Fifteen years ago today, Kobe Bryant delivered one of the most prolific scoring outings we’ve ever seen. In a home game against the Toronto Raptors, Bryant scored a career-high 81 points. But before we get into the 81, here is some history that made the moment even more special.
During the 2005-06 season, Kobe Bryant was the most unstoppable offensive force in the NBA. Kobe averaged 35.4 points while shooting 45% from the field, 34% from three, and 85% from the line. The Lakers’ roster lacked talent, but Kobe was hell-bent and determined to do any and everything in his power to will them to the postseason.
Earlier that season in December, the Lakers and Raptors played. The Lakers won, but Bryant had a pedestrian 11 points. Later that month, Kobe lit up the Dallas Mavericks with 62 points in three quarters. At the rare he was scoring, Bryant may have eclipsed 80 that night, but it was only just a preview of what was to come just a month later.
Bryant started the first nine games in January on a tear. Leading up to the 81 point game, Kobe averaged 39 points per game. He had a game where he gave Philadelphia 48 points while going 7-7 from three, followed by a 50 point outing the next night against the Clippers. In the two games before Toronto, The lakers lost back to back games to Sacramento and Phoenix. Kobe had 51p points and 37 points in those games, respectively. The Toronto Raptors had no idea what was to come next.
In the first half, Toronto jumped out to a 14 point lead. Kobe had an excellent 26 points in the first half, but with his team struggling, he shifted into a different gear. Bryant came out even hotter in the third quarter scoring 27 points on 11-15 shooting from the field. Bryant hit an array of shots, and nothing the Raptors sent at him worked. Traps, doubling screen and rolls, denying him off-ball. Nothing. At the end of the third, Kobe had 53, but he kept his foot on the pedal. In the fourth, scored another 28 points. Bryant was 7-13 from the field and 12-13 from the free-throw line, leading his team to a 122-104 victory and finishing with 81 points. Bryant shot 28-46 from the field, 7-13 from three, and 18-20 from the line.
In 2013, Kobe rewatched the game for the first time and decided to tweet his thoughts live while he watched. He shared that that was the FIRST game his grandmother ever seen him play, and it was also his late grandfather’s birthday. What a great first impression Kobe gave his grandmother for her first time watching her grandchild play.