Kobe Bryant once called Michael Jordan the ideal candidate to present him into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The late, great Los Angeles Lakers legend will get his wish.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced its list of presenters for the 2020 class on Thursday, with Jordan named to present Bryant in a fitting posthumous tribute.

The induction ceremony, delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, will take place on May 15 in Uncasville, Connecticut. Bryant was selected for induction as a first-year eligible in November, 10 months after he and his daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash in California.

Bryant called Jordan among his biggest influences during his 20-year playing career in which he compiled the fourth-highest points total in NBA history and led the Lakers to five championships, one less than his idol won with the Chicago Bulls. When asked by Complex magazine in a 2017 interview who he would want to enshrine him into the Hall of Fame, the 18-time All-Star quickly mentioned both Jordan and his former Lakers coach, Phil Jackson.

Though their playing careers only overlapped by four years, Jordan and Bryant developed a lasting friendship that was evident when Jordan gave an emotional speech during Bryant's memorial service in February 2020.

Jordan will also be presenting Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey during next month's ceremonies, while several other of his Hall of Fame contemporaries will be part of the festivities.

Some of the other notable presenters include David Robinson, who will induct former San Antonio Spurs team-mate Tim Duncan. Isiah Thomas will present Kevin Garnett, while Hakeem Olajuwon will be the co-presenter for his former Houston Rockets coach, Rudy Tomjanovich, along with Rockets great Calvin Murphy.

The full class of 2020 inductees consists of Bryant, Mulkey, Duncan, Garnett, Tomjanovich, long-time FIBA executive Patrick Baumann, former WNBA star Tamika Catchings, former Division II national champion coach Barbara Stevens and ex-college coach Eddie Sutton.

Milwaukee Bucks star and two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo said he is not Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant after making history with a third consecutive triple-double.

Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to their fourth consecutive victory on Monday, Milwaukee topping the lowly Washington Wizards 133-122.

He had 31 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a dominant display on the road in Washington to become the first Bucks player with three successive triple-doubles.

Antetokounmpo also became the first reigning MVP with three consecutive 20-point triple-doubles since Hall of Famer Michael Jordan in 1988-89, per Stats Perform.

"I don't do that, I'm not Kobe," Antetokounmpo told reporters after being asked when he knew to take control of a game during the closing stages – the Bucks saw a 26-point lead cut to seven in the final minutes before Antetokounmpo scored the next four points to stop the rallying Wizards.

"I just try to be a basketball player. I don't look at the clock and say, 'Oh now we are up two or we're down two, let me take over the game.'

"No, I just make the right decision at the right moment. Sometimes it's going to be score, sometimes it's going to be pass."

Since 1983, only three players have had more games with 31 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists – Russell Westbrook (five), Larry Bird (five) and Luka Doncic (four).

Antetokounmpo (seven) also surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) with the most 30-point triple-doubles in franchise history.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer added: "He's been in a good place mentally.

"The way he's playing and creating for others and creating for himself and getting to the free throw line, he's in a good place. He's playing great basketball."

“Thank you, God for allowing me to enjoy Kobe Bryant for 20 years as a great basketball player, athlete, husband, father, philanthropist, mentor and teacher of the game to many men and women of all ages, best friend of Rob Pelinka, and brother to Jeanie Buss. He will always by my Lakers brother for life. Laker Nation we will always remember the brilliance, the legend, the Mamba mentality of #8/#24.”

Those were the words posted on Facebook on Tuesday by Los Angeles Laker legend Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson on the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant and several others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday, January 26, 2020.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was sitting on my bed having a chat with my wife when the ‘breaking news’ alert popped up on my phone. Suddenly social media came alive. My wife’s alerts began to go crazy. I turned to Google and there it was, the beginning of a nightmare for fans of the Lakers and basketball fans across the world.

It was Magic, who reminded me that a year had passed; a year when the tears spilt uncontrollably from my eyes and the hurt of my sister’s passing a month earlier and Kobe’s tragic death became too much to bear.

It was Magic who brought me to basketball and then the Lakers.

Back then, in the late 70s, there was no cable but we had sports magazines and newspapers and in them, I developed a passing interest in college basketball and to a certain Earvin Johnson, who had just won the 1978 NCAA title for Michigan State University.

“The Magic Show,” said the headline of the Sports Illustrated magazine. The story inside made me a fan of Magic.

It was the start of what I came to see as the enduring rivalry between Magic and Celtic great Larry Bird, who representing Indiana State had gone up against Johnson in that historic NCAA final.

“While Earvin directed a balanced offence, and the defence deterred Larry Bird, Michigan State won the NCAAs. Magic, who scored 24 points in that final, declared for the NBA draft and became a Laker as the number one pick, the following year.

Bird was the sixth pick for the Celtics, the year before.

With Magic at the Lakers and Bird at the hated Celtics, the 1980s was a dream for me, the newly minted basketball fan of the NBA. Back then, the NBA wasn’t a big deal for my schoolmates, who were more interested in English League football and the FIFA World Cup.

The Lakers won five championships in the 1980s, the last of them coming in 1988 when they squeezed by the Detroit Pistons 4-3. In 1989, the Bad Boys of Detroit thrashed the Lakers 4-0 to win the title that year. They were then humbled 4-1 by the Bulls in 1991 in what marked the beginning of the Jordan era.

