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November 15, 2018

“Mama There Goes That Man”: The Story of Kobe Bryant’s Miraculous 81 Point Game

“With the thirteenth pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets select Kobe Bryant from Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania”(David Stern). These words were the start of it all for Kobe, although he might as well have been drafted to the Los Angeles Lakers, because fifteen days after draft night, he ended up with the Lakers until he retired. The Charlotte Hornet’s Dave Cowens allegedly said his team had no use for Kobe, and allowed him to be traded to the Lakers. This was undoubtedly one of the biggest mistakes in NBA history, considering that Bryant went on to win five championship titles and attain the second greatest scoring performance since Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single game.1

Kobe Bryant came into the league at 6-foot-6 and roughly 200 pounds. The scouts and analysts of the NBA concurred that even though Bryant had a great ability to score the ball offensively, he would need two to three years to gain weight, muscle, and adjust from playing high school basketball to playing with a league of talented men.2 Despite being relatively small compared to his competitors, Kobe Bryant exceeded expectations by averaging twenty or more points per game in eight out of ten seasons from his rookie season (1996-1997) to the season where he scored 81 points in a game and averaged 35.4 points per game (2005-2006).3

Scoring over twenty points in an NBA basketball game can be chalked up to luck when it happens once or twice, but to consistently do it takes strength. Kobe Bryant makes it look effortless to rack up as many points as he does. Looking at his scoring performances, such as the 81-point game compared to similar performances from history helps one understand what it takes to do what Kobe Bryant did on January 22,  2006. Going from a rookie averaging under 10 points per game to an all-star scoring 81 points in a single game does not happen without effort, passion, and determination. Leading into the game, Kobe Bryant had nothing stopping him from scoring 81 points. He had the experience, great past scoring performances, and he had enough time to do it.

Kobe Bryant catches the ball and looks to post up his opponent | Courtesy of Keith Allison

Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns on January 20, 2006. This was a game where Kobe had 37 points and his team still lost by 13 points, which as basketball players know is still a tough loss. Bryant (like any other player) let that game go and prepared for the next one, but he did not forget the feeling of the loss that occurred two nights before. As a leader of his team, he had to take that stinging feeling of losing into the Raptors game on January 22, 2006.4 Kobe Bryant kept his mind focused and performed his pre-game ritual, which includes arriving at the arena to the moment the ball is tipped to start the game.

In the first quarter of the game, Kobe scored 14 points from 5 field goals, missed a 3 pointer, and made 4 out of 4 free throws. These 14 points were pretty impressive, but there is much more to come with 3 quarters left in the ball game.5 At this point in the game, the Lakers were down 29-36. With Toronto ahead by 7 points, Bryant and the Lakers have more work to do. In the second quarter, the Lakers played terrible as a whole, but Kobe was pretty consistent with his first quarter numbers. Bryant added 12 points to his 14 points from the first quarter by making another 5 field goals, including 1 three pointer and 1 out of 2 free throws. At the end of the first half, Kobe and the Lakers were in trouble, being down 49-63.

The half-time of a basketball game is for teams to regroup, rest, and devise a strategy to win the game. For the winning team, which would be the Raptors, the strategy was to keep playing the way that they were playing and to sustain all of the energy and focus they had in the first half. When Lamar Odom, who was Kobe Bryant’s teammate at the time, was asked how Kobe was feeling at half time when they were down, he said “He was ticked off.” Then when Odom was asked about what Kobe said, Odom replied by saying “Nothing, that’s when it’s bad.”6 Kobe knew that he needed to step up and his teammates knew that they needed to step up also.

Kobe Bryant dribbles with his right hand as he looks to create a play | Courtesy of alexwaltasss

Coming out of the half time break, Kobe was angry and ready to put his game face on in the second half of the game. In the third quarter, Kobe Bryant was on fire and there was nothing that the Raptors could do to stop him. He scored in a plethora of ways, including layups, dunks, jump shots, free throws, and 3 point conversions. Kobe shot and made twice as many shots in the third quarter than he did in the first half. In the first two quarters he had only hit one 3 pointer. His aggressiveness and focus in the third quarter led to him being 4-4 from the 3 point line, which is not an easy thing to do. Despite hitting only one free throw, Kobe still managed to rack up 27 points, which is more points than his first half combined. Adding up his first 3 quarters, Kobe totaled 53 points with one quarter remaining.7 His offensive showcase in the third quarter also jetted the Lakers ahead of the Raptors on the scoreboard, with the score set at 91-85 in favor of the Lakers.

