When Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game back in 1962, we thought we will never ever see something nearly close. But exactly 13 years ago, on January 22nd, 2006 we got to witness the second biggest scoring performance by an individual player from Kobe Bryant.
His Los Angeles Lakers were hosting the Toronto Raptors in a game that would go down in the history books. The Lakers notched a 104-122 comeback victory, as Kobe scored 81 points while shooting 28-of-46 from the field, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range, and 18-of-20 from the charity stripe. A performance that even stunned Kobe himself (via NBA.com):
That was something that just happened. It’s tough to explain. It’s just one of those things. It really hasn’t, like, set in for me. It’s about the `W,’ that’s why I turned it on. It turned into something special. To sit here and say I grasp what happened, that would be lying.
His team was trailing by 18 in the third quarter, but then he scored 27 points in that quarter and 28 in the final quarter to put the game away basically by himself. He was hitting shots from all over the court, no matter if they were contested or not. The Raptors defense had no answer. Jalen Rose who was guarding him for most of the game knew he was in trouble (via LA Times):
Kobe never bumped his chest. He never pointed in the crowd. He never trash-talked. If Kobe had behaved like that, he wouldn’t have got to 51, let alone 81, because we would have wanted to physically harm him on the court.
That season was the best individual season for Kobe as he was averaging 35.4 points per game in a mediocre Lakers team that was just 21-19 at the time. He was in the starting lineup with names like Smush Parker and Kwame Brown.
His coach, the legendary Phil Jackson who has seen a share of amazing moments in his career was also amazed (via NBA.com):
That was something to behold. It was another level. I’ve seen some remarkable games, but I’ve never seen one like that before.
When Kobe scored his final two points from the free throw line with 43.4 seconds to go, the Lakers crowd was euphoric, as over 18 000 fans in the Staples Center were all chanting M-V-P. It was the perfect scene in the center of Hollywood.