an evening for eternity, 81 points from Kobe Bryant for immortality
“It’s blurry… It’s really very strange because I didn’t really understand what was going on”. The late Kobe Bryant laughed a few years ago on the sidelines of the ten-year celebration of his career record, 81 points against the Raptors. Yes, on January 22, 2006, exactly 16 years ago, Kobe scored no less than 81 points against the Raptors, becoming the second leading scorer in NBA history behind the legendary Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points. A look back at a grandiloquent and timeless feat…
The text in its context
We are in a context that is anything but ostentatious for the Lakers, a dark period where Los Angeles has a chain of sawtooth performances. We are far from those hours of glory when Kobe and his family marched on their opponents. The proof, the locals (21 wins – 19 losses) are struggling but virtually qualified for the playoffs and face the Raptors that evening (14 wins – 26 losses) at the Staples Center for a regular season match like the others. A match like the others, not totally and the outcome of the meeting will attest to this. That night, something unforgettable and fundamentally unimaginable will happen. This match will undoubtedly go down in legend but that nobody knows yet.
The strata of establishing a timeless record,
Until the end of the first half, the match remains classic, routine. We start with current standards. Nothing really new. The Raptors are ahead in intentions, commitment and intensity. Better, they lead to the score. On the side of the Lakers Kobe Bryant scored « only » 26 points. After his daughter Natalia’s birthday, he spent the day in the hands of the physio to treat his knee. He is not at 100% of his means, but he plants 26 points in one half. It’s already not nothing. As a reminder, that year, that is to say in 2006, Kobe Bryant was not in his green period. Less dominating, less sovereign, we are far from its hours of sparkle. The third quarter is coming. Chris Bosh and his partners will even count up to 18 points ahead (71-53) after two shots from Morris Peterson. We then say to ourselves that the Raptors have done the hardest part and that they can no longer be caught. And then, the incredible happens. Kobe Bryant, the league’s leading scorer, then decides to put on his superhero toga and take the game on his own. 3-pts, and1, dunk, anything goes… The Black Mamba planted 27 points in the third quarter. One more than in the first half, and he is already at 53 points.
A month earlier, he had already slammed 62 points against the Mavericks in three quarters time! What was already a recital, an extraordinary performance, but that was the starter before the main course. However, it should be remembered that that day, Kobe did not play the last quarter. This time it will be different.
The incredible finally happened…
Bryant crosses the 60-point mark on a lay-up 6:26 from the end of the match. The Lakers are now sure of their facts. They have the winning of the game in their hands. They can no longer let it slip through their fingers. The public meanwhile remains captivated and amazed by the monumental prowess of its star. The bar of 70 points is reached on a 3-pt. Kobe then exceeds Michael Jordan’s 69 points. At 4min26 from the end, he overtook Elgin Baylor in the Lakers’ scoring list with 72 units against 71 for the former winger. The odyssey continues… As enthusiastic and completely into the dynamics as the fans, the announcer can’t help telling the public about the records that are falling one by one. On the bench, Phil Jackson plans to release his strong man.
« I wasn’t following his stats and turned to my assistant and told him I better get him out. He replied, “I don’t think you can do it. He is at 77 points. So I left him until he reached 80 points. confided the LA coach at the time.
Author of 32 of the last 37 points of his team, Kobe Bryant ends this unspeakable performance of opera on the floor with a series of throws to reach 81 points! This is the second biggest individual performance in history behind Wilt Chamberlain’s famous 100 points scored on March 2, 1962. Like an emperor or rather a gladiator, Kobe Bryant comes out 4 seconds from the end, finger raised to the sky, and under the ovations of the delirious public chanting in chorus « MVP, MVP, MVP ».
The proof that “everything is possible”.
The rosary of declarations, the bed of emotions,
After the meeting, won 122-104 by the Lakers, Kobe Bryant even took the microphone to say a word to the 18,997 spectators who came to the Staples Center to push them to victory and who must have felt privileged to have experienced this singular moment. .
“It’s hard to talk. Even in a dream, I had never imagined this. It’s just one of those evenings where anything can happen…” A hot, pithy statement, rickety to the limit in view of the day’s exploit.
Even if at the time, the main interested party does not measure himself the immensity of his performance, his teammates will take care to remind him. Knowing that it’s a legendary match, they will ask him to sign the stats sheet to each keep a memory…
Ten years later on the other hand, the « Black Mamba » will be much more talkative « It may sound crazy to say, and I think most people will find it crazy, but scoring 81 points did not surprise me » he explains. he on ESPN. “I hope people don’t take that for arrogance, but you have to understand that at my age, 27, in peak physical condition, it wasn’t surprising. »
For Kobe, his performance was simply proof that « nothing is impossible ». “When you’re a kid, you have dreams, and even if they’re crazy and full of imagination, you give it your all. Because we believe that nights like this can happen. It is a form of testimony to the power of the imagination. There are many players who never imagined that we could score 80 points. 50 points, come to think of it. And if you’re really hot, 60. But I never had limits. I thought 90 points was possible. 100 points too. Always. This game is a testament to what you can do when you don’t set limits. »
From superstar to living legend,
We can never say it enough. Inevitably, this kind of encounter is typically the kind that makes you change dimension, enter a higher sphere. Kobe was already an immeasurable phenomenon. He will become a true living legend. Indeed this « match without limits » leaves us a line of unique stats: 81 points at 28/46 in shots (61%), 7/13 in 3-points and 18/20 in throws, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Kobe Bryant has often been unplayable for his opponents. But that night, he was just a step above. He was elusive, unplayable, unstoppable. All this, however, against a concentrated and grouped defense which had made him the target to be shot down.
“I faced tight defenses,” he recalls when he had Kwame Brown and Smush Parker as teammates. “For me, double-teaming a player on defense is like waving a white flag. »
16 years later, and almost two years after his death, his 81 points remain a historic moment, engraved in the marble of the NBA plaques and in the collective spirit. The work of an outstanding soloist, of a unique five-times titled player who became the third best scorer in history under the thumb of a Phil Jackson who thought he had seen everything, lived everything with the unsinkable Michael Jordan…
“That’s not exactly how you want your team to win a match,” concluded the Zen Master. “But when you have to win, it’s great to have a weapon that can do it. I had already seen exceptional matches but I had never seen anything like this. »
Kobe Bryant forever in our hearts. Farewell the artist, Farewell Black Mamba. An exceptional and timeless athlete who will unfortunately and prematurely leave this earth on January 26, 2020 following a helicopter accident.