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Posted: Monday January 23, 2006 3:37PM; Updated: Monday January 23, 2006 3:37PM
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Was Kobe's 81-point night one of the best ever?
Read both sides, then let us know what you think.
Kobe Bryant hit seven 3-pointers in scoring 81 against Toronto.
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

By Chris Mannix

Impressive? Staggering? Epic? All words that aptly describe Kobe Bryant's 81-point performance Sunday night, but none of which do it justice. Historic? Now we're getting somewhere.

Officially, Bryant's outburst will be recorded as the second-most productive night in NBA history, but the reality of the situation is that after Sunday night Bryant has no contemporary.

Look at the facts.

In 1962, Wilt Chamberlain led his team to a lopsided 169-147 win over New York, a game Wilt himself called a "farce" after three quarters. In the Lakers win on Sunday, Bryant led his team back from an 18-point deficit. Chamberlain, a hulking 7-1 center, scored the bulk of his points from inside eight feet, "garbage hoops," according to Knicks center Darrall Imhoff, who bore the brunt of Chamberlain's assault that night. Bryant's scoring was acrobatic, his points coming from an array of slashing drives, difficult fallaways and long three-pointers.

And if you say Toronto's defense is soft? Take a look at the numbers put up in 1962, where the lowest-scoring team, Chicago, averaged 110.9 points a night.

You want to talk strategy? After the game in '62, Knicks rookie coach Eddie Donovan remarked that his lasting memory will be the late timeouts Philadelphia took to ensure Wilt reached his mark. At the Staples Center on Sunday, Lakers assistant Tex Winter did everything but physically restrain Phil Jackson from pulling Bryant from the game.

History is recorded in books and in there Chamberlain will come out on top, but in the hearts and minds of those who remember, Bryant's effort on Sunday was second to none.

Michael Jordan made a career of clutch playoff performances.
Manny Millan/SI

By Paul Forrester

It's tough to argue that Kobe Bryant's 81-point explosion against the Raptors isn't one of the best all-time performances in NBA history. No matter how one slices it, Kobe now stands as the second-highest scorer -i in a game -- in league history.

But for as much as points sell tickets and make headlines, Kobe's performance doesn't measure up to the game's best overall performances.

Consider the circumstances. The Lakers, at home, against the Raptors? Toronto, sporting the league's third-worst defense, would have trouble stopping a fire hydrant from scoring. (The hydrant may not shoot the same 49 percent the rest of the league is firing at the Raptors, but against a team that is 14-27, who knows.)

Consider the Lakers. For all of Phil Jackson's bluster about the triangle offense and the movement it fosters, Bryant takes 32 percent of the team's shots. That's one player taking almost a third of the team's shots. Hell, it would have been surprising if Kobe didn't score 81, which handing out a mere two assists in 42 minutes ensured.

Finally, consider the situation - a mid-season game between two teams fighting as much for draft position as for a quick exit out of the playoffs. That's a far cry from Magic Johnson's 42 points and 15 rebounds -- as a rookie -- in a Finals-clinching turn at center for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Michael Jordan's 63-point, six-assist and five-rebound show at Boston Garden in the first round of the playoffs.

Kobe's scoring clinic was one for the record books, to be sure, but it wasn't one for the ages.

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