Kobe Bryant’s 43rd birthday would’ve been Monday, and Carmelo Anthony is remembering the late Los Angeles Lakers’ legend by sharing a story of his “war” with Bryant during the 2009 Western Conference Finals.
Anthony sat down with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the “All the Smoke” podcast, where he talked about his journey through high school, college and professional basketball. About halfway through the podcast, the conversation turned to his time with the Denver Nuggets and their run to the Conference Finals, where Anthony played against Bryant.
Barnes brought up “Kob,” and Anthony smiled as he repeated “the greatest” three times.
“That was the moment where me and Kob became – before that we went to the Olympics – we became very close,” Anthony said. “But we became close on some disrespectful (expletive).”
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) chats with New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during a lull in play in the second half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015.
Prior to that 2009 matchup, Anthony and Bryant had shared a sideline at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. During the Games, Bryant shared something with Anthony that he saw as a sign of respect, and he knew it took a lot out of Bryant just to say it.
“He pulled me to the side in the Olympics and said, ‘You’re a bad (expletive),’” Anthony said. “He knew what it was already, and it took him forever to get there. For me, as a young player, four years in the league at that time, you want nothing more than someone like that to come to you and be like, ‘No, you a bad (expletive).’”
Anthony’s memories of playing against Bryant in the conference finals are pretty clear, and Barnes and Jackson seemed to agree with Anthony as he described what it was like to play against Bryant.
“You know Kob, he’s going at your neck,” Anthony continued. “He’s elbowing you. I had my braids back then too, so he’s touching my head. I’m like, ‘Don’t touch my head, don’t touch me no more.’ He’s smirking. He’s throwing his little (expletive) elbows. And ’09 came, and it was like, I mean we hugged before the game and he was like, ‘It’s war.’ I said, ‘It’s war. Let’s get it. It ain’t gonna be nothing easy.’”
Anthony recalled Bryant saying he would guard the Nuggets forward in the fourth quarter because they wouldn’t call anything on him. Anthony said he was bigger than Bryant and he’d try to play physical, but Bryant gave it right back.
“He’d come back, elbow me. I’d come back, elbow him. He’s laughing, talking about ‘that’s all you got.’ It was just pushing my buttons to see if where I was gonna stand at. That’s how we grew and became what we are.”
Carmelo Anthony #00 of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots against the Denver Nuggets in the second quarter during Round 1, Game 6 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center on June 03, 2021 in Portland, Oregon.
That year, the Lakers defeated the Nuggets in six games. Bryant averaged 34 points per game and Anthony averaged 27.5 points per game in that series. Los Angeles went on to win the NBA Finals and Bryant took the MVP title. One season later, the Lakers won the championship again, the last of five NBA rings for Bryant.
Anthony is following in Bryant’s footsteps. He agreed to a terms on a one-year deal with Los Angeles in early August after a couple seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Contact Alyssa Hertel at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Carmelo Anthony talks about playing against Kobe Bryant