Los Angeles — It’s crazy how time flies when you are winning championships and scoring points at record levels.
Friday marked the 10-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s career-high 81-point outburst against the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center. That Sunday night, Bryant had everything in his arsenal going while shooting 7 of 13 from 3-point range and going 18 of 20 from the foul line for a mediocre Lakers squad.
Despite remembering almost every detail of the historic night he produced the NBA’s second-highest scoring performance behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962, Bryant still has no blueprint on how to score points at such a record clip.
“There’s really no explanation for it,” Bryant said after the Lakers recent loss to the San Antonio Spurs. “You can always explain it from an X’s and O’s standpoint and training standpoint, but when nights like that happen, there’s always something mystical about it.”
Most NBA fans outside of Los Angeles forget there warning signs a few weeks earlier that this was possible. Bryant outscored the Dallas Mavericks 62-61 through three quarters before sitting out the fourth quarter a month earlier.
Although the Lakers 37-year-old superstar is far removed from putting up 81-point games, for evidence just look at his 16 points per game scoring average this year.
He has confidence someone in the NBA’s current generation or in the future can put together a magical game similar or better than the one he produced 10-years later.
You have to believe that it’s possible,” he said. “You have to believe that it’s possible, and you’ve got to be in tip-top shape to be able to do it, too. It takes a lot of energy to be able to carry that energy for the duration of the game, but I think so.”
With his historic outburst coming in a time before social media and the NBA League Pass were the norm for those affiliated with the Association, most players, coaches and fans heard about Bryant’s scoring exploits through word of mouth or the internet.
Unfortunately for San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner, he had a front row seat for Kobe’s 81-points as he was on the other side of history due to being a young forward for the Raptors that historic night. Bonner was one of many Raptors who failed to slow down the “Black Mamba” that fateful night despite all the different looks Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell threw at him.
A decade later,
“It was cool to be part of history – obviously not on the right end of it, but it was one of those crazy nights out there no matter who was playing against him he was going to have a historic night that night,” Bonner, who started and scored 12-points that night, told Blitz Weekly. “He scored a ton of points as the game went on so you kinda saw it coming.”
Many people overlook the fact that Bryant was so efficient he shot 28 of 46 from the field to shoot an amazing 61 percent while scoring his 81 points.
Another person able to witness one of the best performances of Bryant’s career up close and personal was friend and future teammate Jordan Farmar. At the time of Bryant’s eruption, he was the star point guard of a UCLA squad which would make the Final Four.
Although he would go on to share some of Bryant’s greatest moments on a basketball court with him first hand, Farmar still remembers January 22, 2006 very vividly.
“I brought a couple of my college teammates to the game, and it was a special one to say the least,” Farmar said on the 10-year anniversary of Bryant’s 81-point game. “I was pretty impressed – I had no idea know I was going to get a chance to know him and be his friend for this long, but I was just a fan. I was a Laker fan back in the day, just enjoying the day. [Kobe] has definitely meant a lot to the game, you see it now with everybody’s appreciation for what he’s done, still selling out every night everywhere the [Lakers] go it’s pretty special.
Love him or hate him, one thing is for certain.