Kobe Brant scored an unprecedented 81 points against the Toronto Raptors exactly 10 years ago. January 22, 2006 is a day forever etched in the annals of basketball folklore.
It wasn’t a very good time for the Los Angeles Lakers, who were barely in the playoff picture in the strong Western Conference that was dominated by San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks. However, Bryant was putting up astronomical numbers on a nightly basis.
Truth be told, Bryant had very little help on a mediocre team. It wasn’t until the trade for Pau Gasol a few seasons later when the Purple & Gold return to title contention.
Going into that magical night against the 13-27 Raptors, the Lakers were 21-19 and somehow clinging to the final seed out West. Kobe Bryant finished with a stat line of 81 points (21-46 FG, 18-20 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 3 turnovers and 1 block in a total playing time of 42 minutes.
Despite Bryant’s amazing show, the Lakers actually trailed the Raptors by 18 points in the third quarter. Lakers out-scored the Raptors 72-41 in the second half to close out the game. |Box Score|
Miracle at Staples
At the time, the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss said it was “like watching a miracle.” Buss was right. Only Wilt Chamberlain, with 100 points, had ever scored more in an NBA game. In recent memory, only Carmelo Anthony came close with his 62-point effort against Charlotte a few years ago.
Luke Walton, Bryant’s teammate at the time, said he was overawed by what happened on the court. “It was one of the few times I felt like a fan instead of his teammate. I had him sign a ticket for me after the game,” said Walton, currently the Golden State Warriors’ interim coach. “It was incredible. You look up at the scoreboard and see it at, like, 72 and then 78 and then all of a sudden it says 80, and it looks like the scoreboard is broken. I really didn’t even fully grasp it until I went home and watched it on tape that night.”
Zen Master doesn’t approve…
Phil Jackson, the Lakers coach, didn’t preach ISO-centric offense. But even he was forced to tip his hat to Bryant. “It’s not exactly the way you want to have a team win a game,” the Zen Master said exactly 10 years to this day. “That’s exhausting. That’s pretty amazing. The kid is unbelievable.”
Jalen Rose, an ESPN analyst and Kobe Bryant adorer, has a different take. “The greatest thing about Kobe’s 81-point game was that actually wasn’t his best game to me. His best game was actually against a good team, the Dallas Mavs, when I think he had like 60 in three quarters,” opines Rose. Kobe Bryant dropped 62 points in just three quarters against the Mavericks a month before the Toronto blitz.
Tarik Black, Kobe Bryant’s current teammate, remembers the day like it was yesterday. “Everybody was amped because everyone I grew up with were big Kobe fans. All the basketball players were going crazy — ‘Man, Kobe scored 81 last night!’ “ Black was 15 years old at the time.