Kobe Bryant's 81-point game: Where are they now?
Kobe Bryant 81-point game against Toronto Raptors
Kobe Bryant's 81-point game: Where are they now?
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By JOHN DORN
Kobe Bryant once scored 81 points in an NBA basketball game. By himself. That is sheer lunacy.
Yes, he took 46 of the team's 88 shots on Jan. 22, 2006, but 28 of them went through the basket. Twenty-eight. That's 60.9 percent shooting over a sample size that normally spans two to three games for a star. For comparison, when Wilt Chamberlain logged his 100-point game in 1962, he shot 36-of-63, or 57-percent shooting.
Bryant's outburst against the Toronto Raptors will likely live on as the greatest individual offensive performances in modern NBA history. And looking back at that night, nearly a decade later, some names from the contest stand out. Let's take a look back at some of the important faces from Kobe's memorable night.
Raptors head coachThe Raptors went 27-55 that season, but Mitchell took home coach of the year honors the following year, going 47-35 and earning Toronto a playoff appearance. He'd coach one more full season in Toronto before getting fired early in the 2008-09 campaign.
After spending three years as an assistant coach, Mitchell is head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves -- the franchise he spent 10 years playing for. He took over shortly prior to training camp after Flip Saunders' sudden passing from cancer.
Lakers head coachOne of the most decorated personalities in NBA history, Phil Jackson would win two more Finals championships in the final five years of his coaching career that immediately followed the 2005-06 campaign.
In 2014, Jackson began another basketball journey -- as president of the New York Knicks. Since taking the job roughly 20 months ago, the only players that remains on the Knicks' roster is Carmelo Anthony. New York infamously suffered a franchise-worst 17-65 season under Jackson's watch last year, but after an encouraging start to the 2015-16 campaign, things are beginning to look up for New York. It seems as if we'll need at least another year to fairly evaluate Jackson's reign as basketball executive.
Raptors forward - 17 points, six assists, five reboundsJalen Rose would play five more games with the Raptors before being traded to the Knicks. He'd play the next season with the Phoenix Suns before retiring at the age of 34.
He's since become one of the more prominent faces among the NBA media landscape, appearing on Grantland and ESPN podcasts as well as ESPN's studio coverage of NBA games.
Raptors forward - 18 points, eight reboundsOne of the best players in Raptors franchise history, Chris Bosh left Toronto for good in the summer of 2010, joining up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat. Of course, the trio won a pair of championships before James returned to the Cavs after the 2013-14 campaign.
Bosh remained with the Heat despite reportedly coming close to a deal with the Houston Rockets in the summer of 2014, and has taken on a much more prominent role, averaging 21.1 points on a career-high 16.9 shots last season.
Raptors guard - Four points, one reboundJose Calderon would spend parts of eight seasons with the Raptors before getting dealt in the trade that netted Toronto Rudy Gay in 2013.
After stops in Detroit and Dallas, Calderon now runs point for the Knicks -- he was acquired by Phil Jackson, opposing coach during Bryan't 81-point game, in 2014.
Lakers guard - Three points, two rebounds, one stealSasha Vujacic would remain a Laker for the next four years, earning a pair of championship rings as a role player off the bench. After finishing the 2010-11 season with the New Jersey Nets, he'd play a grand total of two NBA games from the 2012 through 2015 seasons.
This past summer, though, his former coach and current Knicks president Phil Jackson extended him a training camp offer -- and not only did he make the team, he started in place of injured Arron Afflalo for eight games to begin the year. His minutes have since kicked back, but he's holding down a similar role on this year's Knicks roster to those championship Lakers teams.
Lakers forward - Three rebounds, two blocksThe player who used to be a laughing stock among NBA fans of the late-2000s has become one of the hottest coaching candidates of 2015.
Stepping in for Steve Kerr as he recovers from back surgery, all Luke Walton has done is lead the Golden State Warriors to a league-best 39-4 start. There's still no timetable for Kerr's return, but one thing that's a near certainty: One NBA team will fork over a lot of cash to have Walton be their full-time coach next season.
