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Kobe Bryant: Is Kobe's 81-Point Game as Important as Wilt's 100?

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Kobe Bryant: Is Kobe's 81-Point Game as Important as Wilt's 100?
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

On March 2, 1962, Philadelphia Warriors center Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in an NBA contest, but it's hard to comprehend the magnitude of the event because there is no video evidence that it exists.

Sure, there are a few grainy still shots and various news clippings concerning Wilt's still unequaled scoring record, but for the most part, it will always be a matter of imagination since you probably can't find five people who actually witnessed it.

On January 22, 2006, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant came as close to breaking Chamberlain's almost 50-year-old record as any other player ever has, and in contrast to Chamberlain, Kobe's phenomenal performance was played out on a global stage.

Bryant scored 81 points while shooting 28-for-46 from the field, and the total included 55 points in the second half. Not to mention that Bryant did all this in 42 minutes of court time.

More importantly, the world was able to view Bryant's accomplishment because the game was televised, and in case you missed it, ESPN inserted a segment into their rotation the next day which chronicled each of Bryant's 81 points over a period of 24 hours.

Bryant still fell 19 points short of Wilt's all-time record, but among my peers, Bryant's 81-point game is the most prolific scoring game they have ever seen. And it may be just as impressive as Chamberlain's considering the manner in which Bryant got his points.

Bryant's 60 percent shooting percentage was better than Wilt's 57 percent in 1962, in spite of a large number of Bryant's points coming from the perimeter.

Bryant shot 7-for-13 from three-point range and scored on a variety of 12 to 15-foot jumpers, while most of Wilt's points came right around the rim.

Chamberlain also benefited from being the biggest and most athletic player on the court, and the 47 percent career free-throw shooter managed to shoot nearly 88 percent from the line during his historic game.

Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said Bryant's game was more impressive than Wilt's because of Bryant's offensive diversity, and former Lakers coach Phil Jackson called it the greatest performance he had ever seen.

Wilt's record of 100 points may never be broken, but Bryant's game was just as important because it was an instance of imagination realized.

As a young basketball fan I was blown away by the enormity of Wilt's accomplishment, and even with complete stats from the contest, it was hard to imagine how it could be done.

Bryant's 81-point game provided clarity on the subject, and just like Wilt, there is a good chance that Bryant's achievement will serve as the standard for generations to come.

The advent of zone defenses in the NBA has made it more difficult for exceptional scorers to get open looks at the basket, and although there may be players with the ability to score 80 points, none of the game's current top scorers have yet to breach the 60-point mark.

The fact that Bryant's feat is not a record is constantly pointed to by his numerous detractors, but those same critics must concede that 81 points is an incredible plateau in a game that thrives off numbers.

Wilt's 100 points will continue to mesmerize NBA fans who will never be able to visually experience the depths of his achievement, but Bryant's achievement is just as mesmerizing, and you can re-live it anytime you want on YouTube.

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