The 10-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s 81-point explosion falls on Jan. 22, 2016, and ESPN’s Arash Markazi assembled a tremendous oral history of the performance.
Bryant shared that he didn’t feel like he was in some sort of “otherworldly” zone. Rather, the Los Angeles Lakers legend expected to do that because of work done in practice.
“Those same shots I took during the game are the same shots I took during practice every single day. I mean, I took a thousand shots a day, every single day. You put that kind of work in, and of course I’m making these shots. Of course I’m making these pull-up shots. I’ve made them a thousand times a day. It wasn’t something where I was like, ‘This is otherworldly.’ No, this is what I’m supposed to do.”
Thanks to Bryant’s insane performance, Los Angeles won that matchup 122-104. He connected on 28-of-46 attempts from the floor, burying 7-of-13 looks from long distance. Bryant also knocked down 18-of-20 free throws.
Most impressively, Bryant scored 55 of his points after halftime — including 24 of the team’s first 27 during the third quarter to bring the Lakers back from a 63-49 deficit.
After hitting a trio of three-pointers during the opening 90 seconds against the Philadelphia 76ers this season, per ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, Bryant said he felt the Sixers players wondering if another 81-point game was coming. He managed 11 more points in that game.
Well, 2006 is a long, long time ago. At this stage of Kobe’s career, he’s an inefficient volume shooter on a league-wide victory lap for a stellar career.
Nevertheless, Bryant has earned this moment. For a brief moment, we can forget his current struggles and applaud the second-best scoring performance in NBA history.
But Kobe? He won’t remember it in awe like us. That was simply something he was supposed to do.