Before Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, there was one Kobe Bean Bryant.
By that point in January of 2003, Laker fans, particularly those at STAPLES Center, had grown accustomed to witnessing greatness from the guy in the No. 8 jersey. But they’d never seen something like THIS.
Coming into that game against the Seattle Supersonics, Bryant was 26-of-92 (28.3%) from three-point territory that season. His career-high was 5 triples.
And there was nothing out of the ordinary early on, with the purple and gold jumping to a five-point lead at the end of the first quarter.
But then Bryant connected from long range for the first time with 7:17 to go until halftime. No one knew it at that precise moment, but the levy had broken.
Kobe added five more in a row heading into intermission, already establishing a new personal best.
“It's hard to describe,” Bryant said of the feeling once the buckets started piling up. “You just feel so confident. You get your feet set and get a good look at the basket -- it's going in.”
He was just getting started.
Shaquille O’Neal assisted on number 7 with 9:18 to go in the third.
Samaki Walker screen at 7:16? Swish.
The next one – his 9th consecutive bomb – established a new franchise record, leaving Glen Rice and Nick Van Exel behind. At the time, it was also the most three-pointers in a row in an NBA contest, an honor that now belongs to Ty Lawson and Chandler Parsons (10).
The following one, a tough pullup over Kenny Anderson, was the dictionary definition of a heat check and put the Lakers up by 18.
“I never thought I would have a game like this, though,” Bryant said. “I made the first one, I said, ‘Let me see if I can make two.’ I made the second one, I said, ‘Let me see if I can make three.’ I made the third one, I said, ‘I've got a rhythm going.’”
By then, everyone had lost their collective minds in Downtown L.A. and it was a just a matter of finding out how far Bean could go.
In the end he drained 12 triples – a record he owned by himself for 26 months. Donyell Marshall eventually tied him, Curry hit 13 in 2016, and Thompson reached 14 in 2018.
“That was perhaps the greatest streak shooting I have ever seen in my life,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
Bryant shot 12-of-18 from beyond the arc that night in just 37 minutes and change and finished with 45 points. The scariest thing is that he likely left a couple more on the table, as he exited with 4:16 to go and the game in the refrigerator.
Nate McMillan, then coaching the Sonics, could only tip his hat.
“I don't think most guys can do that in a gym by themselves, let alone a game where you're being defended,” he said.