Avert your eyes from that marvelous photo of Kobe and a youthful Matt Bonner. Then close them and reminisce. This Friday marks a decade since Kobe Bryant scored more points than anyone has ever scored in the modern NBA.
Feel old? Well, Kobe does too, and you might have heard he’s retiring. You’ve certainly read retrospectives on his career and his life and probably his greatest individual game. But you’ve never relived his demolition of the Toronto Raptors like this before. Follow along as we definitively rank every single field goal Bryant made in this game.
Some facts about the game: The Lakers trailed by 18 early in the third quarter, and then Kobe scored 51 of the team’s final 69 points. They wound up winning by...18.
Kobe's points by quarter: 14, 12, 27, 28. He passed David Robinson’s 71–point game but fell short of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100. The final line: 81 points on 28 of 46 shooting, 7–13 from three, 18–20 from the line, six rebounds, two assists, three steals, a block and three turnovers. He was a plus-25.
Underrated aspects of this game: Mike James scoring 26 with 10 assists for the Raptors, Kobe’s eclectic teammates (including Smush Parker, Kwame Brown and Chris Mihm) and someone named Devin Green playing four seconds for the Lakers.
With some handy GIFs to help us, let’s begin. 28 makes, free throws not included.
28. A long first-quarter two (points 5, 6)
Long twos were still in vogue, and he made it, but like, why not run to the actual three point line? Have some spatial awareness, Kobe.
27. Triple-threat mid-post layup (9, 10)
Kobe utilizes a nice triple-threat move here and blows by what appears to be Morris Peterson for a midrange layup. Textbook.
26. The ol’ YMCA rope-a-dope (7, 8)
Jalen Rose shuffles backward and falls victim to a move you have probably seen old men execute to perfection at your local gym.
25. Step-thru (23, 24)
This is kinda nifty, actually, as Kobe lunges past two defenders for an easy finish. The body control is superb. Keep in mind that the Lakers trailed by 13.
24. Dubious travel (27, 28)
Kobe might take one step too many on his way to the basket here, but nobody really bothers to contest and the legendary Chris Mihm picks off the help beneath the basket. The Lakers were trailing by 17 before this one.
23. Standard-issue corner three (15, 16, 17)
This is a tough, contested shot and Kobe’s first three-ball of the game.
22. The Chris Pratt Jurassic World special (60, 61)
Kobe convinces a team of four Raptors to let him past for a casual floater.
16–21: The midrange jumper section
Here are points three and four. You can take your pick of these classic-looking Kobe J’s and thank us later.
He worked hard for 20 and 21.
Here are 29 and 30.
The Lakers were still down by 18 when Bryant hit 31 and 32.
We briefly skip the ridiculous onslaught of points and jump to 56 and 57, at which point the Lakers are up five.
Less than a minute later, Kobe extends the lead with this off-balance and-one. This concludes this section.
15. An angry jab step three (45, 46, 47)
You can’t really see the jab step but take my word for it. The Lakers began to storm back.
14. Around Bonner and in (1, 2)
An intimate moment between mambas black and red that shall live forever.
13. Lamar Odom hooks it up (52, 53)
A fine assist from Odom finds Kobe wide open at the expense of Jose Calderon.
12. Baseline reverse (48, 49)
Smoothly cutting the lead to four.
11. Stutter step layup (25, 26)
It looks like Kobe travels here but trust me, he dribbled into a sort of modified Eurostep that would be higher if he dunked it.
10. Bullying to the rim for 73 and 74
Evidence of Kobe’s sheer will, as the Lakers get up by 15, he breaks the record, and still barrels into the lane and abuses Mo Pete.
7–9: The reckoning (33–41)
Three third quarter treys bring the Lakers to within 10 as Kobe essentially announces things are about to pop off.
6. Double-pump baseline leaner (42, 43)
After burying all those three-balls, Bryant hits probably his most difficult shot of the game, and-one. Mo Peterson, hope you are not reading this.
5. This dagger (65, 66, 67)
This gave the Lakers a 12-point lead. Quintessential mamba.
4. This other dagger on the next possession (68, 69, 70)
3. Backdoor delivery (18, 19)
Go earn that bread Chris Mihm!!!
2. Steal and go-ahead dunk (50, 51)
Watch Kobe sniff out the pass, make Calderon fall down and complete the Laker comeback with gusto.
1. Passing the Admiral (71, 72)
If there’s a moment to remember from this game, it’s this one, as Kobe drives left, pumps and passes David Robinson.
Bonus: The final free throw (81)
Seven free throws in the final three minutes. Boring but effective.