Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant recorded a ton of impressive performances with the Los Angeles Lakers, but his 81-point effort against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006 will go down as one of the greatest offensive shows in league history.


Phil Jackson was back as the Lakers' head coach for a second stint. Though they had their differences in the past, Bryant endorsed the move, and the two men went on to enjoy a productive season.

The setting

It was Jan. 22, and the Lakers were hosting the Raptors inside Staples Center. Los Angeles was on its way to a spot in the postseason, and Kobe was enjoying what may have been the best statistical season of his career.

Between the lines

The Lakers got off to a shaky start against the Raptors. Kobe played well through the first two frames, though, extending his streak of free throws made to 62 in the second quarter. He finally missed one, however, and Los Angeles went on to trail by 14 points at halftime.

Kobe Bryant is heating up

Kobe came alive in the second half, hitting all sorts of challenging shots. Baseline layups over multiple defenders and pull-up jumpers with hands in his face were no issue for the Lower Merion product. Midway through the third, he had 38 points. His teammates were looking for him on the court, hoping to feed the hot hand.

Bryant came away with a steal near the end of the third that swung the game's momentum all the way in the Lakers' favor. With the score knotted at 85, Kobe poked the ball away, recovered it, then hustled down the court for a transition dunk. The crowd erupted in cheer as he let out a roar.

Kobe had 14 points in the first quarter, 12 in the second and 27 in the third.

As he stood at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, the crowd inside Staples Center started showering Bryant with “MVP” chants. He was sitting on 53 points.

Kobe was up to 61 points with just over six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Prior to this game, his career high was 62 points (vs. Dallas). A series of three free throws sent him past that mark, but he wasn't finished there.

Bryant proceeded to knock down several 3-pointers as the final frame went on, passing the 70-point mark with just over four minutes to play. The Lakers were leading, 111-96, but Kobe remained in the game to continue his record-setting performance.

Remarkably, Kobe went on to pass Elgin Baylor's franchise-best mark of 71 points. The Raptors were trying to stop him, often sending double-teams at him. Their tactics were less than effective, though, as Bryant continued to rack up points. In the end, Los Angeles claimed a 122-104 come-from-behind victory.

By the numbers

Kobe logged just under 42 minutes, scoring an incredible 81 points on 28-of-46 shooting from the field, 7-of-13 from beyond the arc and 18-20 from the free-throw line. He added six rebounds, two assists, three steals and one block. His 81 points were the second-highest total in NBA history at that time, behind only the great Wilt Chamberlain (100 in 1962). Interestingly, Bryant accounted for 66 percent of the Lakers' 122 points, while Chamberlain — playing in an era without a 3-point line — accounted for 59 percent of his team's points in his 100-point effort.

“It's really a testament to the power of imagination, honestly,” Kobe Bryant told, referring to his 81-point game. “There's a lot of players who come up now who don't think 80 points is possible. You think 50, and if you're really hot — 60. I never had that limit. Ever. I never, ever thought that way. I always thought 80 was possible. I thought 90 was possible. I thought 100 was possible. Always. I think that game is a testament to what happens when you put no ceiling to what you're capable of doing.”

Kobe may not have been able to reach that mythical 100-point mark, but his performance in this game will go down as one of the greatest performances in NBA history. It's also a night Jalen Rose will never forget, and Kobe won't ever let him forget it:

Salute to Kobe Bryant for this unforgettable performance.