Just barely a month after Kobe Bryant torched the Dallas Mavericks for 62 points in three quarters, the Lakers guard put up the second greatest individual performance in NBA history.
Kobe scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points against New York on Mar. 2, 1962; a feat that has raised some discussion on where his performance ranks in NBA history. No matter where sports analysts place his performance, Kobe’s achievement will stand as a classic moment in sports, just as we remember Wilt’s.
Why is Kobe’s achievement highly applauded?
Chamberlain scored his 100 points nearly 44 years ago. Most sports fans today weren’t even born at the time.
That means we got to witness our own modern-day complete dominance, something many predicted would never occur under the current NBA system; not only because the number of teams has increased since then, but the level of competition has intensified as well.
Many even argue that Kobe’s performance is better because he played only 42 minutes to Wilt’s 48, didn’t benefit from intentional fouls to stop the clock and most of his points came as his team was down, while Wilt’s Warriors were ahead during most of his record-breaking performance.
The scores (169-147 for Wilt; 122-104 for Kobe) also prove that the pace of the game was much faster in Wilt’s era, which resulted in more scoring opportunities. However, since there is no footage of Wilt’s performance, it is difficult to accurately compare performances, so that stop here.
Kobe’s feat comes at a time when he is still working hard to repair a once-beloved reputation as the poster child of the NBA.
Cynics point to Kobe’s two assists as proof that he is selfish. But Kobe scored most of his points in the second half to bring his team back from an 18-point deficit early in the third quarter. That should hardly be termed as being selfish. It rather shows a player’s determination to will his team to victory.
Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest NBA player, needed an overtime game to hit his career-high 69 points.
No matter how you feel about Kobe, it is undeniable that Sunday’s performance will go down as one of the most breathtaking moments in sports history, and would no doubt help Kobe take some giant steps to regaining his former luster.
Wandoo Makurdi is a mass media studies student at Florida State University from Lagos, Nigeria. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org