Lakers forward - Eight points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, two blocksOne of the most uniquely talented players in NBA history, Lamar Odom would spend five more years with the Lakers team as a key cog on a pair of championship rosters. Over his Laker career, he averaged 13.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists, earning Sixth Man of the Year honors in his last year with the franchise.
He returned to Los Angeles in 2012 after a season-long disaster with the Dallas Mavericks, landing with the Clippers via trade. He enjoyed a nice bounce-back year in what would prove to be his final NBA season, playing in all 82 games, making two starts.
Odom's fall from NBA grace seemed to coincide with separating from his wife, Khloe Kardashian, in 2013. News that Kardashian had filed for divorce came roughly three months after Odom was arrested for DUI.
In an attempt at an NBA return, Odom signed with Laboral Kutxa in February 2014, a pro team in Spain, but appeared in only two games before injuring his back. Months later, Phil Jackson offered Odom a chance to earn a spot on the 2014-15 Knicks roster, but New York waived him in July after Jackson stated that Odom "was unable to uphold the standards to return as an NBA player."
After reportedly losing 35 pounds in a final attempt to return to the NBA, Odom was found unconscious at a Las Vegas brothel in October. Since turning 36 in early November, he has survived -- despite initial reports suggesting that he may not. Still, after suffering significant brain damage, Odom hadn't been made aware of why he was in the hospital, as of three weeks ago.
While a full recovery is unlikely, Odom is reportedly ready to be discharged from a Los Angeles hospital and enter long-term care.
Lakers guard - 81 points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals, one blockWhere is Kobe Bryant now? Physically, the same place he was nearly 10 years ago. But in every other way? Not even close.
When Kobe dropped 81 points on the Raptors in 2006, he was still less than two years removed from taking the reigns of the Lakers franchise -- without Shaquille O'Neal, who was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004. He was a man on a mission, and that mission was to prove that he was the alpha dog. In his 10th NBA season, at 27 and a three-time NBA champion, Bryant hadn't proven that he can win on his own -- and thus, in his mind, hadn't proven anything.
The 81-point outburst seemed like equal parts determination to win and determination to spite the Lakers front office. The 2005-06 season was Phil Jackson's first year back after a year-long sabbatical, during which the Lakers went 34-48 under Rudy Tomjonovich and Frank Hamblen. In 2006, Jackson was back, but with a largely mediocre Lakers roster.
After back-to-back first round playoff exits in 2006 and 2007, relations between Bryant and the Lakers had seemingly reached the point of no return. Speaking with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith live on air, Bryant announced he wanted to be traded, claiming that the front office was dishonest with him during his free agency in 2004.
As it happened, no deal was ever consummated. Kobe remained a Laker, and less than a year after those trade requests were made public, one of the biggest moves in the history of the franchise went down: Pau Gasol was sent to Los Angeles to accompany Bryant in pursuit of a title sans Shaq.
Fast forward almost seven years later, where we stand today. Bryant, two solo championships in hand at 37 years old for a total of five rings, is finally content.
A mere shell of the player he was in his prime after missing most of the last two years with various injuries, this Kobe Bryant, on the court, resembles nothing near the player seen in highlight footage from Jan. 22, 2006. Shooting 34.5 percent from the floor, 25 percent from three and scoring 16.3 points on 16.3 shots per game, Kobe Bryant isn't that good.
But the biggest difference between now and then? He's completely fine with it.
Since announcing that he'll retire after this season, Kobe has finally found peace with his career. The non-stop, burning passion to accept nothing other than perfection is dead -- and without it, he's finally at ease with the tremendous success he's achieved over 20 years as a pro.
As far as endings go, Kobe's coming on a team that may not win 20 games isn't fitting. But perhaps it took this level of failure for him to realize the magnitude of his successes.