Bryant Is Capable of 19 More
Tuesday, January 24, 2006; 12:42 PM
Kobe Bryant has to go for it. He has to shoot for 100.
No matter how remarkable and thrilling it was to see Bryant score 81 points against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday in Los Angeles -- where he juked Toronto's Morris Peterson with a crossover dribble then drilled a three-pointer over his head; got a steal and stumbled and bumbled toward the hoop before regaining his balance and dunking with two hands; and drove into the lane; split multiple defenders and hit a reverse layup while looking over his shoulder with his back facing the basket -- Wilt Chamberlain's 100 points scored almost 44 years ago remains the NBA's gold standard.
Eighty-one points is still unconscionable, but we like nice round numbers. We like a couple of zeros.
After Bryant's historic performance against the Raptors -- a team that lost to a squad from Israel in the preseason and started the season 0-7 -- Bryant was asked about reaching the unreachable: 100 points.
"I guess it's possible," Bryant said. "I don't know, bro. It's unthinkable."
Not really. After all, Bryant did just come within 19 points of the magic number.
It's amazing to think that before Sunday, San Antonio's David Robinson was the only player since 1978 to score at least 70 points in game. Bryant has almost reached 70 twice this season. On Dec. 20, Bryant scored 62 points in just three quarters of work against the Dallas Mavericks. At the time, Bryant going for 80 seemed like an impossible feat -- until he bested his previous career-high by 19 more points against Toronto.
Bryant needs just 19 points more to reach Wilt.
Right now, Bryant is the only player in the NBA capable of reaching triple-digits. Not Allen Iverson, the league's most prolific pint-sized scorer who has never scored more than 60 points in game. Not Tracy McGrady, who once torched the Washington Wizards for 62 points in a game. And not LeBron James, who is capable of 50-point outbursts in times of desperation but would rather set up his teammates than square up for pull-up jumpers with four defenders crowding him.
Bryant is arguably the best player in game, the premier scoring machine and a one-man show that probably couldn't be duplicated on a video game. But what separates Bryant from most players in the league is not only his ruthless approach, relentless aggression and killer instinct: He also has the mental makeup to believe that he can do no wrong on the court. He has never met a shot that he didn't like and attacks the basket like a cold-blooded assassin. He'll attempt a 30-foot jumper with plenty of time on the clock just to see if he's hot. For the sake of a challenge, he'll avoid hitting a wide-open Chris Mihm or Kwame Brown down low in the post to fire a fallaway 26-foot jumper with two defenders all over him. "He feels if he can score, there is no one that can stop him. He feels there is no two guys that can stop him," Lakers guard Smush Parker said.
As Lakers consultant and grandfather of the triangle offense Tex Winter said recently, "Kobe's impulsive."
This is the same Bryant who once said he trusted himself more than his teammates -- when he was playing with Shaquille O'Neal in his prime. His current supporting cast has been mostly relegated to being the guys who play defense (c'mon, one man cannot do that alone), set picks for him, give him the ball when he demands it and get out of the way and enjoy the show.