Over Instagram Live on Friday, Carmelo Anthony told the story of how he first gained Kobe Bryant's respect.
During a game between the Lakers and Denver Nuggets early in Anthony's career, Bryant acknowledged Anthony before playing him but then trash talked him throughout the game.
"It's hard to speak to people when you come on the court because you don't know what their mentality is," Portland Trail Blazers forward Anthony said. "They might dub you, right? They might not even say nothing to you. They might not shake your hand. So, Kob' comes on the court, gives me dap, I give him dap. So, throughout the game, he's saying little s--- to me, like, 'Oh yeah, we're gonna let you go off now until the fourth quarter. I'm going to guard you in the fourth quarter."
In the fourth quarter, Bryant and Anthony started going at each other hard.
"He's getting every call, he's fouling, they not calling s---," Anthony said. "And he's just like, 'I told you. I told you what's about to happen.' I'm like, 'What happening?' He's like, 'Let's go, let's give the world what they want to see.' Offensive rebound, he's fouling me, grabbing me. He come down, I foul him hard. I come back down, he's fouling me hard. We just talking trash."
During that exchange, Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, did something that Anthony found patronizing.
"I had my braids then," Anthony said. "The most disrespectful s--- anybody can do is touch your braids...He hit the bottom of my braids, like, 'Calm down, little bro.' He little-bro'd me. He sonned me right there."
But it ended up all being worthwhile.
"After the game, [Bryant] came to me and he was like, 'You got my respect,'" Anthony said. "I'm like, ''What are you talking about? We got to play for your respect? No, I'm trying to come out here and tear you apart.' [Bryant] was like, 'Nah, you didn't back down. You went hard. I'm even hurting right now.' He was like, 'My chest hurting, my back hurting. I wanted to see if you were gonna stand the test of time.'"
That was a defining moment in their friendship.
"Ever since then, we became close, close close," Anthony said. "At first, it was just all basketball. Then, over the years, it became about friendship. Then it became about family. Then it became about just life in general."
Bryant died Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people.