Kevin Durant was playing high school ball in Maryland when he started paying close attention to Carmelo Anthony, who grew up in Baltimore.
Durant said he has been a huge fan of Anthony ever since, which is why the Thunder All-Star forward is well-aware Anthony has taken the early lead for this season’s Most Valuable Player award.
Anthony is the league’s second-leading scorers at 27.9 points per game and is shooting 45.5 percent from 3-point range for the New York Knicks, who own the Eastern Conference’s best record at 17-5. Durant, who has won the last three NBA scoring titles, is third with a 27.3-point average.
On Thursday night, Anthony poured in 22 first-quarter points against the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden. He later suffered a sprained ankle and finished with 30 points in 23 minutes.
Asked if he’s caught Anthony’s act this season, Durant smiled and said he didn’t understand why some people were surprised.
“Melo’s like one of my best friends, man,” said the 24-year-old Durant, who was teammates with the 28-year-old Anthony on the U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal last summer in London. “People are so excited he’s playing so well. I’m like, ‘He’s been doing this the last eight years. What’s the excitement about? He’s scoring 30s and 40s. It’s not like he hasn’t been doing it before.’
“He’s playing well. He’s one of the guys that I really looked up to growing up in high school and really got close to him on the USA Team.”
Durant said he follows other NBA elite players closely and knew Anthony previously had scored 33 points in one quarter.
“I think I’m the guy that follows everybody,” Durant said with a smile. “I have an ESPN app on my phone I just look at all the scores, especially guys on the USA Team – Melo and LeBron (James) and Kobe (Bryant) and (former OKC teammate) James (Harden) now. I don’t watch the games. I just watch the stats.”
And he’s watching Anthony, as usual.
- John Rohde