Kobe has gotten the better of Melo in the last two playoff runs, but will he prevail against him in 2k sports upcoming NBA2k10 one v one challenge?

pg2_bryant1_sw_200ESPN: Standing under a spotlight, in the corner of a makeshift stage at a steamy Cahuenga Boulevard nightclub, Kobe Bryant nervously bounces in place with a strained smile splattered across his face, looking like a prizefighter who knows he’s about to suffer a beatdown.

Tonight’s showdown: Kobe Bryant versus Carmelo Anthony, head-to-head in a game of “NBA 2K10″ on Xbox 360 — some friendly competition before the combatants submit to the rigors of training camp and the real battle begins. Historically, Bryant’s Lakers have owned Anthony’s Nuggets, with a record of 12-8 in the regular season and 8-2 in the playoffs. But Kobe versus Melo, in front of a gaming console and a packed house? This is foreign territory for Bryant, and a mismatch in the other direction. “I’m about as good at this game as Melo is at beating us in the playoffs,” Bryant says.

Kobe isn’t a skilled gamer. Last time I covered a Kobe-hosted video game event, at a Boys & Girls Club in east L.A. several years ago, the man got whupped by a pudgy 12-year-old with pimples. Carmelo isn’t 12. His skin is clear. He’s not pudgy, either. (More on that below.) Carmelo is an NBA star with a world-class basketball mind. He’s also an active gamer, playing almost daily with teammate J.R. Smith. Melo’s experience should come in handy tonight. “NBA 2K10,” the 10th-anniversary edition of the No. 1-selling NBA video game series, is as advanced and complex as these games come, a hoops gamer’s hoops game. The techies at 2K have captured 9,000 animations for the game, double that of its predecessor. So there are roughly 9,000 ways in which Kobe, the game’s cover athlete, can get confused. What’s worse for Kobe: The whole darn thing is being filmed by VersusSport for a live webcast, so folks at home can watch (on VersusSport.com) as Kobe’s once-jutting chin gets pounded into the back of his head.

But it doesn’t play out that way, and the first clue comes just moments before tipoff.

Turning to his corner guys — teammate Josh Powell and myself — with a dangerous look in his eye, Kobe calmly but pointedly unleashes a torrent of rather comical Melo-related trash talk that can’t be repeated here, in part because he asked us to not repeat it. “I’m gonna save that for my Hall of Fame induction speech,” Bryant says, in a wink to Michael Jordan’s recent spoken takedown of, well, everybody.

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