I drifted away from the NBA then, tired of the over-glorification of Michael Jordan and the corresponding failed experiment of Nick van Exel and Eddie Jones. The Lakers got so bad that I considered never watching the NBA ever again.

Five years passed and then news began circulating that the Lakers had acquired this teenager from Charlotte by the name of Kobe Bryant.

Magic Johnson revealed in an interview that Jerry West, ‘The Logo”, the Lakers great who suited up for the franchise between 1960 and 1974, that they had just signed the next Lakers super star. West, who was General Manager in Los Angeles at the time, had an eye for talent and he was sure that this kid, who spent a few years living in Italy, was the one.

So, it was Kobe that brought me back to the NBA.

My first impression of Kobe was that he was not very convincing. Yes, he was wet behind the ears but the incredible talent West had touted looked like a wannabe more than anything else.

A year later, I saw something that made me start to believe. It wasn’t a game-winning performance but if you were really paying attention, it was quite stark, and it came in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz.

Don Yeager writing for Forbes recalls:

“If you don’t know the story of that game, it was a pivotal moment in Kobe’s career. Most people remember it because of how spectacularly bad Kobe was that night: 4 for 14 from the floor (0 for 6 from three-point range),” he wrote.

“Now, the only reason he saw extended minutes was due to a cavalcade of Laker misfortune—Bryan Scott missed the game with a sprained wrist, Robert Horry was ejected, and Shaquille O’Neal fouled out with under two minutes left in the game.

After averaging around 15 minutes per game during the regular season, suddenly, the game belonged to Kobe.

He promptly launched four airballs in the game’s closing minutes.

After the game, as a bunch of reporters gathered around his locker, I remember several people questioning his unconscionable shooting. After all, it’s embarrassing enough to shoot one airball as a pro, much less two. But four? As your team let a must-have game slip away with each of your misses?

We all wondered how he would defend himself.

“I had some good looks,” he said. “I just didn’t hit the shots.”

That was it. He said it without a hint of regret or self-doubt; it sounded like something a decades-old veteran would say, a matter-of-fact statement about the sometimes fickle nature of the game. What he was saying, in effect, was ‘this is a chapter I have to get through in order to write a book worth reading.’

Michael Jordan would later remark that Kobe was the only one on that Laker team brave enough to take the shots.

Fast forward three years and Kobe would win the first of three consecutive titles and begin cementing his legacy as a Laker great.

Getting out of the West back then was so much harder than winning the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Lakers had to overcome stern challenges from the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trailblazers and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.

I remember Kobe taking over the third quarters of the series against the Tim Duncan-led Spurs. I remember how he and Shaq battled back from 15 points down in a must-win game against Portland. It was nail-biting stuff but watching Kobe and Shaq rising to the occasion in the face of elimination was the stuff of legend.

Two more titles in 2009 and 2010, ensured that Bryant would go down as one of, if not the greatest Laker ever but it came with a series of challenges that would have broken lesser players. It was one of the characteristics that made Kobe great. He thrived when facing challenges.

I remember exactly where I was when the Lakers defeated a talented Boston Celtics team with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace to win their fifth title of the decade. In a way, it mirrored the beginning of my connection with the Lakers versus the Celtics.

“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise,” Kobe once said.

“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do. Winning takes precedence overall.”

You could argue that this mentality is what go him scoring 40 points a game each time he came back from a trial date regarding those rape allegations in 2003, a time when I was certain he was going to be jailed for a long time, but he survived that too.

He then went on to rescue his marriage to Vanessa and became a model dad to his girls.

That is the same mentality he displayed when nursing a bad knee, he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in a 122 to 104 victory. Bryant shot better than 50 per cent in the game in which the Raptors led by 14.

Only another Laker, Wilt Chamberlain has ever scored more in an NBA game.

And who can forget his final game for LA, 60 points in April 2016 to put the cap on a magnificent career during which he scored 33,643 points, won five titles, was a two-time NBA finals MVP (should have been three), and was an 18-time All-Star.

Walking away from a successful career and being recognized as an all-time great would have been enough for most players, but that was only just the beginning for the Mamba, who would go on to coach his daughter Gianna who became one of the best age-group players in the USA, win an Oscar and a Grammy Award.

One wonders what other wonders he would have delivered had lived. Why it is so painful is that we know he was going to do even greater things off the court but we will never see what those greater things are.

How good a coach would he have been for Gianna? How much better a dad would he have become? How much better a human being would he have evolved into.

I don’t know. I don’t have the words so I resolve to borrow from Jamie Foxx to express how it feels that Kobe Bryant is no longer with us one year on.

“I know God doesn’t make mistakes but this one leaves me numb still. After a year it’s still hard to wrap my mind around this. Rest in Power. You and your precious little one will forever be remembered and cherished in our hearts and minds.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trae Young paid a personal tribute to mark the one-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant's death as the Atlanta Hawks put paid to the Los Angeles Clippers' winning streak. 

Young excelled in the second half to finish with 38 points to help the Hawks triumph 108-99 on Tuesday, handing the short-handed Clippers their first loss in eight games.

After hitting a three-point shot late in the fourth quarter, the Atlanta guard made a 24 gesture in reference to one of the two jersey numbers Bryant made famous during his illustrious career with the Los Angeles Lakers. 

