Kobe Bryant spent much of his 1,346-game NBA career locked into what athletes call “the zone.” Never was that more true than on Jan. 22, 2006, when the Los Angeles Lakers legend scored 81 points in one game against the Toronto Raptors.
Thanks to YouTube, we can all relive that incredible performance today, when Bryant fans need a few minutes of good memories.
Due to the magic of editing, one only needs three minutes to cover those 48 minutes of brilliance, which resulted in the second-highest point total ever scored by an individual in a National Basketball Association game. Buckets-wise, Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point performance way back on March 2, 1962 is the only solo effort better than Bryant’s night 44 years later.
Watch Kobe score every single one of those incredible 81 points via the video above. The Lakers would go on to defeat the Raptors 122-104.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among five people killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. Kobe was 41. Gianna, who was called Gigi, was 13.
Kobe and his daughter were on their way to a basketball practice for Gianna at Bryant’s Mamba Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks.
According to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter with five people on board crashed in the foggy hills west of the San Fernando Valley and burst into flames about 10 a.m. PT. The fire was contained to the Calabasas crash site, which was not near any homes or major roadways, officials said.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board have launched an investigation into the cause of the crash.
Bryant was known for using helicopters to travel throughout Los Angeles during his 20-year career with the Lakers, during which he won five NBA championships. Drafted out of high school by the Lakers in 1996, Bryant embarked on a career that saw him become an 18-time All-Star, the 2007-08 league MVP, and score 33,643 points.
His death comes less than 24 hours after fellow NBA star and Lakers forward LeBron James passed Bryant for third on the all-time NBA scorers list. James wore custom shoes with Bryant’s jersey numbers, 8 and 24, during Saturday’s game to honor him.
Both of Bryant’s jersey numbers were retired by the Lakers in 2017, two months before he won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short alongside famed Disney animator Glen Keane. The short, titled “Dear Basketball,” depicted moments from Bryant’s childhood and career as he narrated his Players Tribune column announcing his retirement from basketball in 2016.
12 Best Slams in NBA All-Star Dunk Contest History, from Dr. J to MJ (Videos)
- Julius Erving (1976) — Dr. J arguably did more to popularize the slam dunk than any other basketball player, and it all started with the move that won the 1976 dunk contest for the ABA. Though free-throw line dunks are more common now with more athletic players, you can’t deny the artistry that comes with being the first.
- Anthony “Spud” Webb (1986) — Standing only 5 feet 7 inches and going up against defending champion Dominique Wilkins, Webb pulled out an array of dazzling dunks before topping it off with a bounce, catch and backhanded dunk to become the shortest man ever to claim the title.
- Michael Jordan (1987) — Voted to his third straight All-Star Game, it can be said that MJ broke out as a superstar after showcasing his athletic ability and clinching his first slam dunk title. His third dunk, a windmill during which he leaned into the air and seemed to fly, became one of his lasting images.
- Michael Jordan (1988) — Having already won the contest the previous year, the man called by many as the greatest player to ever live set out to top himself. Honoring the great Dr. J, Jordan influenced a generation of young players by bringing the free throw line dunk back into the mainstream. He also became the first player to ever win back-to-back dunk titles.
- Dominique Wilkins (1990) — A nine-time NBA All-Star, Wilkins was one of the biggest stars of the 1980s and early ’90s, especially known for his dunking abilities. A rare mixture of agility and power, Wilkins showcased both with this backboard-rattling power windmill move.
- Vince Carter (2000) — The dunk contest hit a bit of a skid in the ’90s, but Carter brought it back with a vengeance in his All-Star debut, wowing the crowd with an array of athletic moves (including a 360 windmill) before bringing everybody to their feet with a move they likely hadn’t seen before.
- Jason Richardson (2003) — There’s so much going on in this dunk that it defies explanation. One of the best dunkers of the 2000s, Richardson manages to combine the bounce, catch, between the legs and behind the back for the finishing dunk of the 2003 contest. Any one of these moves makes a good dunk, but all together, they make one of the best slams in the history of the contest. Richardson would win again in 2004, becoming the first player to do so since Michael Jordan.
- Jason Richardson (2004) — Reigning champ Richardson pulled off a repeat by capping a dazzling display of athleticism with an off-the-backboard, between-the-legs dunk that drew immediate perfect scores from the judges.
- Nate Robinson (2006) — At 5 feet 9 inches, Robinson is one of the shortest players to win the dunk contest, and he is the only one to ever win it three times. His first win is undoubtedly his best, in which the diminutive (by NBA standards) point guard dunked OVER former champion Spud Webb with a one-handed catch and dunk.
- Dwight Howard (2008) — So what if it’s not technically a dunk. You know what? We’re counting this! Dwight Howard upped the showmanship factor by donning the iconic Superman cape, catching the ball in mid-flight, then THROWING the ball into the basket. Kobe Bryant’s face says it all.
- Zach LaVine (2015) — When you call your finale move the Space Jam Dunk, you better deliver something truly special. LaVine gave the audience just that with a bounce, catch, between-the-legs and behind-the-back finisher that clinched the 2015 contest. The TuneSquad jersey that LaVine sports just makes the moment extra special.
- Aaron Gordon (2016) — This Orlando Magic forward matched up against Zach LaVine in 2015 for one of the most electric showdowns in dunk contest history. For the second tie-breaker, Gordon brought out the team mascot, Stuff the Magic Dragon, to bring the contest to new heights (literally).
These are the dunks that defined the best part of the All-Star Weekend
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