As the Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony began serving his 15 game suspension for an attempt at rearranging Mardy Collins’ face, the Denver Post’s Robert Sanchez considered how ‘Melo’s rep has suffered from the incident.

“We’ve been trying to harness his passion,” said Bill Duffy, president and chief executive of BDA Sports Management, which represents Anthony, who brings in more than $5 million a year in endorsements.

But then came the smack Saturday night in New York during a fight that resulted in 10 ejections, seven player suspensions and a seemingly nonstop video loop on cable news and sports channels.

“The NBA has been very focused on cleaning up its consumer perception, and certainly (the fight) gives the league another black eye,” said Matt Powell, an analyst with the SportsOneSource market research group. “Still, if (Anthony) can become a model citizen, there’s always that chance to come back.”

Which is exactly what happened with Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant after he was accused of raping a woman in 2003 in a Colorado resort hotel. Bryant lost endorsements, but by the following year, the charges were dismissed and his merchandise sales rebounded.

Anthony’s situation “is not like Kobe’s, but we know that fans are extraordinarily forgiving,” said Dean Bonham, a former Nuggets executive who is CEO of the Bonham Group, a Denver-based sports and entertainment marketing firm.

Among urban fans, though, Anthony may have lost some cachet. After the punch to the face of the Knicks’ Mardy Collins, Anthony backpedaled from New York players.

“That compromises the street credibility when you sucker- punch someone and then run away,” said Marc Lamont Hill, an assistant professor of urban education at Philadelphia’s Temple University. “Most people who would see that would say that he’s a coward, and they can’t respect that.”

But if fans’ reactions are any indication, Anthony has plenty of support. Dozens of messages were posted on Anthony’s My Space page Monday.

“Just droppin’ a comment to tell u that whatever happens me and the rest of your loyal fans are here for u supporting u through the ups and the downs,” one fan wrote.

It’s fascinating to consider that “urban fans” were most likely to have taken offense at Anthony’s actions. As opposed to say, virtually everyone who witnessed the fight. Or is David Stern not part of the urban audience?