Kobe Bryant talks 81-point game
DENVER -- Saturday will mark the five-year anniversary of the night Lakers guard Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in Los Angeles against the Toronto Raptors, the second-highest single game point total in NBA history.
"I just remember we were down 16 points to a bad Raptors team and we had just lost I think to Houston the game before and it was just kind of doom and gloom. We needed to win and I just got hot," Bryant said Friday after shootaround in preparation for the Lakers' game against the Denver Nuggets.
The Lakers ending up winning the game 122-104 against a Toronto team that had a record of just 14-26. Los Angeles actually trailed the Raptors by 18 points early on in the third quarter before Bryant really went off, scoring 51 of his 55 second-half points from that point on. Bryant scored 14 points in the first quarter, 12 in the second, 27 in the third and 28 in the fourth.
"That game we needed to win," Bryant said, remembering the Lakers record was a mediocre 21-19 coming into the game. "We kind of broke away towards the end there, but it was a tough one for us."
Bryant's 81-point game trails on Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game on March 2, 1962 for the highest single-game scoring output in league history.
Bryant's feat came during the 2005-06 season when he averaged 35.4 points per game, the highest single-season average since Michael Jordan put up 37.1 points per game in 1986-87 with the Chicago Bulls.
Bryant tallied 21 games with 40-49 points, four games with 50-59 points and two games scoring more than 60 that season.
"Phil [Jackson] had asked me that year, I had a couple games where I was hot and the one against Dallas, he asked me if I wanted to stay in," Bryant said.
The game against the Mavericks was on Dec. 20, 2005, about a month before Bryant's historic night against the Raptors. He outscored the Mavericks single-handedly 62-61 after three quarters and Bryant and Jackson agreed it was appropriate to sit him out for the fourth quarter with the Lakers leading by 34 points.
"Phil's been really cool about stuff like that," Bryant said.
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Bryant has continued to be a top scorer in the league in the five years since the historic night. He is 52 points away from passing Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946) for eighth on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
Bryant has maintained that the only number he is focused on, however, is adding to the five championship rings in his collection.
"I really don't think about it too much," Bryant said. "I still don't know how the hell it happened, to be honest with you. It's just one of those things, I guess."
Still, Bryant shared some sentimentality regarding his scoring feat on the eve of the five-year anniversary.
"That was the first game and only game [my grandmother has] ever been to in the NBA and it was my grandfather's birthday that had passed away," Bryant said. "So, there were a lot of things at work."
Bryant added how honored he was when the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame requested the sneakers he wore that game to put on display and revealed he has the jersey he wore against the Raptors on display in the trophy room at his house.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Twitter.