As a scoring maestro, Carmelo Anthony already was in Kobe Bryant's class before Anthony's 62-point game Friday night eclipsed Bryant's five-year-old single-game record at the current version of Madison Square Garden, which opened in February 1968.
These NBA mad bombers wear out defenders, force opponents to scramble and grovel -- anything to stop them: Double-teams. Triple-teams. Intimidation. Prayer. Weeping. "Please."
So Bryant could identify. "I called him that same night," he said, "just to congratulate him. I did say, 'Well, [Sunday] he can cool off. He had a big game the other night so he can afford to go 2-for-40 or something like that."
Anthony did nothing of the sort, scoring 35 points in the Knicks' 110-103 victory over Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers Sunday at the Garden.
Bryant certainly could do nothing about it, stuck on the bench in civilian clothes while recovering from a broken kneecap. That left him to field inquiries about his relationship with Anthony -- they are friends and their wives are friends -- and Anthony's impending free agency, Anthony's second home in Los Angeles and his possible preference for a future job there.
"Well," Bryant said, "everybody wants to play in Los Angeles. I mean, New York is a beautiful place, don't get me wrong. But it is colder than ---- out here. You know, palm trees and beaches obviously are a little more appealing."
Weather aside, Bryant stuck to the party line that "players, when that time comes, will have to make the best decision for them and their families. If he wants to call me for advice later, as a friend, I will be more than happy to give it to him."
Meanwhile, what Anthony was feeling Friday night against the Bobcats, Bryant understood, had to be similar to his own experience at the Garden on Feb. 2, 2009, when he scored 61 against the Knicks.
"I've had those games," said Bryant, whose career high is 81 points. "It's such a serene feeling. It just feels like everything else around you doesn't matter; it's not important. It's just a level of supreme focus."
There is, of course, the matter of judging Anthony as simply being a scorer -- and something less than a complete player (though on Sunday he added four rebounds, five assists and a block). It's a perception that Anthony is trying to change. "The only way to do that is win," Bryant said. "That's it. Winning the championship, that's the only way to shake it.
"This is a team sport. A lot of times you have to work with what you have around you. You have to be lucky in the sense you have an organization that can put a great team around you to be successful."
What team that will be for Anthony hangs in the air, like a long field-goal attempt. Where will it come down?