Carmelo Anthony is one of the NBA’s rare players that built a strong relationship with the late great Kobe Bryant when he was still alive. When Carmelo was drafted with the Denver Nuggets, he had several head-to-head matchups with Kobe, culminating in the 2009 western conference finals, where Kobe came on top and won a championship that season. In a recent interview, Carmelo talked about what it was like coming into the league and playing against Kobe for the first time. Carmelo’s main goal was to gain respect around the league and especially from Kobe.
“I remember like damn, I’m on a court with Kobe, OK let’s get after it. I was just young and that was my mentality, and I knew, kind of just watching him and hearing stories about him coming to the league that I guess I wanted to gain his respect so much at that moment. He was one of the guys that I really wanted to gain their respect and their trust. So, I just went out there and I just played. Once we got him in between those lines, it was me vs. him. It was Lakers vs. Denver. That was my mentality.”Carmelo Anthony, via NBC Sports
Kobe was very analytical when it came to the opposing teams, players, and Carmelo says it was the same for him when they first played against each other. Kobe was testing him, trying to understand what made Carmelo tick and who he was as a person.
I think he was just testing me, testing me to see what I was made of. Testing me to see what kind of mentality I had. He was just testing me to see who I was as a person and what I stood for. I didn’t understand it at that point in time until I started playing against him more and more and more and understanding how he operates. Once I understood that we became very close.Carmelo Anthony, via NBC Sports
Having countless battles and conversations with Kobe gave him an insight into what made him such a legend and one of the best guards in NBA history. Carmelo will forever remember Kobe’s approach to the game and the mentality only a few other players possessed.
I think the most important thing about Kobe for me was his approach, his mentality, his game speaks for itself. I just think the way he approached the game, the type of mentality that he had, you know he called it the Mamba Mentality. That’s something that’s going to be here for a long, long time. I don’t think that’s something – that mentality is never going anywhere. It’s a mindset.Carmelo Anthony, via NBC Sports
Carmelo said he learned a lot from Kobe, especially when finding the constant motivation to be great, something players often forget about, especially if they reach a certain level in their careers.
“And I think that’s what I took from him. How to change your mindset, how to approach it, how to become self-motivated, how things make you tick, what made you tick. For me, it’s all about the approach. Figuring out what works best for you and what doesn’t.”Carmelo Anthony, via NBC Sports
Both Carmelo and Kobe made a name for themselves by being great scorers capable of dropping 30 or more points on every given night. One of the main pieces of advice Kobe gave to Carmelo is not to lose confidence when the shots are not falling and always to be persistent.
“He used to always say ‘don’t wake me up,. It was things like that, ‘don’t wake me up tonight.’ If he missed a couple of shots, don’t wake me up. That’s what he used to tell me. … I think that mentality and those dialogues and those conversations that we had back then—I got up for him. I took the challenge; he took the challenge. That really created a different type of bond between the both of us.”Carmelo Anthony, via NBC Sports