Heartbroken Carmelo Anthony on Kobe Bryant: 'Our friendship and relationship was deeper than basketball'
A somber Carmelo Anthony found his late friend's Mamba Mentality on Sunday night.
Anthony's Portland Trail Blazers were among the 16 teams that played in the wake of Kobe Bryant's tragic death on Sunday, as the Blazers outlasted the Indiana Pacers 139-129.
“Honestly, knowing him, the way I know him, he would have wanted me to play," a teary-eyed Anthony told reporters after the game. “This probably was the hardest game I ever had to play. Just uh … I don’t know … whoooo. It was tough. It was tough.”
Anthony and Bryant grew close during two Olympic gold medal runs in 2008 and 2012. Anthony, Team USA's all-time leading scorer, said he learned so much from Bryant to improve his game, but it was the off-the-court relationship that made their bond special.
“Our friendship and relationship was deeper than basketball," Anthony said. "It was family. It was friendship. Basketball was the last piece of connective tissue between us two."
Anthony said he heard of Bryant's death from a helicopter accident via his wife LaLa who called him crying. He had arrived in Portland with his 12-year-old son on Sunday morning.
The loss hit him hard at the onset.
“At that point, everything went numb, dark,” Anthony said. “Basketball for me was the furthest thing on my mind."
A crestfallen Anthony was seen on the bench at times Sunday burying his head in his towel and pulling his hood over his head.
“I had to pull myself back in and check back in emotionally,” Anthony said. “Because I wasn’t there.”
Anthony started and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes. His teammate, Damian Lillard, scored 50 points.