Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2017, but we’re re-heating it for the 15th anniversary of Kobe Bryant scoring 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. Enjoy.
Kobe Bryant’s place among all-time NBA greats probably isn’t going to stop being debated anytime soon. His fans will point to his five titles, MVP awards from the regular season and NBA Finals, buzzer beaters and more accomplishments and accolades, while his detractors will point towards his field goal percentage and their own overflowing cups of haterade.
One thing that no one can debate (and that probably won’t change for quite some time), however, is the fact that Bryant has scored more points in a single game than any other player in NBA history not named Wilt Chamberlain. The anniversary of that performance seemed like as good of an excuse as any to see why Jalen Rose still blocks people tweeting “81” jokes at him to this day.
Check out all of Bryant’s 81 points in their full glory below:
Watching those again, a few things are still staggering.
First is the full volume. It’s not often that a player’s highlight reel is nine-and-a-half minutes long, but that’s how long it takes to capture Bryant’s virtuoso performance in its full glory. It turns out scoring 81 points takes a lot of baskets!
Another thing that jumps off the screen to this day is the variety with which Bryant scored. Up-and-unders, layups, jumpers, free throws. Bryant is one of the most fundamentally sound superstars ever, and against the Raptors you can see how he basically perfected every aspect of his game.
No matter where one thinks Kobe ultimately ranks among the greats of the game, it’s pretty obvious to see there will never be another player quite like him, and that’s worth appreciating with a little trip down memory lane to 2006.