Although, the third quarter seemed impressive to spectators and maybe even to some of the players, it was not enough to satisfy Kobe “The Black Mamba” Bryant. Kobe led the Lakers into the fourth quarter still draining shots and padding his stats as if there wasn’t even a break in between. Kobe was so determined to win the game, that he was ready to do the seemingly impossible. Kobe later said in an interview with head coach of the Raptors Sam Mitchell, “Coach, for us to win that game, I had to get 81. It was just one of those nights. There was nothing you could do to stop me that night.” Then in reply to Kobe, Mitchell said, “Kobe, I know that. ‘Cause we tried.”8

Going into the fourth quarter with 53 points and seeming unstoppable, Kobe Bryant decided that he still had a job to do and a game to win. When someone has a night like Bryant had in scoring in the third quarter, you feed him the ball and that’s certainly what the Lakers did. Kobe knew he was on fire, the fans knew it, and everyone else watching knew it as well. Although Bryant shot a much lower percentage from the field this quarter, he made 12 points from free throws alone, shooting 12-13 from the line. One can only imagine how tense the Staples Center was. At this moment in the game, there was immense pressure upon Kobe Bryant to lead the Lakers to victory, and since he already had scored 53, he now felt the pressure from the fans to see how far he could push to break scoring records.9

After an 81-point performance, with the game winding down, Kobe Bryant walks off the court to sit on the bench | Courtesy of Eric Woodward

All of the pressure carried on Kobe’s shoulders were taken with him as he took the floor to get the fourth and final quarter of action underway. The first few minutes of the quarter seemed as if Kobe felt the pressure that was on him. He forced a couple of bad shots and the second one resulted in him being down temporarily from a poke to the eye. Bryant didn’t start to really heat up in the fourth quarter until around the 9 minute mark, when he made a few free throws. It seemed as if all he needed that quarter was to see the ball go into the basket. After that, Kobe Bryant was unstoppable as he hit the Raptors with a combination of layups, threes, and mid range shots. With a little under five minutes to go in the game, Kobe had already managed to rack up 70 points. This is where the game really got intense, because everyone started to realize how close he was to getting 80 points and maybe more. Early in the game, fans had no idea that they would be witnessing greatness that night. As Bryant continued to pummel Toronto with one tough shot after another, the score continued to climb in favor of the Lakers. Kobe then began to seal the Raptors fate with continuous free throw shots, which inevitably led to Bryant sinking his last free throw with 43.4 seconds left in the game.10 After that final free throw, the whistle blew for Bryant to take a seat and end his night. After the game when Kobe was asked how he did it, he responded “It really hasn’t, like, set in for me. It’s about the `W,’ that’s why I turned it on. It turned into something special. To sit here and say I grasp what happened, that would be lying.”11

  1. Zach Harper, “Kobe Bryant and the Draft Day Trade That Changed NBA History,” CBS Sports, April 07, 2016, accessed November 04, 2018.
  2. Jean-Sebastien Blondel, “1996 NBA Draft – 13 – Kobe Bryant, Lower Merion High School”, YouTube. September 19, 2008. Accessed November 04, 2018.
  3.  “Kobe Bryant Stats,”, accessed November 04, 2018.
  4.  “Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Box Score, January 20, 2006,”, accessed November 04, 2018.
  5. “Kobe Bryant’s 81-point Game Details,” Laker Universe, Accessed November 04, 2018.
  6.  “Raptors vs. Lakers – Game Recap – January 22, 2006 – ESPN,”, accessed November 05, 2018.
  7. “Kobe Bryant’s 81-point Game Details,” Laker Universe, Accessed November 04, 2018.
  8. James Herbert, “The Kobe Bryant 81-point Game, as Recalled by Opposing Coach Sam Mitchell,” CBS Sports, December 18, 2017. Accessed November 05, 2018.
  9. “Kobe Bryant’s 81-point Game Details,” Laker Universe, Accessed November 04, 2018.
  10.  “Kobe Bryant 81 Points Game Highlights (HD),” YouTube, March 03, 2015, accessed November 05, 2018.
  11.  “Raptors vs. Lakers – Game Recap – January 22, 2006 – ESPN,” ESPN, accessed November 05, 2018.

