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and no one is there except for Kobe, who has been there since 6 a.m. Kobe wasn't just a great offensive player; he was a great defensive player that season.
He was scoring 40 and guarding guys like Tracy Mc Grady, Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas and Paul Pierce every night.
Mitch Kupchak, Lakers general manager, 1994-present: Kobe was more than willing to have Phil back on board, and he worked incredibly hard preparing for that season.
We had traded Shaquille the previous year, and Kobe had a chance to spread his wings and really just find out in his mind, and our minds, too, where historically he was going to end up.
The number is as synonymous with Kobe Bryant's career as 8 or 24. I think that game is a testament to what happens when you put no ceiling to what you're capable of doing."It's with that ambitious mindset that Bryant put on one of the most impressive individual displays in NBA history.
Bryant's two decades in the NBA have been highlighted by five championships, seven Finals appearances, 15 postseason trips and too many individual awards and honors to mention. This is the story of the game in which Bryant made 81 possible, as seen through the eyes of those who were a part of it.
But for many, a regular-season game against the Toronto Raptors 10 years ago remains the high-water mark for one of the game's greatest players. 22, 2006, Bryant scored 81 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' 122-104 victory over the Raptors. The Lakers made the playoffs in each of Bryant's first eight seasons.
Bryant played only 33 minutes that night and sat out the entire fourth quarter of the Lakers' blowout win over the eventual Western Conference champions.
We weren't thinking about 81; we were thinking about that record at the time. I like to bring up 62 because it's like the band no one appreciates. That season was a rare thing where my physical abilities matched up with the mental part of the game for me.
Josh Rupprecht, Lakers manager of public relations, 2003-13; current UCLA associate athletic director, communications: That game could have been the 81-point game if he had played the fourth quarter. Jalen Rose, Raptors forward, 2003-06; current ESPN analyst: Kobe Bryant was already erupting that year in the league. A better game than the 81-point game -- that's right, because we weren't a playoff team; we weren't competitive -- was to put up 62 points in three quarters versus the Dallas Mavs, a team that went to the NBA Finals. Brian Cook, Lakers forward, 2003-07: He was on a tear during that time. Mychal Thompson, Lakers radio analyst, 2003-present: It was a team that really wasn't going anywhere that year, and Kobe made it interesting to come to the arena every night.
" And Kobe said, "Yeah." From that point on, there really weren't any issues.
Jeanie Buss, Lakers executive vice president of business operations, 1999-2013; current Lakers president: You have to remember -- that season for me was all about Phil coming back.