Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony are two of the biggest names in the NBA today. They're also two of the greatest friends in the league, and although acclaim and glory might have made their names, a special bond has made their friendship.
It all started back in London at the 2012 Olympic games when the two franchise icons spent time together as part of the gold medal-winning Team USA.
They had met on the court many times prior to that, of course. Notably, when the Black Mamba helped the Lakers sweep Anthony and the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2008 playoffs, before defeating them in the Western Conference finals the following year, too.
As Byrant enters the final 15 games of his illustrious, title-laden career, the 18-time All-Star has opened up about one of his best friends in the game.
“He is like a brother to me,” Bryant told Los Angeles reporters. “I love him. We spent a lot of time together. He was the one I was the closest with on the (USA) team.”
Anthony had no problems reciprocating the love and the face of the New York Knicks detailed how the competitive pair just naturally gravitated towards one another.
“It wasn’t forced,” Anthony said. “It happened organically, naturally. We had a chance to really connect on that USA team. A lot of close relationships start with that USA team and that was one of them.”
For the duration of their stay in London, Bryant was said to have been laughing at Anthony's expense at every available chance, taking great pleasure in reminding the nine-time All-Star about his fruitless playoff record - largely thanks to Bryant - and even cheeky jibes about his weight.
However, when Team USA met Australia in the final eight, Anthony finally saw an opening to heckle the great Bryant, who had chucked up an uncharacteristic brick in the first half.
“I was on him the whole game,” Anthony said. “ ‘Wake up, you look sleepy out there.’ I guess I woke the Mamba up.”
Bryant would go on to drop 20 points in that contest and Team USA eventually secured their second gold medal in a row, with Anthony starring as a productive sixth man.
Ever since, Kobe and Melo have become a tight-knit pair that has been there for each other through tough-times on the floor and the ordeals of long injuries away from the spotlight.
Anthony said: "Everybody at this level needs somebody we can talk to and needs somebody we can relate to. We need somebody who can straight-up tell you how it is, whether you’re right or whether you’re wrong. We all need that. We all need those people. He was one of those guys.”
The pair - who still both rank inside the top 15 jersey-sellers in the league as of January - share a history with Madison Square Garden, too.
Anthony's 62-point performance two years ago eclipsed the previous arena record held by his five-time NBA champion friend, who dropped 61 points in 2009 while Anthony was still a Nugget.
However, the last proverbial dance between the two came this past Sunday at the Staples Center when the Knicks defeated the Lakers 90-87 and Melo outscored Kobe 26-14.
Before the encounter, Anthony said: “You guys won’t know it. You guys won’t see it, but inside it will be an emotional day knowing this is the last time I’ll be able to compete against a guy like that.”