Los Angeles — The Dallas Mavericks are one of 14 franchises Kobe Bryant has scored 1,000 or more points against during his splendid 20-year NBA career.
Tonight will be the final time Bryant, who has scored 1441 points against Dallas in his career will lock horns with the Mavericks franchise. An in his prime 27-year old Kobe, victimized the Mavericks for the second best statistical performance of his career.
On December 20, 2005, Bryant scored his career-high at the time, by scoring a franchise record 30 points in a quarter to outscore the Mavericks 62-61 through three quarters of action. The performance was Bryant’s first 60-point game, but it was also a glimpse of what was in store for the NBA that season.
As Bryant ended up with a career year by averaging 35 points per game and scoring over 50 points seven times on the season.
The scoring binge is even more remarkable considering the Mavericks would make their first appearance in the NBA Finals later that season. Although he wasn’t on the Mavericks sidelines for Kobe’s historic outburst, Mavs head man Rick Carlisle has a ton of respect and praise for the future Hall of Famer:
“[Kobe’s career] is one of the truly historic careers in NBA history – the guy has been such a great player and great competitor and so difficult to game plan for,” Carlisle said. “Competitors like Kobe Bryant raise the bar raised the bar for everybody in our game. The persistence, the perseverance – the work that he puts into it, the level at which he’s performed at for so many years has made all of us better. He’s in that top tier of all-time greats – he’s in there with Jordan, Bird, Magic and others.”
Mavs guard Devin Harris had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing Bryant’s greatness up close-and-personal a few times throughout his career. In his second-year in the league, Harris was one of the Mavs primary defenders on Bryant the night he scored 62 points in three quarters.
Though Harris doesn’t like talking much about being one of the many people Bryant has victimized throughout his career, he still has a great respect and appreciation for the Lakers No. 24.
The veteran guard gave Dallas Blitz Weekly some insights into the 62-point game and his thoughts about doing battle with Bryant one last time:
“I caught a good 25 of [62 points] it was tough he was hitting 3’s from the timeline, it was just one of those games he got hot and you couldn’t do too much about it. I tried to block it out. I felt good when he scored the 81, because I felt like we’ve moved on from the 62 and he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter but it was just one of those games he was extremely hot. I remember watch him growing up and how talented he was when he first came into the league and how he’s established himself as one of the greatest of all-time – in his last year out obviously you don’t want him to get the last laugh you want to beat him.”
Like his teammate Harris, Mavs reserve guard Charlie Villanueva has been on the wrong end of one of Bryant’s scoring explosions due to being part of the Toronto Raptors for Kobe’s 81-point barrage. Instead of being bitter about being on the wrong side of history, Villanueva talks about his admiration and respect for the great Kobe Bryant:
“Kobe is a phenomenal athlete and tremendous player and the best player of this era – I’ve seen him score 81 as I was a part of that, he’s relentless, [has] no conscience and he’s a tremendous player. To see that he is his last year, I’ve been watching Kobe since my childhood – to see what type of career he’s has had was tremendous phenomenal, with [tonight] being the last time I’m going to play against him being very special that’s for sure. [Kobe’s 81-point game] was phenomenal to watch even though it’s the wrong side of history that you want to be part off but witnessing that s.”
The Mavericks organization won’t miss being part of Bryant’s lengthy highlight reel, but to a man will miss playing and competing against one of the best to ever do it.