"One thing I think about with Kobe is big shots, being able to close out games and hit big shots at big moments," Young told the media. 

"For me, late in the game, that was a big shot for our team - and the first thing I thought of."

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among those to lose their lives in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles on January 26, 2020.

His legacy lives on, however, as the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five titles remains an example for others, including Young. 

"The thing that I would probably take away the most is that he stuck to his values throughout everything, whether that was in his playing days or after," he replied when asked about Bryant.

"He was the same type of person, he attacked everything he wanted and worked hard for it. That's something that I take away, for me, the way he was a role model for so many athletes and so many players.  

"The impact he had is something I want to have as well."

De'Andre Hunter had 22 points while Clint Capela contributed 13 points and 19 rebounds on his return from injury, much to the delight of the limited number of fans who were inside State Farm Arena.

"It is definitely better for our team to have fans in the arena, knowing they're keeping it as safe as they can," Young said, with approximately 1,300 season-ticket holders allowed in to watch proceedings amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"For us, it's just about using that to our advantage. Me, I like putting on a show, so the more fans in there the more fun it is for me. I know our guys enjoyed the fans being in there."

The Clippers led at half-time but, without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George due to health and safety protocols, were unable to keep pace. Patrick Beverley also missed the game with a knee issue.

Kobe Bryant was a man whose influence reached far further than the basketball court, though his extraordinary numbers in the NBA are what made him such a legendary figure.

The Los Angeles Lakers hero was tragically killed in a helicopter crash at the age of 41 on this day in 2020.

It was an event which led to an outpouring of tributes for one of the all-time greats.

"I don't think any of us will ever forget that day," Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, reflecting on when his team were starting a practice as the tragic news broke.

"Everything stopped. The music stopped. The players stopped. Nobody said a word.

"A lot of guys dropped to the floor and started crying. Nothing happened for 10 minutes. We all just sat there in silence. It was one of the worst moments of all our lives."

Bryant's list of achievements over a 20-year career with the Lakers are the stuff of legend and his numbers stack up against the best to have played the game.

Here we take a look at Bryant's scarcely believable statistics with the help of Stats Perform data.

 

5 - Bryant won the NBA championship five times with the Lakers, in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010.

2 - He was twice named MVP in the NBA Finals, in 2009 and 2010.

18 - Bryant was a fixture in the NBA All-Star team, named to that side in 1998 and then each year from 2000 to 2016, the year that he retired. Those 18 appearances put him second on the all-time list, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing in 19 of the games.

4 - Bryant was four times the NBA All-Star Game MVP, in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

1 - He received his lone NBA MVP award for the 2007-08 season, during which he became the youngest player to reach 20,000 career points, at the age of 29 years and 122 days.

33,643 - He sits fourth on the NBA all-time list of points-scorers with 33,643 from 1,346 games. Only Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and LeBron James are ahead of him on the list.

35.4 - In the 2005-06 season, Bryant recorded his highest points-per-game average for a single campaign, with 35.4. He led the NBA in scoring in that season and in 2006-07.

81 - On January 22, 2006, Bryant scored 81 points in a 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center. That is the second highest individual score in an NBA game, behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100 for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks in 1962.

60  - In his final game, on April 13, 2016, Bryant scored 60 points for the Lakers in a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz.

15 - Bryant received All-NBA honours in 15 seasons, being named in the first team on 11 occasions. Only LeBron, with 13 appearances in the first team, beats Bryant's total.

9 - He was named nine times to the NBA All-Defense first team, matching the all-time high. Kevin Garnett, Michael Jordan and Gary Payton achieved the same total.

17 - Bryant was an NBA player of the month 17 times, and 32 times the player of the week.

2 - Bryant's success was not limited to NBA action either. He won Olympic gold medals with the United States in 2008 and 2012.

1 - He won an Oscar too, after his playing career ended, landing the Best Animated Short Film prize at the 2018 Academy Awards for Dear Basketball.

It was something only Kobe Bryant could have done.

At the end of an illustrious 20-year career that included five NBA championship wins, 18 All-Star selections and All-NBA First Team honours on 11 occasions, Bryant said farewell to the Los Angeles Lakers with a Hollywood ending.

He produced one of the most memorable final appearances the league has seen against the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016.

On the anniversary of his death alongside 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash, we look back at one of the finest moments of his career.

POINTING THE WAY

After Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea's bizarre rendition of the United States' national anthem, the 18,997 fans inside Staples Center were treated to something far more familiar.

Bryant racked up 60 points against the Jazz, which was the most scored by a player in a single game in the NBA that season. However, it was the first time he had gone past 50 since 2009, when he poured in 61 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Bryant was 6-of-21 from three-point range and had plenty of joy in the paint, where he accumulated 22 points. He scored a total of 16 unassisted points, with his final seven baskets coming via his own work.

SHOOT YOUR SHOT

If you don't shoot you don't score, and Bryant did his utmost to get points on the board. His 50 field goal attempts eclipsed the record of 49 set by the great Michael Jordan against the Orlando Magic in 1993. The 2008 MVP took 15 more shots than the rest of his team-mates combined.

