Carmelo Anthony reflects on Kobe Bryant: 'Our friendship and relationship was deeper than basketball'

The entire NBA played with a broken heart on Sunday following the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash.

Bryant inspired and mentored many current NBA players, but Carmelo Anthony of the Portland Trail Blazers had a special relationship with him. The two never played on the same team in the NBA, but the 17-year veteran played with Bryant on Team USA during the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Team USA won gold both times, but Anthony got more than just a medal from those experiences. He and Bryant developed a friendship, and basketball was just one part of it. After Sunday’s game, Anthony spoke to reporters and opened up about what Bryant meant to him.

Anthony, who was emotional during the entire interview, talked about why he decided to play on Sunday.

“This probably was the hardest game I ever had to play. Just uh … I don’t know … whoooo. It was tough. It was tough. ... Honestly knowing him, the way that I know him, he would've wanted me to play.”

Already fighting tears, Anthony didn’t want to go into too much detail about their relationship, but he did mention that it went beyond just basketball.

“Our friendship and relationship was deeper than basketball. It was family. It was friendship. Basketball was the last piece of connective tissue between us two."

Anthony said he found out about Bryant’s death while hanging out with his son. His wife, LaLa, called him crying, and he described how it felt when he heard the news.

“At that point, everything went numb, dark. Basketball for me was the furthest thing on my mind."

The shock and sadness of losing his friend hadn’t worn off by the time he took the court hours later. During the game, Anthony was often seen pulling his hood over his head or burying his face in a towel.

“I had to pull myself back in and check back in emotionally. Because I wasn’t there.”

There’s no doubt that many players who took the court on Sunday were going through the same thing.

The long friendship between Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant went beyond basketball. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

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