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Monday, January 23, 2006

81! Kobe Bryant Overshadows Championship Sunday

How do you push the AFC and NFC Championship Games off of the sports headlines? Simple--you author the second best single game scoring performance in NBA history. Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in the L.A. Lakers' 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night. Only Wilt Chamberlain's legendary 100 point game ranks ahead of this astounding total--and don't let the final score deceive you into believing that Kobe simply padded his point total in a lopsided contest (as if that would somehow make 81 points unimpressive!), because the Lakers trailed 63-49 at halftime and 71-53 just three minutes into the second half; Bryant had 26 points in the first half and 55 points after intermission to carry the Lakers to the win. Kobe shot 28-46 from the field, including 7-13 from three point range; he made 18 of his 20 free throws, extending his Lakers record streak of consecutive free throws made to 62 by sinking his first five before missing one. Kobe is averaging 45.5 ppg in the ten games since his two game suspension for elbowing Memphis' Mike Miller.

Bryant's 81 points--besides looking like a typographical error--eclipses Elgin Baylor's franchise record of 71 and David Thompson's "non-Wilt record" of 73. Bryant's second half explosion is topped only by Wilt's 59 point half in the 100 point game. This was the fifth time that Kobe has scored 50-plus points in the first three quarters of a game; just last month Kobe outscored the Mavericks 62-61 in the first three quarters before sitting out the entire fourth period. Kobe joins Chamberlain and Michael Jordan as the only players to have multiple 60-plus point games in the same season.

Lakers owner Jerry Buss was as awestruck as anyone: "You're sitting and watching, and it's like a miracle unfolding in front of your eyes and you can't accept it. Somehow, the brain won't work. The easiest way to look at it is everybody remembers every 50-point game they ever saw. He had 55 in the second half."

As I wrote less than two weeks ago after Kobe had just scored 45-plus points in four straight games, "Kobe's exploits made me think of Shaquille O'Neal, Wilt Chamberlain--and a great book by William Goldman and Mike Lupica." Here is the link to that post, which looked at a thought provoking chapter from Goldman and Lupica's Wait Till Next Year and the perspective it lends to Kobe's string of jaw-dropping performances:

http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/2006/01/kobe-goes-where-only-wilt-and-elgin.html

posted by David Friedman @ 12:09 AM

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