Bryant nailed 18 of 40 shots with a defender within 3.5 feet against the Jazz and despite his record-breaking number of attempts he still took care of the ball, committing just two turnovers.

SLOW START, STRONG FINISH

It was not immediately clear the game was going to go so well for Bryant. He missed his first five shots and did not have a make until after the first six minutes of the game.

However, he eventually found his rhythm and was flying by the time the fourth quarter came around, scoring 13 unanswered points after the Jazz moved 96-86 ahead with two minutes and 35 seconds remaining.

His final act was a length-of-the-floor pass to Jordan Clarkson – his fourth assist of the game – for a dunk to seal an iconic 101-96 victory that underlined his legacy as an all-time great.

Kobe Bryant forged a legacy in the NBA that will forever stand the test of time.

A year has passed since the Los Angeles Lakers legend and 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among those to tragically lose their lives in a helicopter crash.

Bryant was a star who transcended the game of basketball after entering the NBA in 1996, providing highlight after highlight up until his retirement in 2016, with staggering point hauls.

To mark the anniversary of his passing, we look at Bryant's five greatest games with the Lakers, where the five-time NBA champion spent his entire 20-year career.

 

65 points - March 16, 2007 v Portland Trail Blazers

Against the Trail Blazers at Staples Center, Bryant came close to reaching the career-high 81 points he had recorded just over a year earlier. The superstar guard lit up the Blazers with 65 points as the Lakers won 116-111. Bryant shot 23-of-39, including 11-of-12 from the free throw line, while he also made eight three-pointers.

Nate McMillan coached Portland that day and after Bryant's passing, he told reporters: "I've seen it first-hand. He lit us up and I remember, he was shooting threes and just on fire, and we had him in a trap, deep corner, he had nowhere to go, should have passed the ball. He's facing his bench and he just turns and shoots it and it goes in. He really became like Michael [Jordan], in the sense that when you watched him play, could he do it again? Could he create that magic again in the fourth quarter? And he did."

61 points - February 2, 2009 v New York Knicks

Madison Square Garden hosted one of Bryant's greatest performances almost 12 years ago. At the world-famous arena in New York, 'the Black Mamba' posted 61 points - a venue record for a visiting player - against the Knicks, who lost 126-117 to the Lakers. On 19-of-31 shooting, Bryant finished with three assists and one block. He scored 34 points in the first half alone en route to the record, which was matched by Houston Rockets star James Harden in 2019.

"Tonight was one of the nights he kind of showed why he's going to go down in history," Lakers team-mate Lamar Odom said after the game.

62 points - December 20, 2005 v Dallas Mavericks

Three quarters were all that Kobe needed to embarrass the Mavericks. Bryant outscored Dallas 62-61 at the end of the third quarter in Los Angeles as the Lakers eased to a 112-90 victory. The Mavericks were one of the best teams that season, going on to reach the NBA Finals before succumbing to the Miami Heat. However, the Mavericks were schooled by the unstoppable Bryant, who shot 18-of-31 from the field and 22-of-25 from the free-throw line. He sat out the entire fourth quarter.

"It was just one of those nights," Bryant told reporters as he reflected on the game in 2016. "Yes [I could have scored 80 points that night]. It sounds funny to say, but yes, I could have."

60 points - April 13, 2016 v Utah Jazz 

Bryant said farewell to basketball in the only way he knew how, with an exclamation mark. It was a true Hollywood goodbye as Bryant capped an illustrious career by scoring 60 final-game points in a 101-96 victory over the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. Bryant drained 23 points in the fourth quarter, posting his first 50-point game since February 2009.

"It's hard to believe it happened this way," Bryant, who played 42 minutes and attempted a career-high 50 shots, said. "I'm still shocked about it… The perfect ending would have been a championship. But tonight was [me] trying to go out, play hard and try to put on a show as much as I possibly could. It felt good to be able to do that one last time."

81 points - January 22, 2006 v Toronto Raptors

The highlight of a stellar career and the night Bryant threatened to surpass Wilt Chamberlain. Kobe played 1,346 NBA games but he was well and truly in the zone against the Raptors, scoring 81 points - just 19 short of Chamberlain's legendary 100-point outing in 1962. Bryant produced 42 minutes of pure brilliance to lead the Lakers past the Raptors 122-104. It was a display of efficiency as Bryant's outburst featured a 60.9 shooting percentage from the field and 53.8 per cent from beyond the arc.

"Not even in my dreams," Bryant said. "That was something that just happened. It's tough to explain. It's just one of those things."

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah

 

Kobe Bryant’s legacy is alive and well.

On Tuesday, it will be one year since the news broke that Laker legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, six other passengers and the pilot were passengers in a helicopter that crashed in the hills of Calabasas, California, killing everyone on board.  For so many, Bryant was an influential presence ripped away from his family and the world just as he was making a mark post-basketball career.

Bryant was an icon who won five NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVPs during his a 20-year career.  I was a child when I first saw Kobe play. I was utterly impressed. The other children I was around would launch paper balls at bins yelling “Kobe!”.  Everyone wanted to be him.

As a sports journalist his I was fascinated by his work ethic. The way he knew what he wanted and went about ensuring that he got it.  Even now, I find myself turning to old Kobe interviews and listening to him for self-motivation. I hope his family and loved ones continue to find the inner strength to deal with his tragic passing.

