If one player in NBA history has had a vast impact on his peers while commanding respect and admiration from them, it is Kobe Bryant. “The Black Mamba” is not only one of the best players ever but also one of the most influential players in NBA history. Kobe’s skill, mentality, competitiveness, work ethic, and aura oozed around him, as almost every player he faced or played with got left with some kind of story, anecdote, or advice.
Even the last generation of stars in the modern NBA, including Lebron, KD, Wade, Carmelo, and more, all found a mentor in Kobe, as they were still finding their place in the league while Kobe was dominating and winning championships. A chance to play with Kobe on the national team allowed these guys to pick his brain and establish a relationship with the face of the league. One of them was Carmelo Anthony, who used the 2008 Olympics to get close with Kobe in an unconventional way:
“We went to the Olympics…we became very close, but we became close on some disrespectful s–t, you know Kobe man. He goes at your neck, he saying s–t to you, elbowing you. I had my braids back then too, so he touching my head, I’m like: ‘Don’t touch my head, don’t touch me no more dawg.’ And he’s smirking and throwing his s–t little elbows.”Carmelo Anthony, SHOWTIME Basketball
The mutual love for the game and competitiveness drew the two together and helped establish a friendship. But when the two would face off in the WCF the following year, all that would fall in the background, as the two went to war with each other:
“09 came, and it was like, we hugged before the game, he was like:‘It’s war’, and I said:‘It’s war, let’s get it, it ain’t gonna be nothing easy.’ And I just remember him; he always would tell me:‘ I’ll guard you in the fourth cause they ain’t gonna make no calls on me, they ain’t gonna call no s–t on me in the fourth.’ And I usually tried to beat him up because I was bigger than him, so I just tried to beat him up, be psychical with him. He come back elbow me, I come back elbow him, he laughing, talking about: ‘That’s all you got.’ Pushing my buttons to see if I was gonna stand that. That’s how we grew, and we became who we are.Carmelo Anthony, SHOWTIME Basketball
Kobe was too good back then, as he led the Lakers against the tough Nuggets and Carmelo in six games, eventually winning his fourth championship. It was an all-time great battle between the two offensive machines. Carmelo used his unique mix of strength and finesse in the post to bully Kobe, while “The Mamba” was doing everything necessary on the other side no matter which defender they threw onto him. All that while mutually trash-talking and hitting each other in the most sportsman way possible.
Kobe said on numerous occasions how Carmelo was one of the most demanding players he ever had to guard, which holds an immense value considering everyone who the great Kobe has faced in his illustrious career. Even though the two were rivals for the whole of their careers, they always had that great respect for each other and their games. That is why Kobe’s tragic passing impacted Carmelo tremendously, just like the rest of the NBA world, as the influence he left on him still sits in Melo’s mind to this day.