On this date, in 2006, Kobe Bryant erupted for a Lakers' franchise record of 81 points in an 18-point comeback win over the Toronto Raptors at the Staples Center.
Along with his career-high figures, he also recorded six rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists. He dropped his points tally on an efficient 60.9% from the field (28-of-46), 53.8% from beyond the 3-point line (7-of-13), while knocking down 18 of his 20 attempts from the charity stripe.
In the previous couple of seasons, quite a few of Kobe's 30+ scoring nights would come in a losing cause but not on this day. This barrage was neither in a losing cause nor was it in a blowout win for the Lakers.
In fact, in the third quarter, the Lakers actually trailed by as many as 18 points and that's when the Black Mamba decided to take over. He scored 55 points in the second half, 27 of which came in the third period, helping the young Lakers lead by 2 points before the final quarter began.
He eventually checked out of the game with 43.4 seconds left to roaring chants of "MVP, MVP!".
"I was just determined. I was just locked in, tuned into what was going on out there," Bryant said. "These points tonight mattered. We needed them. The points I put in the basket were instrumental. It means a lot more."
Other than the obvious points milestone that Bryant reached in this game, the night was special for another reason as well. Not only was it his late grandfather's birthday but it was also the first and only NBA game of his career that his grandmother had seen him play live.
Bryant finished the season with an average of 35.4 points (a career-high) at 45.0% shooting, leading the Lakers to a 45-37 record and a first-round appearance in the 2006 Playoffs. At the end of his career, this 81-point game was one of his 25 games where he finished with a points tally of 50 or more.