What is next for Kobe, 100?
Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
LOS ANGELES - Wilt Chamberlain's record 100-point game seemed unreachable from the time he accomplished the feat nearly 44 years ago.
Perhaps it's not.
Maybe Kobe Bryant can do it.
"I guess it's possible. I don't know, bro'. It's unthinkable," the Los Angeles Lakers' star said.
So was 81. At least before Sunday night.
But Bryant, so often unstoppable, was better than ever against the Toronto Raptors, scoring 28 of his team's 31 points in the fourth quarter to reach the second-highest single-game total in NBA history.
"Not even in my dreams," he said.
Chamberlain scored 100 points when basketball was a far different game, accomplishing the feat for Philadelphia against the New York Knicks at Hershey, Pa., on March 2, 1962.
There was no 3-point shot - not that it would have mattered since Chamberlain was a 7-footer who dominated the middle.
The 6-6 Bryant made seven from outside the arc.
Defense was generally an afterthought when Chamberlain played, not that the Raptors are much good at it now, ranking near the bottom of the league in that department.
Whatever the case, both performances were astonishing.
Chamberlain shot 36-of-63 from the field and 28-of-32 from the foul line while playing all 48 minutes. He averaged an NBA-record 50.4 points per game that season.
Bryant, playing a little less than 42 minutes, shot 28-of-46 from the floor including 7-of-13 from 3-point range, and 18-of-20 from the foul line. He raised his NBA-leading average to 35.9 points. If the season ended now, that would be the highest average since Michael Jordan scored 37.1 points per game 19 years ago.
Bryant appeared on his way to 80 a month ago, scoring a then-career high 62 in a one-sided win over Dallas. He sat out the fourth quarter because the outcome was decided after three.
Not so Sunday night. The Raptors led by as many as 18 in the third period, and that more than anything triggered Bryant's scoring explosion.
"We have four days off coming up here and I would be sick as a dog if we would have lost this game," he said. "I just wanted to step up and inspire us to play well and it turned into something pretty special."
Indeed, it did as Bryant recorded just the 10th game ever of at least 70 points.
Chamberlain scored 59 in the second half in his big game - the only player with more points in a half than Bryant's 55 after halftime in this game.
In the second half, it was Bryant 55, Toronto 42.
"He couldn't be stopped tonight," Raptors guard Mike James said. "He basically beat us by himself."
Chamberlain's second-highest total was 78 against the Lakers in three overtimes on Dec. 8, 1961. That drops to No. 3 on the all-time list.
Next are the 73 points scored twice by Chamberlain in 1962 and once by Denver's David Thompson in 1978.
The only other players to reach 70 were former Lakers star Elgin Baylor, who scored 71 points in November 1960, and David Robinson, who also scored 71 for San Antonio in April 1994. Chamberlain scored 70 in 1963.
Bryant broke Baylor's franchise record with 4:25 remaining on a 14-foot jumper.
After it was over, and before he met with reporters, Bryant's cell phone rang. The caller was Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
"For him to just call me and tell me what a great game it was and how proud of me he is meant more to me than the 81 points," Bryant said. "That meant more to me than even the game itself because I idolized him as a kid."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who coached the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls to six championships in the 1990s, said Bryant's single-game performance surpassed anything Jordan ever did on a given night.
"That was something to behold - it was another level," Jackson said. "At halftime we were disturbed about the way we were playing. We came out and Kobe just found a way to do everything.
"It's not exactly the way you want to have a team win a game, but when you have to win a game, it's great to have that weapon to be able to do that."
Tex Winter, a longtime assistant to Jackson and architect of the triangle offense, expressed respect and regret at the same time.
"That was one of the greatest exhibitions I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of exhibitions," the 83-year-old Winter said. "That's what the fans love. (But) I don't think you can win a championship that way."
Bryant is often compared to Jordan, whose career-high was 69 points.
Bryant said it's time for such comparisons to stop.
"He's one of the greatest players of all time," Bryant said. "It's not fair for us younger players to be compared to him. We can't measure up to him. He's Jordan, and I'm Kobe."
Kobe certainly measured up on this night.
Bryant's legal problems in Colorado, where he was accused of rape in the summer of 2003, are a distant memory. His case never went to trial because his accuser decided she wasn't up to it, and an out-of-court settlement was reached before a civil trial took place.
Bryant seemed to be everywhere before that, appearing on numerous television ads as a pitchman for several prominent organizations including McDonald's and Sprite.
Not so these days, although he began appearing in Nike ads last summer and recently introduced a new shoe bearing his name.
After going for 81, perhaps Bryant will become more visible again.
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