On this day 10 years ago, Kobe Bryant came the closest to reaching his career-high of 81 points. In a game against the Portland Trail Blazers, he scored 65 points to lead the Lakers to an 116-111 win.
He finished the game on 23-of-39 shooting, including 11-of-12 from the free-throw line and eight made three-pointers. There was not anyone for Portland who could keep him from scoring the ball that night.
Most of Bryant’s damage came in the fourth quarter when he scored 24 of the Lakers’ 30 points, including the final 15 points. He was also able to haul in seven rebounds and dish out three assists.
The Lakers got a little help from anyone not named Bryant as no other player finished with more than 15 points. They were also able to withstand a strong effort by Blazers forward Zach Randolph, who finished with 31 points.
Games like this proved Bryant’s worth to an otherwise underwhelming roster. Without him, the Lakers would have sunk to the bottom of the league in terms of wins and lure. He was able to carry the team on his back many times, and on this night it was evident that he was going to do everything in his power to come away with a victory.
The Lakers headed into the game riding a seven-game losing streak and were fighting for their playoffs lives. The 2006-07 NBA season was a tough one for the Lakers as they struggled without another superstar to help Bryant take the Lakers deep into the postseason. They eventually ended up making the playoffs that season as the seventh seed but were eventually eliminated by the Phoenix Suns in five games.
Bryant was in his prime during this time and was the reigning scoring champion. He was becoming increasingly frustrated at the fact that the Lakers organization was not helping him by surrounding him with sufficient talent. That prompted Bryant to infamously demand that he be traded to a contending team, but after meeting with Dr. Jerry Buss, he decided that Los Angeles was the best place for him to be a champion and as we know the rest is history.