 

West Indies can take a page out of India’s book.

It is true that the West Indies’ poor form did not start with this Bangladesh tour. However, they can take a page out of India’s book following a second disastrous batting display losing to Bangladesh by seven wickets in the second ODI at the Mirpur Stadium in Dhaka on Friday.

A few days before this latest Windies defeat, India ended Australia’s record of being unbeaten at the Gabba since 1988 with a team that lacked key senior players.

Like India, coming into the Bangladesh series the Windies were not favourites. What worked for India was its ability to capitalize on their strengths. Much of their success can be attributed to the system that in place to allow new cricketers to emerge and thrive.

 Every successful team needs good structure and foundation. India’s “A” team programme has reaped its intended benefits. Take the case of Thangarasu Natarajan, who is the first Indian to make this international debut in all three formats on the same tour. He ended the Australia series as the highest wicket-taker.

There was also the case of 21-year-old Shubman Gill, who had been on the fringes of the Test side patiently awaiting his call and took his chance when it came

 He would go on to finish his maiden Test series with an average of 51.81. Rishabh Pant was another player that came through the Indian development system and is now reaping the rewards. The 23-year-old was left out of the first Test but in the series-decider was unbeaten on 89 and hit the winning runs that also won the series.

 

No Kohli, no problem.

Leadership is another area of India’s game where the Windies can look to India for inspiration. Like the Windies when Kieron Pollard opted not to tour due to Covid 19, India’s captain Virat Kohli returned home to witness the birth of his first daughter.

However, Ajinkya Rahane stepped up to the task at hand. Again, this reiterated the work being done behind the scenes to allow for ease of transition. I was impressed by how Rahane handled the resources at hand and worked with the team to unlock their full potential.

 

REDS-

 It is not too late for a Premier League turnaround. Liverpool has now gone four matches in a row in the Premier League without a goal. They are now six points away from league leaders Manchester United.  Despite struggling in the Premier League this season it is not too late for a turnaround.

Liverpool is a club that knows how to win and do so in style. Despite this, they have been lacking in confidence this season and it is evident in the errors that they are making on the field. There is a major lack of efficiency and energy. Once the club can find the rhythm that everyone admired last season they can get back to their winning ways.

It is evident that Jurgen Klopp is frustrated and not handling the pressure. Klopp’s frustration has been filtering to the players and emboldening the opposition. It is wise that the manager sticks to his principles and steers his players in the right direction. At this point, there is absolutely no need to make rash decisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The list of Kobe Bryant's accomplishments during his 20 NBA seasons is almost too long to recount.  

Yet among his All-Star selections, championships and signature moments, his 81-point game stands out both for its historical significance and its representation of Bryant's personality and career.  

Friday marks the 15th anniversary of this astounding feat, the closest anyone has ever come to Wilt Chamberlain's NBA scoring record, a seemingly impossible 100 points.  

Chamberlain reached triple digits on March 2, 1962, in a much different NBA than the one Bryant faced. Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game that season while playing every minute of every game. In scoring 100 points, he led the Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks.  

Bryant's feat, while falling short of the century mark, remains the gold standard for scoring in the modern game.  

On January 22, 2006, the Toronto Raptors travelled to Los Angeles to face the Lakers and were gaining confidence. After a desperate 1-15 start, Toronto's season had stabilised, and the Raptors entered Staples Center having won 10 of their previous 16 games. But Toronto had just allowed 113 points in a win against Seattle and entered the game giving up 102.2 points per game, third-most in the NBA.  

Bryant went on to make history, making 28 of his 46 field goal attempts – including 7-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc – and hitting 18 of 20 free throws.  

Perhaps the greatest testament to Bryant's achievement is that no player over the 15 years since has come particularly close to scoring 81 points in a game, despite several factors working in their favor.  

In 2005-06, a team got 79.0 field goal attempts per game on average, the fourth-slowest pace of all time. Almost any other season in NBA history would have been more likely to have an astounding scoring outburst.  

In the 1961-62 season, when Chamberlain made history, teams averaged 107.7 shots per game and attempted 37.1 free throws per game, nearly 11 more than in 2005-06.  

The league has picked up its pace since Bryant's feat as well, with teams attempting 88.8 field goals last season, giving the modern player more opportunities than Bryant had.  

The other advantage that current players have in piling up stats is the three-point shot.  

Bryant's 7-for-13 performance from deep was dynamic in 2006. Twice in the 2005-06 season, Chicago Bulls guard Ben Gordon made nine three-pointers in a game to lead the league. Only four players made more than seven threes in a game that season. The average team attempted 16.0 threes per game.  

Teams are launching an average of 35.1 three-point attempts during this young season, on pace to be the 10th in a row with an increase in long-range shooting. Ten players have already made eight or more threes in a game this season, despite most teams having played about 15 games.  

Even with a faster pace and increased frequency of long-distance barrages in the modern game, Bryant's 81-point mark still appears virtually unobtainable.  

Since that date, Devin Booker's 70 points are the high mark. There have been 19 games in which a player scored 60 or more, four by Bryant himself.  

One integral element to Bryant's scoring explosion was the composition of that Lakers team. Bryant did have Lamar Odom, but LA's other starters on that historic night were Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm and Smush Parker. The Lakers finished that season 45-37, far from a bad team, but Bryant scored 35.4 points per game as the Lakers relied on him almost entirely for scoring.  

