Fifteen years ago today (Jan. 22), Kobe Bryant dropped a historic 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, making it one of the best feats of the late Lakers legend’s 20-year NBA career.
Bryant scored 81 points on 28-of-46 shooting, including 7-of-13 from beyond the arc and 18-of-20 from the charity stripes in a 122-104 comeback win against the Raptors.
The stat line marked one of the greatest single-game performances in NBA history that even Bryant himself was in awe with his superb showing.
“Not even in my dreams,” said Bryant as quoted from ESPN’s archive article. “That was something that just happened. It’s tough to explain. It’s just one of those things.
“It really hasn’t, like, set in for me. It’s about the `W,’ that’s why I turned it on. It turned into something special. To sit here and say I grasp what happened, that would be lying.”
Bryant chalked up 55 of his 81 markers in the second half, also marking the second-highest points made at the half behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 59 of 100-point game against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962 for Philadelphia.
With the Phil Jackson-coached Lakers trailing by 18 points in the third quarter, Bryant waxed hot and went in the zone to unleash 27 and 28 markers in the third and fourth period respectively.
Bryant’s 81-point mark also surpassed Chamberlain’s 78-point showing set on Dec. 8, 1961, leaving 18, 997 fans at the Staples Center chanting “MVP! MVP!” when he sank two free throws with less than a minute to go.
Bryant, who was NBA’s leading scorer at that time, with an average of 35.9 points, scored all but 15 of his team’s 42 in the third quarter and all but three of their 31 in the payoff period.
With 4.2 seconds left, the audience applaud Bryant and handed him a massive standing ovation.
“We are on a journey, and to put on a show like this for the fans here in L.A. is truly something special,” said then 27-year-old Bryant. “I grew up in front of these people, and now they are seeing me as an older, young man.”