VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 21
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Remembering Kobe’s 81-point night — It may seem hard to believe, but it has been 10 years since Kobe Bryant dropped 81 points on the Toronto Raptors. ESPN.com’s Arash Markazi has a great oral history on the game, we have an entire section of this website dedicated to Kobe’s career and the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, who covered the game that night, provides some great stories from the event, too:
Lawrence Tanter had already witnessed plenty from his courtside view as the Lakers’ public-address announcer.
He was there when the Lakers beat the hated Boston Celtics at the Forum for the 1987 championship. He saw Bryant throw a lob to Shaquille O’Neal in a back-from-the-dead rally in the 2000 playoffs. And he watched the Lakers somehow outlast Boston in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.
For Bryant’s 81-point outburst, though, Tanter remembered the pen-on-paper challenge for official scorer and longtime friend John Radcliffe.
“He was having a very difficult time finding room in the boxes on the scorebook to put all these points down that Kobe was scoring,” Tanter said. “It was a tedious effort on his behalf to do that because he’d never faced anything like that either. He just kept going, ‘Man, I’ve got to write smaller.'”
Suddenly, Luke Walton wasn’t the cool, collected guy with the quick wit and stentorian voice.
Long before he became the successful interim head coach of the Golden State Warriors, he was a reserve Lakers forward. A pass-first player his entire career, he asked for an assist from Bryant after the Toronto game.
“It was one of the few times I felt like a fan instead of his teammate. I had him sign a ticket for me after the game,” Walton said. “It was incredible. You look up at the scoreboard and see it at, like, 72 and then 78 and then all of a sudden it says 80, and it looks like the scoreboard is broken. I really didn’t even fully grasp it until I went home and watched it on tape that night.”
Bill Macdonald was the ebullient host of Lakers’ pregame shows for Fox Sports West.
He was asked to step up a bit that night and took the place of Lakers play-by-play announcer Joel Meyers, who was contractually allowed by the team to call three NFLplayoff games, including the NFC championship on radio that day in Seattle.
Macdonald had experience broadcasting other sports, but nothing like the Lakers. Certainly nothing like that night.
“I figured this was going to be the only Laker game I ever broadcast. It didn’t matter to me that it was a nondescript Sunday in January, a bad Laker team against a not-very-good Toronto team,” Macdonald said. “The first half was just awful. The Lakers were horrible. They needed every single one of Kobe’s points in the second half to come back.”
Phil Jackson, a share-the-ball proponent who won 11 championships in 20 seasons as an NBA coach, including five with the Lakers, was complimentary of Bryant’s effort at the time but noted, “it’s not exactly the way you want to have a team win a game.”
He chuckled this week when that quote was read back to him. He did it again when told Bryant’s score by quarter — 14, 12, 27 and 28. And again when reminded of Bryant’s shot total — almost one per minute.
“That’s exhausting,” Jackson said. “That’s pretty amazing. The kid is unbelievable.”
Toronto swingman Jalen Rose was the one who guarded Bryant the most. Maybe it’s a form of psychological self-defense, but rather than dwell on Bryant’s point total, he remembers Bryant’s demeanor.
“Kobe never bumped his chest. He never pointed in the crowd. He never trash-talked,” said Rose, now an ESPN analyst. “If Kobe had behaved like that, he wouldn’t have got to 51, let alone 81, because we would have wanted to physically harm him on the court.”
“The greatest thing about Kobe’s 81-point game was that actually wasn’t his best game to me. His best game was actually against a good team, the Dallas Mavs, when I think he had like 60 in three quarters.”
VIDEO: Relive Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game