is going back to the ways of the big billboards.

Some say free agency is bad for the association. Critics would rather see big-time stars rot on mediocre teams rather than compete for championships. But ironically, those same critics are the ones tuning in to all the big showdowns. We got our first glimpse of the now renewed Miami/New York rivalry on Feb. 27 as the Knicks escaped the Heat with a 91-86 victory, and personally, I loved it. Broadcasted live on ESPN, the game brought back memories of the two clubs’ classic battles from the late ‘90s—minus Alonzo Mourning, minus Pat Riley and minus Patrick Ewing, but perhaps even more appealing in its second installment.

For ‘80s babies, such as myself, who missed out on all the classic rivalries from our birth decade, the closest thing we had to an intense rivalry was the Miami and New York series. Fast forward nearly 10 years later, and free agency has restored this classic automobile. Who needs Mourning and Ewing when you got ‘Bron and ‘Melo? Sure, Carmelo didn’t bolt to the Knicks through free agency, but it was his impending free agency status that helped him finagle his way to New York.

The league now has become real life fantasy sports where your favorite players actually end up on your favorite teams. LeBron opened the door when he bolted Cleveland at the height of his popularity. If he can leave, anybody can leave.

Like it, love it or hate it—this is the new era we live in. Small market teams have a slim-to-none chance to retain their stars and big market teams have all the advantage. While it looks bad on the surface, the league will adjust; it always does. Think 2004 and what Detroit did with its four forgotten stars during their championship chase.

‘Melo’s out in Denver, ‘Bron’s out in Cleveland and Deron Williams is in (gasp) New Jersey. It was “all good” just a year ago but things never stay the same forever. But change is good too; just look at New York and Miami.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO