‘Wherever He Was, He Was Going up and the Ball Was Going In’
The story of the greatest goal in World Cup history.
During his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant left a lasting impression on everyone. Bryant had some spectacular moments on the court on route to becoming one of the most renowned sportsmen in sports history, winning five championships and becoming the league MVP in 2007-08.
However, his most famous performance was on Jan. 22, 2006, in a game against the Toronto Raptors.
Bryant scored a career-high 81 points on that night.
Everyone who attended the game or watched it on TV was enthralled by what he was doing. That night, the Mamba couldn’t miss, and he put up a stat line to remember.
Another NBA great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was among many who were astounded by his performance. In fact, Abdul-Jabbar subsequently likened Bryant’s performance in that game to that of Stephen Curry, a contemporary NBA great.
In 2006, Kobe Bryant scored 81 points for the Lakers.
Bryant was in his second season without Shaquille O’Neal in 2005-06, and he was showing to everyone that he didn’t need the big man to be successful.
Bryant topped the league in scoring that season, averaging 35.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. But it was that one night in January when he had his best performance of the year.
The Lakers were 21-19 entering the game, while the Toronto Raptors were one of the poorest teams in the league at the time, with a 14-26 record and a final record of 27-55.
However, LA failed to get out of the gate that night, as the Raptors took a 36-29 lead. Bryant had 14 points in the quarter.
Despite Bryant’s 26 points, Toronto proceeded to pull away in the second quarter, leading 63-49 at halftime.
The following two quarters, on the other hand, were all Kobe.
Bryant scored 27 points in the third quarter on 11-of-15 shooting to help the Lakers build a 91-85 lead. He finished the night with 28 more points in the fourth quarter, for a total of 55 in the second half and 81 for the game.
Bryant added six rebounds and three steals to his 81 points as the Lakers triumphed 122-104.
It was a spectacular performance, and it still holds the record for the second-most points scored by a player in NBA history. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the league’s all-time leading scorer, was on the bench to see the event.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar likened it to Stephen Curry’s performance.
Kobe Bryant with Stephen Curry (L-R). | Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images; Lucy Nicholson/AFP via Getty Images
Bryant scored 81 points when Abdul-Jabbar was a Lakers assistant at the time. Kareem couldn’t believe what he was seeing, despite having some incredible performances himself (he once had 55 points, 29 rebounds, and 11 assists).
“I couldn’t get it out of my head. According to USA Today, he stated in 2020, “He would pull up just a few of steps beyond the half-court line.”
After that, Abdul-Jabbar had an intriguing statement in which he complimented both Bryant and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
“Until Stephen Curry came up, I had never seen anybody that hot with that type of range,” the NBA great remarked. “Kobe was incredible. He was going up and the ball was going in from wherever he was. That night, the long-range bombs he put in were incredible.”
No, Curry has never matched Bryant’s performance. He has a career high of 62 points. However, Abdul-remark Jabbar’s is noteworthy since the Lakers icon was never regarded as a great 3-point shooter.
He was, though, that night.
Kobe Bryant’s performance resembled Stephen Curry’s today.
For the Lakers, Kobe Bryant was never a high-volume 3-point shooter. During his career, he averaged 4.1 long-range attempts per game, including 6.5 per game during the 2005-06 season. Bryant’s career field goal percentage from outside the arc was just 21.2 percent.
Curry, on the other hand, has an average of 8.6 long-range attempts each season, with four of the past six seasons averaging 10.0 or more, including 12.7 in 2020-21. He’s attempted almost half of his career field goals from beyond the arc.
While those statistics aren’t even close to Bryant’s, the five-time NBA champion took 13 long-range shots and made 53.8 percent of them during his 81-point outburst. Curry’s lifetime 3-point shooting percentage is 43.3 percent, so this rate is much better.
Curry has an uncanny ability to throw up shots from everywhere and have them go in; he seems to have unlimited range. Bryant, on the other hand, shot the majority of his shots from mid-range or close to the basket during his career (78.8 percent of his career field-goal attempts were 2-pointers).
Mamba, on the other hand, had Curry’s limitless range on that night in January 2006.
And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was in the first row.
Basketball Reference provided the statistics.
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