With this being Kobe Bryant’s 20th and final season with the Lakers, the organization has been running a pretty cool feature all season called “This Day in Kobe History” (#TDIKH) where they chronicle great games or key events throughout Kobe’s career. Today, December 20th, just so happens to be one of my favorite Kobe games ever:
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 20, 2015
This game is often overshadowed by Kobe’s 81 point performance against the Raptors which came a month later (January 22, 2006). But, for my money, Kobe’s outburst 10 years ago was actually more impressive.
For one, it came against one of the best teams in the league. That season the Mavs won 60 games (3rd best in the league) and went to the NBA Finals (they lost to the Heat). In terms of efficiency on both sides of the ball, they boasted the 2nd best offense and the 11th best defense in the league. For Kobe to outscore this team by himself through three quarters is, frankly, improbable and stands up as one of the more amazing things I’ve ever seen.
Second, while Kobe was certainly taking a lot of shots and being uber aggressive, he also wasn’t really force fed the ball to get his shots. In the “81” game against the Raptors, Kobe and his teammates were clearly getting him the ball and getting out of his way in an effort to let him get as many points as possible. Down the stretch, it was all Kobe every time down so he could just shoot. This doesn’t diminish the final total or accomplishment, it just did not come within the flow of the game quite as much as it did against the Mavs.
In any event, this game is one of my favorite Kobe performances ever. Thanks to the Lakers for highlighting it today in a commemorative post. Be sure to read that post — it has some excellent quotes from both sides — but also check out the highlights from the game below. There was no one quite like prime-Kobe.