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Lakers History: 81
Eight and 24 might be the numbers that he wore on his back, but 81 might be the one that best defines Kobe Bryant’s career.
A scorer who routinely made impossible shots once had a seemingly impossible game: 81 points in a single night.
“You’re sitting and watching, and it’s like a miracle unfolding in front of your eyes and you can’t accept it,” owner Jerry Buss told reporters. “Somehow, the brain won’t work.”
Yet it seemed that everything would work for Bryant, who was held to a season-low 11 points by this same Raptors squad just one month before.
This time, the 27-year-old shot 28-of-46 from the field, 7-of-13 on 3-pointers and 18-of-20 at the free throw line, while also mixing in six rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block.
No matter what defense Toronto threw at him, Bryant had an answer, splashing against even the most suffocating coverage.
“That was something to behold,” head coach Phil Jackson said. “It was another level. I’ve seen some remarkable games, but I’ve never seen one like that before.”
Unlike Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game — the only greater scoring performance in NBA history — the Lakers needed Bryant to reach a historic level in order to win.
In fact, they trailed the Raptors by 18 in the third quarter before the league scoring leader took the game into his grasp.
Bryant dropped 55 points in the second half alone, including 28 in the fourth. By the time the onslaught was over, the Lakers walked off with a 122-104 win.
In many ways, a night like this seemed destined for Bryant.
Just one month prior, he passed up on reaching 70 points after dropping 62 in three quarters against Dallas, telling disbelieving assistant coach Brian Shaw that he’d get there another time.
This game against Toronto was the only one of his professional career that his grandmother saw him play in person.
“It really hasn’t set in for me,” Bryant said. “It’s about the ‘W.’ That’s why I turned it on. I turned into something special. To sit here and say I grasp what happened, that would be lying.”
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