Kobe Bryant had quite a night when he scored 81 points for the Los Angeles Lakers in a 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006. Bryant, former Lower Merion High standout, is the only player to come close to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, which took place in Hershey, Pa., when Chamberlain led the Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks.
Chamberlain still holds the highest single-game scoring mark in NBA history. This year is the 50th anniversary of his unbelievable performance.
Like Chamberlain, Bryant had a big time effort. He had 14 points in the first quarter. Then, he scored 12 in the second quarter. In the second half, he had 27 in the third quarter and 28 to close out the fourth quarter.
Chamberlain scored 23 points in the first quarter. In the second quarter, he had 18 points. He scored 28 in the third quarter and finished with 31 in the fourth quarter. Bryant reflected on his brilliant effort as well as Chamberlain’s amazing performance.
“It’s a lot of points,” Bryant said. “I think it was just one of the nights for both of us. It’s really no explanation for it. You just kind of get into one of those games and one of those elements and things happen.
“I was doing mine on jumpshots though. I didn’t have to bang with too many guys down low. It was catch and shooting.”
Aaron McKie, Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach, was a member of the Lakers that season as his playing career was winding down. McKie, former Temple, Simon Gratz and Sixers guard, remembers Bryant’s scoring outburst.
“It was just unreal,” McKie said. “He got in a zone. He started hitting threes and couldn’t miss shots. You know Kobe could score the ball. When he gets in the zone, he can run off 50 on you. The team was down and he was just doing everything he could to bring them back and fortunately for him that night he was hitting the three ball. Everything was going. It was just amazing.”
During the 2005–06 season, Bryant averaged 35.4 points a game. In the 1961–62 season, Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points a game. Both players had tremendous individual seasons the years when they had those big games.