Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant will go down in history as one of the greatest players to have ever played the sport. This makes it such a difficult task to narrow down his best performances into just five different games. That was the exact task that we endeavored today, and despite a number of notable omissions, we feel that we’ve come up with a pretty solid list here.
Without further adieu, here are the Top 5 most memorable games in the decorated career of the late, great Kobe Bryant.
5. February 2, 2009: MSG domination
The New York Knicks’ Madison Square Garden is without a doubt, one of, if not the greatest sports arena in the world today. It may not be the biggest or the grandest, but the history it possesses is second to none.
On February 2, 2009, Kobe Bryant made his own history in MSG. On that fateful evening, Kobe dropped 61 points against the Knicks on 19-of-31 from the floor and a pristine 20-of-20 from the line. To date, that scoring record still stands as the most points ever scored by an opposing player in Madison Square Garden. On March 23, 2019, another tremendous scorer in James Harden tied Bryant’s record of 61 points. Harden came close, but his effort was not enough to overthrow Kobe.
4. May 19, 2001: Playoffs Kobe
Bryant had more than a few outstanding playoff performances throughout his career. After all, he is a five-time NBA champ.
As for his most memorable postseason performance, however, it would arguably be his 45-point effort against no less than the San Antonio Spurs in the 2001 Western Conference Finals. Bryant put on a display that evening, as he set the tone for the rest of the series. The Lakers went on to sweep the Spurs in the WCF — certainly not an easy feat — as they booked a place for themselves in the Finals against Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers.
That postseason run was undeniably L.A.’s most dominant run during the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal era, as they lost all but one game that postseason en route to their second of three straight championships.
3. April 13, 2016: The last dance
After 20 seasons in the league, Kobe played his final game in the NBA on April 13, 2016. He made sure it was going to be a night to remember.
Bryant ended the evening with 60 points, as he led the Lakers to a 101-96 win against the Utah Jazz. L.A. were already out of playoff contention at that point, and in truth, it was a none-bearing game. Nevertheless, Bryant ended out his career in the only way he knew how: by putting on a show for the ages. Ask anyone who was in attendance that evening, and they’ll tell you it was an experience that they’ll never forget.
2. December 20, 2005: 62 in three
On December of 2005, Kobe scored 62 points against the Dallas Mavericks. The amazing part here is that he did this in just three quarters. Unfortunately, then-Lakers head coach Phil Jackson opted to let Kobe sit out the whole fourth quarter. The game was already out of hand, and he decided to give his superstar the rest of the night off.
To this very day, people are still asking, what if? Bryant was on an absolute tear that evening, going 18-of-31 from the floor, and was definitely on pace to set some sort of scoring record that evening. There’s no way to tell how much more Bryant would have scored if he played in the fourth, but fortunately, we were all treated to an even more mind-boggling display by Kobe a few weeks later.
1. January 22, 2006: 81 points
Was there any doubt that this game was going to be on top of the list? Just barely a month after the 62-point gem against the Mavs, Bryant did the unthinkable. He scored a career-best 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, who literally could not do anything to stop Kobe and his scoring barrage that evening. He put the ball in the basket at will, and in the process, logged the second-most points scored in any NBA game — second only to the great Wilt Chamberlain who memorably dropped 100 points back in 1962.
At halftime, Bryant had already amassed 26 points, and it looked like he was going to have a big night. Nobody could have imagined it would be that big, though. Thankfully, the Raptors were able to keep the game competitive for the most part. Toronto actually had an 18-point lead at one point, but Kobe’s 55 points in the final two quarters proved to be too much for the hapless Raptors. Most impressively perhaps is how Bryant went 28-of-46 from the floor that evening, which is good for a tantalizing 60.4 shooting clip.