Bryant scored 34.7 percent of the Lakers' points that season, the fourth-highest scoring share of all time. Only Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have scored a higher percentage of a team's points in a season.  

Given that profile, there are a few players who stand out as possible candidates to make a run at a historical scoring game in the foreseeable future.  

Booker, James Harden and Kemba Walker all have at least one 60-point game in their careers but now find themselves on teams with better supporting casts, making it unlikely they could get enough shots to chase history.  

Damian Lillard, however, could fit the mould perfectly. Team-mates CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic will both miss significant time due to injuries, and Lillard has crossed the 60-point barrier three times, all within the past 15 months. Add his 36.2 minutes per game – top 10 in the league – and 10.1 three-point attempts per game, and Lillard seems as likely as anyone to produce a dazzling scoring total.  

Stephen Curry scored a career-high 62 points on January 3 and will be a constant centerpiece in the Golden State Warriors' offense without Klay Thompson. While Curry is 25th in the league at 34.4 minutes per game, his historic three-point shooting makes him a constant threat.  

League scoring leader Bradley Beal remains in the mix, despite the Washington Wizards acquiring ball-hungry Russell Westbrook in the offseason. Westbrook has often taken games off due to rest, and Beal scored 60 on January 6. He also carries the advantage of getting to the free throw line 9.5 times per game, fourth in the NBA this season.  

That list ignores perennial MVP candidates Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, as well as young dynamos like Trae Young and Luka Doncic.  

The fact that there are so many candidates to make a run at 81 points without anyone coming close in the past 15 years indicates just how phenomenal Bryant's accomplishment was.  

Whether Bryant's mark lasts forever or is eventually bested, it will always be a brilliant snapshot of an all-time great player. He won championships before and after his 81-point game, but Bryant's legacy is as a scorer and a relentless competitor, perfectly represented by that gaudy scoring total 15 years ago.  

Bryant wore number eight and number 24 during his decorated career, but 81 is just as important to his legacy.

The Los Angeles Lakers set the benchmark last season and look likely to be the NBA team to beat again in 2020-21.

An outstanding offseason saw the Lakers bring in Marc Gasol, Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell to boost a championship team.

Anthony Davis is coming back, too, as expected, aiming to build on a hugely successful first year in LA.

Crucially, fellow superstar LeBron James also agreed a new contract, ensuring the coming campaign's title defence will not be impacted by speculation around the veteran's future.

James was back to his best in 2019-20 as he led the Lakers to Finals glory and earned his fourth Finals MVP award.

He became only the fourth player to claim that honour after his 35th birthday - joining fellow greats Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan - and the first across the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL to be named the star performer of the postseason with three different teams.

There are plenty more milestones on the horizon for the former Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat man, however.

The draining nature of the previous season may mean LeBron sees less regular season action than he normally would; indeed, his 34.6 minutes per game last time out were already a career low and the Lakers have recruited the league's best two bench scorers in Schroder and Harrell.

But James has already proven just how effective he can be while managing minutes, that average of 34.6 the fewest in league history while scoring 25.0 points and 10.0 assists.

The 35-year-old, who turns 36 next week, has every chance of reaching 10,000 career assists before the coming season is out.

His 10.2 per game last term, taking on a new role next to Davis, were the most of LeBron's career, yet he has laid on more than the 654 required for the landmark in two of his past three campaigns.

James needs 125 more threes for 2,000, meanwhile, having made 148 last year. He would become the 10th player all-time to reach that mark.

Of course, between his playmaking and scoring, LeBron is still regularly posting triple-doubles - at least eight in four straight seasons, including 13 in 2019-20 and a career-high 18 in 2017-18.

Another six are required for 100 in his regular season career.

But James might have to make the most of the length of his contract, which runs through 2022-23, to make any further progress on the all-time points list.

He surpassed Michael Jordan in his first year as a Laker and then LA great Kobe Bryant last season, reaching third behind Karl Malone (36,928) and Abdul-Jabbar (38,387).

LeBron (34,241) is 2,687 shy of Malone, a total he has never previously come close to in a single campaign - top-scoring in 2005-06 with 2,478.

Do not write James off, though, bolstered by the Lakers' impressive moves and fired by his frustration at missing out on the MVP award last year. He responded spectacularly to that setback and will be gunning for honours again this time.

Tuesday marks 24 years to the day since the late Kobe Bryant made his NBA debut with the Los Angeles Lakers.

While that first appearance against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the age of 18 was nothing to write home about, Bryant went on to enjoy a legendary career.

He won five NBA championships with the Lakers in the space of a decade and was selected to the All-Star Game 18 times, placing him behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19).

Bryant tragically died aged 41 in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in January but his legacy will live on for generations.

Here we look back at where it all began for one of sport's most iconic figures and pick out some other statistics from his incredible career with the help of Stats Perform data.


STEADY IMPACT IN ROOKIE SEASON

The Charlotte Hornets drafted Bryant 13th overall in 1996 and traded him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.

It was a move that would have a lasting impact on the sport, although it took Bryant a few seasons to really start to make his mark.

He played six minutes off the bench against the Timberwolves on his debut, failing to register a point during his short cameo; he did get a rebound, a block and a steal, though.

