January 22nd is a special day in Laker land. It signifies the anniversary of one of the most incredible basketball accomplishments in the history of basketball, when that day in 2006, Kobe Bryant scored 81 points, a scoring feat surpassed only one other time in NBA history.
This year, the anniversary of this monumental moment in Kobe’s career feels even more special. Not only has it been a decade since the feat was accomplished, but it is the final anniversary that will take place while Bryant is still an active NBA player. With the legend set to retire at the end of the season, it’s the final time we can celebrate and commemorate the 81 point game before he is no longer wearing a Lakers jersey.
So I thought what better way to remember Kobe’s 81 than to re-watch every single point Kobe scored on that night and write about it while I am mesmerized for the millionth time.
9:51 – Kobe gets his scoring started by blowing past Morris Peterson (wearing #24, no less) and finishing the reverse layup around Matt Bonner. Shout out to the Red Mamba. Points: 2
3:50 – Kobe goes around the screen and gets the matchup he wants (Jalen Rose, duh). He posts up Rose at the elbow but barely gets contact with him through two dribbles and easily gets to the rim to finish. Points: 8
0:01 – Kobe knocks down two free throws and finishes with nearly half of LAL’s points through the first quarter. Points: 14 (On pace for a solid 56)
5:45 – Kobe’s next points don’t come until halfway through the second quarter. The Raptors go to a 3-2 zone. Kobe breaks it with a corner three, his first of the night. Points: 17
3:06 – Kobe yams on the Bonner. Raptors announcers use the word “finally” in regards to Kobe getting a bucket. They also call it a frustration dunk. Famous last words. Points: 19
0:52 – Kobe hits one free throw but misses the next. Chris Mihm (!!!) taps the ball back to Bryant who somehow keeps his pivot foot on the ground and slithers (get it, cause Mamba) around two Raptors to bank in a floater. Points: 24
0:19 – Bryant dribbles through the entire city of Toronto before laying the ball in. (Editor’s Note: this was fact checked for accuracy and proved correct) Points: 26. Not bad, I guess.
Random note: pretty sure Kobe didn’t dribble more than twice before any of his baskets.
10:42 – Kobe sidesteps, turns around, and lays it up behind him off the glass. The Lakers are down 15. Points: 28
8:41 – Bryant actually holds the ball, dribbles a few times, and sizes up his defender. One dribble past the arc, pull-up, cash. It was at that moment that Jalen Rose knew he would be blocking Lakers fans on a thing called Twitter, years later. Points: 32
8:15 – First seemingly heat-check bucket. Crossover and three. Steph Curry who? Points: 35
7:40 – HE’S FEELING IT. Just crushes what remained of Rose’s spirit with a three. Side note, he passed the ball to Smush Parker and the entire Raps team looked at Smush like he was going to do something other than pass it back to Kobe. Points: 38
6:23 – Seriously, the things Steph Curry is doing now? Yeah, Kobe was doing that in this game. Gets down the court in four second and pulls up from three with no hesitation. Hey Jalen, maybe guard him further out? Points: 41
Another side note: Remember those Raps’ announcers I was talking about? “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” NOPE.
5:48 – Pump fake, pump fake, splash. And-one. How did Jalen not just retire right there? Points: 44
1:09 – Kobe plays defense, gets a steal, keeps the ball in play at the sideling while dragging Jose Calderon’s almost lifeless body for a few feet and slams it home in transition. Points: 51 (Lakers have finally gained the lead at this point. It only took Kobe exploding in the third quarter. Shout out to Kwame Brown and the boys)
0:32 – Dude, they let Kobe get completely free under the basket out of a timeout. Any conspiracy theorists out there? Points: 53
8:53 – Kobe pulls up from the elbow, makes the shot as he’s being pushed from behind for the and-one. Points: 59
“Are you kidding me” makes another appearance, this time being said three times in a row.
6:33 – Kobe beats four Raptors with two dribbles and makes an easy floater. Points: 61
HE SCORED 20 IN THE LAST SIX MINUTES OF THE GAME
6:01 – Kobe makes three free throws to thunderous applause as he surpasses his career high. Points: 64
5:31 – Bryant really made a point of sticking jumpers in Jalen Rose’s face. My god. Points: 67
4:51 – The most positive contribution from Kwame Brown’s entire Lakers career: setting the screen that got Kobe the next milestone three. Points: 70
Side note three: This happened ten years ago and I’m getting chills watching it.
3:28 – Two dribbles, bounce off Bonner and splash the fadeaway. Points: 74
“Let’s get back to Toronto. What happened defensively? What happened offensively?” Hey man, see the dude putting 70+ on your team right now? That happened.
1:47 – MVP chants while he shoots free throws. It’s happened numerous times but man, does this feel different. Points: 79
0:43.4 – Loud roar as Kobe hits the first of two free throws. And then one more. Applause, cheers, mass hysteria. Points: Eighty Freaking One
0:04.2 – Kobe exits the game to some of the loudest cheers at a Lakers game ever. Devin Green gets a fantastic four seconds of playing time.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have re-witnessed the second greatest scoring performance in NBA history.