Recent Comments

Rosa Robledo Martinez

Kobe Bryant is a living legend, his 81 point game made Kobe’s name bigger than it already was. He made the lakers the unstoppable, I remember living in Los Angeles and every single playoff game my family and I would go to downtown by the staples center and everyone would go crazy. Ever since Kobe retired from the NBA, the lakers never been the same anymore. Although he retired he is still doing something basketball related, for example he made his own little league basketball team for his daughter.



7:40 am

Juan Arceo

The Black Mamba a.k.a kobe Bryant will undoubtedly be one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball. By scoring 81 points in a single game, is a tough feat in itself, as Wilt Chamberlain was able to score 100 in a single game, but to play another game and score 37 points and lose is just heartbreaking. I remember Kobe’s last game and he was able to do not as many points, but still put up 60 points is impressive. Currently, we have only seen Devin Booker come close to this feat with 70 points but one day, another player will come into a game with that Mamba mentality and absolutely go off.



7:40 am

Carly Jimenez

I have a lot of respect for Kobe as a player and as a person. I think that because he started off so young that he had more respect for the game as a whole. He played his heart out for his team and 81 points in a game is just amazing to me. He pushed himself because he knew that his team needed him and he knew that he could give more than what he was already giving. I truly look up to Kobe because he has a lot of respect for others even being a celebrity. Good article!



7:40 am

Saira Locke

Kobe Bryant is one of the best NBA basketball players of all time. He was known for his “mamba mentality” where he would do anything to win the game. Kobe’s 81 point game shocked the world when he went absolutely insane in the fourth quarter. Everyone that plays basketball nowadays looks up to Kobe for inspiration on how to be a better player.



7:40 am

James Disrud

Even though I’m a big Spurs fan I’ve always had a lot of respect for Kobe Bryant. Kobes work ethic has always been known to be on of the best in the world and how he would do anything to win a basketball game. When he scored 81 points in a single game that was an amazing feat for the era he was in. He would always give everything he had to the game he loved. This was a very good article thank you!



7:40 am

Ashley Martinez

Kobe Bryant is considered to be a legend in the NBA world. Bryant has inspired many young athletes aspiring to play the sport of basketball. That is absolutely remarkable that Kobe had an 81 point game, especially after how bad the Lakers were losing by. Bryant is an extremely talented athlete that will go down in history for his skills. Bryant was a hard working athlete that set his mind to his goal and eventually accomplished it. This was a well written article that really kept you intrigued during the entire article.



7:40 am

Roberto Rodriguez

I always reading about the past NBA, I did not really start watching the NBA until about 2011/2012 so reading about all of the amazing moments of legendary players always makes me happy and really makes me wish I was alive for those moments. Reading about Kobe’s moments is always so surreal, this 81 point game is no exception. If you need inspiration look no more than the NBA’s amazing athletes, they overcome so much at times and work extremely hard to master their craft. Even if you do not like sports, just the determination and dedication to the game of Kobe is admirable by itself.



7:40 am

Emmanuel Ewuzie

Kobe Bryant was my favorite player growing up. I looked up to him as he had phenomenal games and game winners. He captivated me with his fadeaways and low post work. But the thing about Kobe that I’ve always marveled and emulated was his hunger. His work ethic is top tier and serve as a model for me as his commitment was unrivaled.



7:40 am

Malik Heard

I have a lot of respect for Kobe because he was one of the best players of all time and many people look up to him.This article read like a play by play form a commentator and it was fun and interesting to read.Kobe pushed himself for his team and for the win.I remember him saying before practice he would shoot 1000 shots.He put the work in and was able to really leave his mark in the NBA as one of the best basketball players in history.



7:40 am

Angelina Gonzalez

I do not know much about basketball, however, of course I have heard of Kobe who has not? I think this article was really cool to read, and honestly shocking. Eighty-one points is a big number, all to be done by one person especially. It explains why he is a well respected man in the basketball industry. It also conveys the message of always giving things your all, and the outcome will be worth it.



7:40 am

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