Sunday, January 22, 2012

Was Kobe's 81 Point Game His Most Impressive?

You read the title. It seems like it should be an obvious yes. I mean, the guy scored 81 points in one game. In all of NBA History, it was the second greatest ever. So how could it not be the most impressive of his career right? Maybe not. It honestly might not have even been the most impressive of that season. I know what you're wondering. What game could have possibly surpassed this one? To answer that, let's take a trip, down memory lane:

Los Angeles, California.
December 20th, 2005.
Twenty-four guys are about to get together and play a basketball game. No big deal, a standard 5-on-5 game. The only difference between this and your neighborhood pick-up game is that this game will be played in front of some fans. Some fans who are about to be in for quite a treat. The game starts off at a place called the Staples Center. The teams are called the Lakers and the Mavericks. The Lakers are led by a guy who stands about 6 feet 6 inches. His dad used to play some ball, maybe you remember him. His name was Joe. His kid is playing in this game, his name's Kobe.  The Mavericks are led by a German dude named Dirk Nowitzki. The stage is set for a real fun game. 

First shot of the game, Smush Parker misses, but that Kobe guy gets the offensive rebound and pulls up. Swish. Lakers fans are hoping that Kobe has his mark all night. Then all of the sudden, Bryant is 2 for 2. Is he starting to heat up? The Mavericks better hope not, because this entire season, Kobe has been just potent. He's averaging over 30 points, and in the week before he averaged 33.8 a game. It's easily one of the best seasons of his career, which is saying something. Because this is Kobe Bryant.

Kobe Bryant who won three straight championships from 2000-2002. Kobe Bryant who is one of the most prolific scorers in NBA History. Kobe Bryant who is easily one of the top 3 players in the league. Easily one of the best players of all time, so you definitely don't want Kobe Bryant to get hot. In fact, if you're Avery Johnson, coach of the Mavs, you better make it your number one defensive priority to NOT let Kobe Bryant get hot. Let Lamar Odom, let Chris Mihm, let Smush Parker get hot. But whatever you do, don't let Kobe Bryant get hot. Especially after he torched you for 43 about a week before this. 

However, it seems like the best defense in the world couldn't stop Kobe so far. There's still 8 minutes left in the first quarter, and Kobe's got 8 point on 4-for-4 shooting. Better find a way to stop him Avery, because Dirk Nowitzki can swish as many fadeaway jumpers as he wants, but he's not going to match Kobe. Not tonight. And uh-oh, 5 minutes left in the first, 5-for-6 shooting and 10 points. Not looking good so far if you're Mr. Johnson. The sweat should start to pour out if you're a Maverick fan right about the time that Kobe makes an amazing acrobatic hang time layup and takes half your team to school to become 6-for-7 with 12 points. Now that wouldn't be super impressive. For most, that's a typical night after 48 minutes. But..there's still 4:30 left in the first quarter. He's got 12 point and 8 minutes and cannot miss. Sorry, Josh Howard, you're not gonna get to him. 

Fast forward to the end of the first quarter. Heat Check: Kobe's got 15 points, 7-for-8 shooting, 1-1 from the free throw line. He ends the quarter taking a break on the bench. Maybe that will cool him down. But honestly, as a coach in the NBA, if you're main strategy for stopping somebody is to wait for his own coach to pull him off, you don't have much of a chance always. 

Anyways, 2nd quarter starts. Before even minute goes by, he's found his way to the line for 2 shots. The boys from Dallas catch a break. Kobe misses a free throw. But, he's right back to the line 15 seconds later to hit 2. Once again, we're gonna fast forward. Eleven minutes have passed. It's halftime, and it looks like Avery Johnson might need a new suit because his looks soaked. Why? Because Kobe Bryant has 32 points, and it's only halftime. HALFTIME, 32 points. This one is shaping up to be too good. 

After somebody's dream of performing at halftime of a Lakers game comes true, the game is ready to start back up. Third quarter action, underway:

Kobe wastes no time getting started. He takes the ball right at 7 foot Erick Dampier and draws the foul. He goes to the line and hits his 9th free throw for point number 33. Eleven minutes remaining in the third. Kobe's doing so good at this basketball thing, he decides to start being a fighter. Nails Dirk in the face with a right hand on a follow through. Dirk gets tagged with the foul. Chucks his mouthguard. He gets a technical. Kobe hits the free throw. Then Avery Johnson (remember him?), gets a technical. Kobe hits the free throw. He scores 4 points without the clock moving. Kobe's got 37, and Dirk's got an icepack on his cheek. Ten minutes left in the third. Fast forward, 6 minutes later. Kobe has really turned it up. He's hit a flurry of shots and headed to the line a couple more times. And Avery Johnson finally found a way to not be responsible for Kobe getting hot. He's decided he'll just leave, picking up his second technical of the night. Kobe's still not missing, and he's got 48. Here we go.

There's four minutes to go (in the third). Kobe hits for 2 free throws. Fifty points. 3:26. He's not perfect though. He does air ball a 3. But then he gets 52 on the fast break with a perfect tear drop. 52 points, 2:06 left in the third. And now Kobe's gonna do something special. There's 1:26 left in the third. He's got 52. Two free throws, 54. Kobe blocks Nowitzki's shot. Then in transition, 2 more free throws, 56. One minute left. The Lakers are up by 30. People start to realize, Kobe might not play at all in the fourth quarter. The lead is too big. Kobe Bryant is gonna finish with 50+ in only 3 quarters. How high can he fly tonight though? 40 seconds left. 56 points for Kobe. 18-foot jumper. It rattles in. Ref calls a foul. Kobe to the line with 58. Hits the free throw, for an 18 foot and-1 for points 57, 58, and 59. 20 seconds left. Kobe rises with 5 seconds left for a three point swish. The buzzer goes off. He heads to the bench, where he will remain for the rest of the night. Won't see another minute of playing time. Through three quarters: Kobe 62 - Mavericks 61.

So Kobe finishes with 62 in the game, 30 in the 3rd quarter; the Lakers finish with the win; and Lakers fans finish having seen one of the best offensive assaults ever. But, it also leaves them with this taste of curiosity. Because, it only took Kobe about 33 minutes. What would have happened? What would have happened if Kobe plays the last 12 minutes? Would he have gone for 80 like Lakers commentator Stu Lantz jokes about in the second quarter? Or maybe 90. Could he have broken Wilt's record? Nobody knows. But Mr. Stu will become the ultimate foreshadower, because a month later Kobe will go for 80. 81 to be exact. Second greatest scoring game ever. And yet Laker fans, and fans everywhere, are wondering...

Could he have had more back in December? One thing to think about. When Kobe scored 81, he didn't have 62 points until there was only 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter. It took a half a quarter longer that day. So 90 certainly wasn't impossible for Kobe that day. Far from it, actually. It seems incredibly possible.

Which leaves you to wonder. Which game was more impressive? Think of it this way: What if Kobe fouls out with 62 in the game he scores 81? Which game would you say was more impressive? What if he finishes with 62 points in both games?

Let us know which game you though was more impressive and why, and you might end up on the Best Comments page.



  1. I agree, that was the year that Dallas went to the Finals and lost it to Miami. They were a good team, unlike the bottom feeder Raptors.

  2. I watched this game live, but missed his 81-point game (only saw highlights). This game was the most impressive offensive performance I've ever seen. And btw, I don't like Kobe--have pretty much cheered against him his whole career.

  3. I rewatched the game last night. Totally impressive. The thing that was similar in both games is that Kobe went on a tear in the third. I can only imagine the stats on Kobe's best game and their third quarters, but it was one of the best offensive displays ever, it was like he just couldn't miss.