Converse Firsts: Flirting with History
Bryant could be the first to post a double-figure fourth quarter scoring average
Feb. 1 -- Unless you've been living under a rock the past week-and-a-half, you've heard all about the historical significance of Kobe Bryant's 81 point game versus the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22. In an age when it seemed as if the days of single-handed dominance was over, Bryant's eruption, the second-greatest point total ever by an individual, sent shockwaves throughout the basketball world.
What you may not realize about Bryant's performance that day was that it put him in close proximity to more than just one milestone. For as long as Elias Sports Bureau has been tracking players' scoring averages in the fourth quarter, no athlete has been able to average double-figures in that category on a season.
Against Golden State the very next contest, Bryant's 16 fourth-quarter points -- the 10th consecutive fourth quarter he had reached double-figures -- gave the superstar guard a 10.0 point per game final period average.
Elias Sports Bureau first began tracking the stat during the 1997-98 season, but since that time, nobody has come close to averaging 10 points per game. Tracy McGrady's 8.6-point fourth quarter average during the 2002-03 season is the highest achieved for a completed season.
Bryant owns two of the five greatest averages (8.1 ppg in '04-05 and 7.6 ppg in '02-03), as does Allen Iverson (7.7 in '01-02 and 7.5 in '00-01).
The night Wilt Chamberlain had his 100-point performance, on March 2, 1962, the Hall of Fame center tallied 31 points in the final period, allowing him to reach the century mark for the game. At the time, it was a record for most points scored in a quarter, a record that was ultimately broken on April 9, 1974 when David Thompson (32 points, first quarter) and George Gervin (33 points, second quarter) re-wrote the record books twice in one day to conclude perhaps the greatest scoring race in NBA history.
This season, with three players averaging over 30 points per game for the first time in 24 years, the scoring race is shaping up to be a classic as well. Not surprisingly, Bryant is leading the way, with his final period average representing more than one-fourth of his total mark of 36.0 points per game.
What does that tell us? Well, that Bryant turns it on down the stretch.
Of course, unless you've been living under a rock the last 10 years, you already knew that.