On this day 17 years ago, Kobe Bryant etched his name in NBA history once again when he dropped 81 points to dismantle the Toronto Raptors 122-104. He did it in just 42 minutes, but Bryant was confident he would've scored way north of 81 had he played for a full 48 minutes.
100 was plausible
Roughly six years after the historic game, Bryant was approached for an ambush interview while at the London Summer Olympics. The very first question was, "If Kobe would have played for 48, would he have scored a hundred?"
Known for living up to one of the most notable trait of his famous mantra, "Mamba Mentality" – being cold-blooded, Bryant wasn't shocked by the question and calmly, confidently, and subtly replied.
"That would've been close… would've been close."
Whatever you want to call it, nobody can argue that Bryant was one of the greatest scorers ever to play the game. So, without a doubt, if Kobe had six more minutes that night, Wilt Chamberlain wouldn't be the only player in history to score 100 in a game.
Nobody saw it coming
What made Bryant's 81-point performance even more epic is the fact that everybody knew Kobe could score half of the Los Angeles Lakers' points as Shaquille O'Neal was no longer around. However, nobody predicted that Bryant would go off like that. In fact, even Bryant confessed that he didn't expect things to pan out the way it did. He was just giving all he got for the "W."
"Not even in my dreams. 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," Bryant said after his 81-point game.
Then-Lakers head coach Phil Jackson was no stranger to witnessing his players burst. However, even "The Zen Master" admitted Kobe's 81 on the Raptors was something he had never seen in his Hall of Fame coaching career.
"That was something to behold," Jackson said via NBA.com. "It was another level. I've seen some remarkable games, but I've never seen one like that before."
Bryant undeniably incorporated his legacy in No. 8 and 24, but if you know history, you know what 81 also means in the NBA.