That appearance made him the youngest player to feature in NBA, aged 18 years and 72 days old, but he was supplanted by Jermaine O'Neal (18 years, 53 days) the following month Andrew Bynum (18 years, six days) took the record in 2005.

 

"Rest In Peace to the late, great Kobe Bryant." pic.twitter.com/jmqQMVC2UO

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 1, 2020 BEHIND ONLY LEBRON

Bryant steadily became more involved and made the All-Rookie second team at the end of his debut campaign.

The Philadelphia-born star scored a combined 613 points in the regular season and playoffs before turning 19, which only LeBron James (625) can better.

One record James could not take from Bryant, though, is for the youngest player in NBA history with at least 20 points in a postseason game.

Aged 18 years and 250 days, Bryant registered 22 points in Game 3 against the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference first-round series.

Bryant averaged 7.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 15.5 minutes on the floor during his rookie season.

To put that in some context, James averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists, albeit with far more minutes (39.5).

That is still some way below the levels of Michael Jordan in his breakthrough season, with the Bulls great averaging 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists in his first year in the league.


THE SCARCELY BELIEVABLE STATS

Bryant still went on to carve out a place as one of the greatest players of all time, receiving All-NBA honours in 15 seasons, being named in the first team on 11 occasions. Only LeBron James, with 13 appearances in the first team, beats Bryant's total.

He was also named nine times to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, matching the all-time high; Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton and Jordan achieved the same total.

In the 2005-06 season, Bryant recorded his highest points-per-game average for a single campaign, with 35.4. He led the NBA in scoring in that season and in 2006-07.

In January 2006, he scored 81 points in a 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors - the second highest individual score in an NBA game, behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks in 1962.

Bryant received his lone NBA MVP award in 2008, having become the youngest player to reach 20,000 career points aged 29 years and 122 days.

In his final game, on April 13, 2016, Bryant scored 60 points for the Lakers in a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz. A fitting farewell after a phenomenal career.

The Los Angeles Lakers are closing in on their first championship since 2010, but Anthony Davis insisted he is not looking too far ahead following another stellar performance against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

Davis posted 32 points on 15-of-20 shooting from the field as the Lakers defeated the short-handed Heat 124-114 in Game 2 for a commanding 2-0 series lead at Walt Disney World Resort on Friday.

The Lakers star joined Kevin Durant (2012), Michael Jordan (1991), Rick Barry (1967) and Hal Greer (1967) as the only players in NBA Finals history to score 30-plus points in their first two career games in the league's showpiece decider.

Davis – a high-profile recruit from the New Orleans Pelicans at the start of the season – also became the first Lakers player with back-to-back 30-plus point games in the Finals since Kobe Bryant in 2010.

But as the top-seeded Lakers near a first title in a decade, Davis is remaining grounded inside the Orlando bubble.

"It's huge," Davis told reporters when asked how important is it to stay in the moment. "This team [Miami] have shown in both games that they are able to fight back. Even when they are down 20, 30, whatever it is, they are able to fight back and make plays.

"So we can't get too high, especially with this team. They didn't even have two of their top scorers, two of their best players. They always have that next-man-up mentality. They come every night, they play hard, they play physical, they play aggressive.

"We came in tonight and said this is a must-win for us. We're going to come in the next game and say it's a must-win, and the next game it's a must-win and so on and so forth.

"We know what this team is capable of. I think they had four guys or five guys with 15-plus. Guys coming off the bench scoring and playing well. We have to lock in on those guys and show them respect, as well, which we do. But this team can play. We have to be wary of that and make sure we come in and be better in our defensive schemes, which is going to help us win."

Lakers team-mate LeBron James also dominated, finishing with a game-high 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

James and Davis became the first Lakers duo to score at least 32 points in a Finals game since Kobe Bryant – who died in a helicopter crash in January – and Shaquille O'Neal in 2002.

Amid comparisons to Lakers greats Bryant and O'Neal, Davis said: "Those two guys are obviously special. They are a duo that's special together. They are the best duo we've seen. Multiple championships. They both were so dominant.

"I know they had a little sit-down and they were talking about they were arguing because they both wanted to be so dominant, they both wanted to be great and they both wanted to win, and that's why they jelled together outside of everything else that you might have heard that they were going through.

"But you know, those two guys were selfless. They both had a competitive spirit with themselves to will their teams to win. I think me and Bron are the same way.

"We are two guys who want to win no matter the circumstance. We both want to make sure that we do whatever it takes to help our team win. When you have two guys that are selfless ...

"It's not always going to be pretty. Sometimes we are going to argue and have disagreements, but we know it's coming from the right place. When you have two guys who want to win as bad as we do and want to be dominant every single game, you have games like tonight where two guys, we're able to score the basketball and able to rebound and able to find guys.

"It's rare you see it. We know we have something special with us two and this team, and just trying to capitalise on it."

LeBron James said he was humbled after the Los Angeles Lakers superstar and team-mate Anthony Davis were compared to franchise greats Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal following Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

James and Davis produced another dominant performance as the Lakers topped the injury-hit Miami Heat 124-114 for a 2-0 series lead at Walt Disney World Resort on Friday.

