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Game of the Day: 81! Kobe dominates with 2nd-best total
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — Michael Jordan never did it.
Neither did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the league's all-time leading scorer. Wilt Chamberlain did it ... once.
Kobe Bryant carved out a piece of NBA history by scoring 81 points Sunday night against the Toronto Raptors, the second-highest total ever and more than enough to beat the Raptors, 122-104, in front of an energized, if not disbelieving, sellout crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center.
Bryant more than doubled the 34.8 points he had been averaging, making 28 of 46 shots and 18 of 20 free throws. He made 7 of 13 three-point attempts and also had six rebounds and two assists.
After Bryant blew past the 60-point mark, and then breezed by the 70-point plateau, fans stood for the final part of the fourth quarter, taking photos and chanting his name again and again.
With the fans at Staples Center chanting "MVP! MVP!" Bryant made two free throws with 43.4 seconds remaining for his final points. He scored 27 points in the third quarter, 28 in the fourth.
Bryant, taken out of the game with 4.2 seconds to play, went to the bench and hugged Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Public-address announcer Lawrence Tanter implored fans to save their tickets stubs from the "historic night at Staples Center."
Most points in an NBA game
100 — Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia vs. New York at Hershey, Pa., March 2, 1962.
81 — Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers vs. Toronto, Jan. 22, 2006.
78 — Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia vs. L.A. Lakers, Dec. 8, 1961 (3 OT).
73 — David Thompson, Denver at Detroit, April 9, 1978.
73 — Wilt Chamberlain, San Francisco at New York, Nov. 16, 1962.
73 — Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia vs. Chicago, Jan. 13, 1962.
Teammates and staff members asked Bryant to sign copies of the box score. Lakers owner Jerry Buss said it was "like watching a miracle." Magic Johnson called Bryant on his cellphone and congratulated him.
Bryant, who had 62 points through three quarters Dec. 20 against the Dallas Mavericks, beat Elgin Baylor's old franchise record of 71 points, set in November 1960 against the New York Knicks.
Bryant's 55 second-half points also set a franchise record for points in a half, topping the 42 he had against the Washington Wizards in March 2003.
The Lakers, who finished 34-48 last season, reached the midpoint of this season's schedule with a 22-19 record.
"We are going from the bottom to the top all together, so it's important for us to enjoy the journey, and that is what we are doing right now," Bryant said. "We are on a journey, and to put on a show like this for the fans here in L.A. is truly something special. I grew up in front of these people, and now they are seeing me as an older young man."
Bryant was 19 points shy of the record set by Chamberlain in March 1962 in a sparsely attended game in Hershey, Pa. "That's unthinkable," Bryant said of Chamberlain's mark. "It's pretty exhausting to think about it."
Bryant, hampered in recent weeks by a sore ankle, a balky wrist and, most recently, sore hips, had 27 points in the third quarter, making 11 of 15 shots as the Lakers came screaming back from an 18-point deficit to take a 91-85 lead.
He passed Baylor's franchise record with a 14-footer from the right side with 4:25 to play.
He then vaulted past Chamberlain's second-highest individual effort, 78 points, and into second all-time after making the third of three free throws with 1:47 to play.
Jackson, who coached Jordan and played against Chamberlain, called it "something to behold tonight."
"I wasn't keeping track on what he had, and when I turned to [assistant Frank Hamblen] and said, 'I think I better take him out now' ... he said, 'I don't think you can. He has 77 points,' " Jackson said. "So we stayed with it until he hit 80."
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company