Kobe Bryant has achieved many things in his NBA career. He’s won as an individual and with the Los Angeles Lakers as a team, he has been one of the most dominant in NBA history through and through. Knocking down impossible shots, making defenders look like amateurs and dunking on anyone who stood in his way. Kobe shined his brightest in the playoffs and when the ballgame was on the line, however, there was one night in Los Angeles where a seemingly meaningless game became a historic night.
For the Lakers’ standards, the 2005-06 season was average, they did not have legendary Laker success, but they were not bad per say. They had some role players here and there like Lamar Odom and Chris Mihm, as well they had developing talents like Andrew Bynum and Kwame Brown (yes I know they did not work out). These guys definitely do not jump out at you, but Kobe was willing the Lakers through the year.
It was January 22nd, 2006 and the dismal Toronto Raptors were in town, a team that Kobe could almost beat single-handedly. I say that, but I am not even saying it as an expression. Kobe basically did everything that night. Wilt Chamberlin once scored 100 points and it was deemed impossible to match, Kobe did not reach 100 points he only dropped a modest 81 points.
The craziest part about the game was that the Lakers were down by 18 points in the third quarter! That was around the same time that Kobe Bryant completely took over. Kobe poured in 27 points in the third, which was more than the entire Raptors team (22 points). His teammates continued to feed him the ball in the 4th quarter and Kobe added another 28 points in the fourth quarter.
Every January 22nd since it seems everyone is reminded of Kobe’s greatness. Even the legendary Lakers coach Phil Jackson was left in awe. “I’ve seen some remarkable games but I’ve never seen anything like that before.” Remember that Phil Jackson had coached the likes of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Shaquille O’Neal just to name a few, adding even that much more power to such a statement.
As a fan, this performance is one of the many reasons that basketball fans love Kobe. He was playing basketball at the most elite level in the world, and he made it look like he was playing in his own driveway. He knocked down shot after shot after shot, it was like we were all watching Kobe while he was dreaming. Now here is one of those “what if” stats, Kobe played 41 minutes and 56 seconds that night, which means he missed 6 minutes and 4 seconds. Hypothetically if Kobe had another half a quarter where he was on fire, like the in the second half he just may have eclipsed Wilt’s 100-point game.
We will never know if Kobe could have broken Wilt’s record, however, it does not even matter. Two different eras, two different styles and two different players, the most important thing is that the fans were blessed with both of these amazing performances.
Kobe is now an aged veteran who can only show a few shades of his old self. This is his last season in the NBA and fans are getting to once again be with Kobe every step of the way. His best performance so far this year was probably his 31 points in Washington, where the Lakers picked up a rare win. While it may not be 81 points it speaks a lot about the Black Mamba who in his 19th NBA season is still trying to put on a show for us fans every night. It has been an incredible ride, however, the 81-point night in Los Angeles will always be one of my favourite memories in Kobe’s career and in my time watching basketball. Thanks for everything Kobe, and happy 10-year anniversary.