Kobe makes records wiltBy Royce Webb
Only Kobe Bryant would try to singlehandedly upstage the NFL on Championship Sunday.
And get it done.
How does one describe Kobe's 81 points?
It's the greatest scoring night any of us have ever seen, except for the few among us who were in the arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on March 2, 1962. In other words, it's the best performance in NBA history, except for Wilt's 100.
It was 1.7 points per minute, or, in this case, 1.9 points per minute, since Kobe actually sat six minutes against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, in the Lakers' 122-104, come-from-behind win in L.A.
It was 66 shots (not counting missed shots on which he was fouled) -- that's 46 field goal attempts and 20 free throw attempts. Of those FGAs, 28 found the net (60.9 percent), including seven of his 13 3-pointers. Eighteen of 20 free throws followed suit. (Yes, Kobe's free throw streak ended -- at 62.)
It's this . . . 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 3 2 2 1 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 2 1 3 2 2 2 1 1 2 2 2 1 1 1 3 3 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.
It's enough to make you wish he'd have had a faster start, instead of "only" 26 in the first half . . . to be followed by 27 in the third quarter . . . and 28 in the fourth . . . picking up speed with all the inevitability of gravity itself, a runaway train, a basketball bouncing down a steep driveway.
After the game, Kobe insisted it was a "big win," and said getting the W was the most important thing. Not sure anyone believes that, but it was remarkable how Bryant's scoring affected the game, far more than his usual onslaught.
Three minutes into the second half, the Raptors led 71-53. Bryant already had all four of the Lakers' second half points, giving him 30 for the game, but then he cranked it up -- later he would say that he had gone into overdrive because the Lakers were "lethargic," as though he needs a reason.
Over the next 80 seconds, he made a basket and two 3s, cutting the 18-point lead to 12. The Lakers and Kobe kept coming, and when he stole a pass and tiptoed down the sidelines to get loose for a dunk, he put Los Angeles up for good, at 87-85, late in the third quarter.
Speaking of getting Los Angeles up, Kobe turned on the Showtime crowd for one of the greatest spontaneous celebrations ever for a single player.
For his audience, this was not about beating the Raptors, it was the pinch-me thrill of being in the arena during the greatest individual performance of the past four decades.
It was M-V-P! M-V-P!
But it was more than that -- it was the growing sound of the 18,997 paying customers every time he got the ball, and a expectant whoosh every time he went up to shoot, and a noisy, giddy sigh every time he missed, and a roar every time he made the basket or was fouled. It was the sound of a crowd at the circus, watching the trapeze artists at work, watching the greatest show on earth.
And while it's easy to forget when Kobe goes off, especially when the opposing team wears TORONTO on its chest, this was an NBA team he was doing this to -- a team that was leading the game before he really got going.
And that team, with talented players like Chris Bosh, Jalen Rose and Mike James on the floor, was clearly rattled, or worse. When everyone realized what Kobe was up to, both teams responded emotionally. The Lakers got a charge from Kobe's energy, while the Raptors were both distracted and overwhelmed. After a 63-point first half, they managed only 41 points in the second half, including only three baskets during a decisive nine-minute stretch.
A month ago, Lakers coach Phil Jackson (along with Kobe himself) held Bryant out of the fourth quarter, when Kobe had 62 and the Lakers had the game vs. the Mavericks locked up. Jackson was criticized, in the Daily Dime and elsewhere, for his decision.
This time, he might have had the same impulse, but he thought better of it. Late in the game, he said later, he told an assistant coach he would take Kobe out. "I don't think you're going to be able to do that," the assistant replied. "He's got 77." And Jackson left Kobe in, until a Toronto turnover with four seconds to play allowed him to remove Kobe for the ovation he deserved and, indeed, even a half-hug from the Zen Master.
Jackson did the right thing this time, because Kobe ultimately wasn't playing against the Raptors. He was playing against all the guys who never scored 80, or even 70 -- Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Dominique Wilkins, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Shaquille O'Neal, Jerry West, Karl Malone, Bob McAdoo, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pete Maravich, George Gervin, Bernard King, and on and on.
And he was competing against the Lakers' record holder, Elgin Baylor, who had 71; David Robinson, also 71; David Thompson, 73; and Wilt, 72, 73, 73, 78 and 100.
And he beat them all.
Except for Wilt. On one night.
Too bad the Lakers don't play on Super Sunday. I'd love to see Kobe go for Wilt's record, too.http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/dailydime ... ime-060123