United States' Kobe Bryant is defended by Argentina's Manu Ginobili,...

United States' Kobe Bryant is defended by Argentina's Manu Ginobili, right, during a men's basketball semifinal game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, in London. Credit: AP / Victor R. Caivano

When the chapter closes on the Kobe Bryant era next year, Carmelo Anthony hopes that the man he considers a brother and a friend will choose to do it standing by his side.

“I would love to have him over there, for him to go out like that,” Anthony said Tuesday about the possibility Kobe will be part of the 2016 Olympic team in Rio. “This season is tough, I’m pretty sure it’s tough for him. For him to be with us in Rio and end it like that, that would be a good way to go out.”

The two forged their bond after playing on two other Olympic teams together, and Anthony considers playing against Kobe in the 2009 Western Conference finals one of the highlights of his career. When Bryant announced his retirement via a poem posted in The Players’ Tribune last week, it set off a flurry of retrospectives about what his career had done for the game. Anthony wasn’t immune. Speaking after a rare practice at the Garden, he noted that Bryant was an inspiration to the generation of young players who watched him compete.

Asked if that would make him the Michael Jordan of this era, Anthony replied: “Kobe was our Kobe, that’s how I look at it.”

It was “the way that he approached the game, the way he took different facets of other people’s game and incorporated it into his game, mentally, physically, emotionally and the way he just dedicated himself to that,” he said.

It was so appealing, it made Anthony consider going to the Lakers when he was a free agent two years ago. And the bond with Kobe was tight enough that Bryant wanted his team to trade for Anthony in 2011. “I don’t know who would have been part of that trade,” Melo acknowledged. Eventually, the Denver Nuggets traded him to the Knicks. “I would have loved to play with Kobe,” Anthony said. “I got my opportunity twice with the Olympics. I’ll take that.”

He added: “He didn’t really have too many people that he could talk to, so if he liked you, he loved you, and if he didn’t, it was a problem. I’m glad he was on the good side of that.”

And though Kobe has struggled and the Lakers were 2-14 before taking on the lowly 76ers on Tuesday night, Anthony is saddened when he thinks of a basketball landscape without Bryant.

“It’s sad but it comes down to this day for everyone,” Anthony said. “Just to see that era coming to an end . . . We’re all going to have to see that light at the end of the tunnel and he’s seeing it right now.”

He was a mentor, he said, “a big brother.”

“There won’t be another MJ and there probably won’t be another Kobe.”

Melo on the mend. Anthony is still fighting the strep throat that caused him to miss Sunday’s game, but believes he’ll be ready for the Sixers on Wednesday. “The body aches are gone, the chills are gone,” he said. “I’ll be all right.” Coach Derek Fisher said Melo was able to participate in all but one very physical practice drill.

Notes & quotes: The Knicks practiced at the Garden for the first time this year — and the last. Fisher said that the Garden won’t be made available to them for at least the rest of the calendar year . . . The Knicks will see Jahlil Okafor for the first time this year, and Anthony was empathetic to the pressure the rookie has to shoulder. Right out of the draft, Okafor was made the leader of the franchise. “He’s only going to get better,” said Anthony, who was tasked with saving the 17-win Nuggets when he was drafted in 2003. “The whole organization is on his back. I’ve been there . . . It’s going to take some time for him to figure it out and just be patient with that.”


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months