Just a day after he would have celebrated his 42nd birthday, we are set for another day of appreciating the late great Kobe Bryant. Aug. 24 - or Kobe Bryant Day - will forever remain the time of outpouring Black Mamba tributes, remembering the iconic mark of an NBA legend.
Now, what better way to do it than reminisce about Kobe's greatest scoring performance ever - his 81 points outing against the Raptors on January 22, 2006; to this day the second greatest point total in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100 points against the Knicks.
The matchup in and of itself hasn't been a particularly exciting one. The Lakers were 21-19, with the visiting Raptors coming into the Staples with a record of 14-26. It was supposed to be your average clash of NBA's mediocre, and yet here we are still talking about it 14 years later, all thanks to the greatness of No.8.
Going into halftime, the Raptors were up 14, shooting .651 from the field and seemingly heading for their 15th win in the regular season. In the first 24 minutes alone, Kobe Bryant had already scored half of the Lakers' 49 points. He finished the half with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting, but it still wasn't enough to keep the game close. That's when Kobe decided to take it up a notch.
I felt like we were a little lethargic, so I started going full bore.
Mamba was on a mission in the second half. He dropped 55 points, outscoring the whole Raptors roster. Bryant finished the game with 81 of the Lakers' 122 points, leading his team to an 18-point comeback victory over Toronto. Kobe shot 28-for-46 from the floor and 7-for-13 from behind the line, while converting 18 of 20 free throw attempts. Even Bryant himself was stunned by such an accomplishment.
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.
Kobe Bryant, NBA
According to ESPN, he scored against eight different Raptors defenders that night, the most on Rose (18 on 6-of-11 shooting), and Peterson (17 on 6-of-13). He also scored over James, Graham, Bonner, Jose Calderon, Chris Bosh, and Pape Sow. But let's face it, it'll always be remembered as the Kobe dropping 81 on Jalen Rose game. Especially when you hear what happened after the game.
This moment was also addressed in the pilot of Jalen’s series called Jalen vs. Everybody. Kobe didn't send him a martini, nor did he need 81 olives in it. But he couldn't pass up an opportunity to revel in his historic performance against Jalen Rose and the Raptors. Classic Black Mamba.