still kobe

Kobe Bryant and Lakers are facing potential elimination as they head into a pivotal Game 7 showdown against the Denver Nuggets. The artist known as “The Black Mamba” showed up in Game 6.  But to his ire, none of his teammates did:

In honor of one of two first-round series deciding games this year, I decided to research my favorite Kobe game; his 81-point outburst against the Toronto Raptors six years ago.  The date was January 22nd and most of us were focused on the NFL Conference title games that evening.  Kobe torched the Raptors and a litany of helpless defenders (Morris Peterson, Jalen Rose, Mike James, etc) for 81 points, the second highest single-game total in NBA history-only Wilt Chamberlain’s historic 100 point game against New York in 1962 ranks higher.  Everyone was at that game, even Denny Green:

To put that statistical output into a local perspective and maybe shame, the Minnesota Timberwolves actually scored 84 points as a team that day in a two-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.  In my lifetime, the only NBA players to score more than 70 points were Kobe that day in January and The Admiral, aka David Robinson.  In the last game of the 1993-1994 regular season Robinson scored 71 points against the Clippers in an effort to win the NBA scoring title.  He succeeded by finishing the year with 29.8 points, slightly besting the 29.3 scoring average of one Shaquille O’ Neal.

The second-highest scorer behind Kobe that day was Mike James and his 26 points for the Raptors.  Following the 2005-2006 season, James became a member of the Timberwolves when Kevin Mchale made a miscalculation and signed him to a free-agent contract.

It has been Kobe’s Laker team since the departure of Shaquille O’Neal and that is clear by looking at Kobe’s teammates from his 81-point game.  Lamar Odom was the last teammate link to that day.   Before the start of the lockout-shortened season, the Lakers traded Odom (and his spouse Khloe Kardashian some might say) to the Dallas Mavericks in a move that did not benefit Odom or his new team.  In a day and age where teams like the Heat and Knicks have multiple standouts, the lack of a supporting cast around Kobe that day is alarming now. His starting point guard that day was Smush Parker.  Not surprisingly, only two other Lakers reached double-figures in points during Kobe’s exceptional scoring exhibition: Parker (13) and Chris Mihm (12).

Steve Nash and Kevin Garnett are my favorite all-time basketball players, let it be known. Even though I have never been an ardent supporter of Kobe, I have come to respect him and his remarkable career.  He is an intense competitor, a throwback to a time when athletes had a “seek and destroy” mindset and vanquished opponents without tweeting about it later. The only thing loud about Kobe that day was the damage he inflicted on the Raptors with his 81 point offensive barrage.