Three-time champion James had 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, while fellow All-Star Davis finished with 32 points in Orlando, where the Lakers are eyeing their first title since 2010.

James and Davis became the first Lakers duo to score at least 32 points in a Finals game since Bryant – who died in a helicopter crash in January – and O'Neal in 2002.

"Watching the Kobe-Shaq duo was the most dominant duo that I have personally seen in my life from a basketball perspective," James told reporters.

"Obviously we knew the force that Shaq brought to the table, but the elegance and force that Kobe played with, as well. They were very dominant in what they did on the floor, on both sides of the floor. So to be in the conversation with those two guys, myself and Anthony, myself and AD -- he's going to kill me -- myself and AD, is just very humbling, because I know I grew up watching those guys.

"I grew up admiring Kobe; obviously, a kid coming straight out of high school. Admired that, as a kid when I was young, and obviously got the opportunity. And the force that Shaq played with. It's very humbling that we can be even mentioned with those greats."

James moved up to sixth on the all-time Finals list for games played after making his 51st appearance, while the 35-year-old also climbed up to fourth for all-time Finals rebounds.

Pressed on the Bryant-O'Neal comparisons and how he and Davis play, James – who was not satisfied with the team's defensive effort against Miami – added: "I guess if you look in the sense of the size and the power and the speed that Shaq at his size played with, you could look at my game throughout the course of my career and say that.

"And then you look at the elegance and the ability to shoot the ball and the ability to play in the paint as well as post up and get to the perimeter, I guess you can say that you can have some of AD's game that could compare to Kobe's game in that sense.

"Obviously, all four of us are all different positions. Kobe was a natural two-guard. I'm kind of a, I don't know, whatever position. Shaq is a center.

"AD is kind of a hybrid, as well. But I guess all four of us, we have a winning mentality and we just tried to make enough plays out on the floor throughout the course of the game that would benefit not only ourselves individually but for the most important thing, for the better of the team.

"I can't even believe I'm up here talking about myself and AD with Kobe and Shaq."

LeBron James insisted the "job is not done" after guiding the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals for the first time in 10 years.

James posted a triple-double as the top-seeded Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 117-107 on Saturday to seal a 4-1 series victory in the Western Conference finals.

The three-time NBA champion had 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Lakers back to the Finals, having not featured in the showpiece since winning their last title in 2010.

But as James prepares for his 10th Finals appearance, after missing the playoffs in his first season with the Lakers, the 35-year-old superstar was grounded post-game in Orlando, Florida.

"The job is not done," said James, whose Lakers will face either the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics. "But it's great to appreciate the moments throughout the course of a journey.

"I am extremely proud to be a part of this franchise getting back to where it belongs, playing and competing for championships. This is what I came here for."

It was James' 27th career playoff triple-double as the four-time MVP eyes a fourth championship ring.

All-Star team-mate Anthony Davis contributed 27 points for the Lakers, who will make their 32nd Finals appearance.

"In a closeout game, I am just as desperate as the team that we are trying to closeout. I don't want to play another game," James said.

"I am not undefeated in closeout games, but if we have the chance to win I don't want to play another game."

James then recalled the legacy of Kobe Bryant, who led the Lakers to their most recent championship a decade ago.

Bryant – the victim of a tragic helicopter crash in January – was crowned MVP as the Lakers beat the Celtics in the 2010 Finals and the NBA legend continues to inspire James and others.

"Every time you put on purple and gold, you think about his legacy, you think about him and what he meant to this franchise for 20-plus years and what he stood for both on the floor and off the floor," James added.

"What he demanded out of his team-mates, what he demanded out of himself. We have some similarities in that sense.

"Our games are different. But as far as our mindset and our drive to want to be the best, and our drive to not lose ... just that drive to always want to be victorious. It stops you from sleeping."

Anthony Davis' game-winner for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Denver Nuggets was a "Mamba shot", head coach Frank Vogel said.

Davis delivered an incredible buzzer-beating three to lift the Lakers to a 105-103 victory over the Nuggets on Sunday as they moved into a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Vogel said the Lakers wanted to honour the late Kobe Bryant, the NBA great who died in a helicopter crash in January.

And the Lakers coach believes Davis' game-winner was the type of shot five-time NBA champion and former MVP Bryant would have produced.

"Well, we want to embody what Kobe Bryant stood for and honour his memory," he told reporters.

"Obviously, there are certain games where we are going to feel it a little bit more than others. When we have that uniform on, I think we feel it more than others.

"That's a shot Kobe Bryant would hit. To me, AD coming off just flying to the wing like that, catch-and-shoot with the biggest game on the line of our season, nothing but net, it's a Mamba shot."

While the Nuggets rallied in Game 2, Davis (31 points and nine rebounds) and LeBron James (26 points and 11 rebounds) led the Lakers to victory.

Vogel was full of praise for Davis and James as the Lakers close in on a first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.

"I keep saying, he [Davis] is a big-time player. He really carried us through a stretch where we were struggling to score late in the third," Vogel said.

"The combo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis is just – if one of them is not going, the other one is. There was a little bit of that tonight.

"When they're both going at the same time, we're near impossible to stop. Those guys both carried each other throughout the game and obviously a big part of the win."

Game 3 between the Lakers and Nuggets is on Tuesday.

Page 1 of 7
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.