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NBA Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant’s 81: Remembering the Greatest Performance Fans Will Ever See

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Eight years ago Tuesday, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Toronto Raptors. When the game ended, Bryant had scored 81 points, the second most in NBA history. But more importantly, he put on the most impressive scoring performance any of us will ever see. And it isn’t even close.

The only time anyone ever scored more points was Wilt Chamberlain’s famous 100 point game in 1962. The problem with that game is that there is no film of the game. There isn’t even so much as complete audio coverage. And even if there was, you’d want no part of watching it. The game devolved into an intentional foul fest for both teams. In many ways, the game is more impressive because all we have to go by is Wilt holding up a scrap of paper with 100 written on it.

The only other game that could compare is Michael Jordan’s 63 against the Boston Celtics. Yes, 63 is considerably less than 81. In fact, a month prior to Kobe’s 81 point game, he had scored 62 in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks before getting bored and watching the rest of the game from the sideline. But it is the significance of the Jordan game that makes it a contender.

Firstly, it was a playoff game. Secondly, it was against one of the greatest teams of all time, the 1986 Celtics. But this game went into double over time. So not even the Jordan performance that prompted the quote, “I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan,” from Larry Bird, can match what Kobe did eight years ago.