The Jan. 22, 2006, game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Toronto Raptors was supposed to be just another routine, unremarkable midseason game that didn’t get much, if any, national attention .
The Lakers were 21-19 going into the game, and Kobe Bryant was forced to do almost all the heavy lifting for this very anemic team just to give them a chance to get back into the playoffs.
Los Angeles looked tied with the poor Raptors at 14-26 at the start of the game. Trailing 36-29 after one quarter and 63-49 at halftime, although Kobe had scored 26 points, there was no excitement in the Staples Center.
But with the Lakers needing fire, he started to heat up in the third quarter. He hit jumper after jumper, and suddenly he had 27 points on 11-for-15 shooting as the Lakers cut the deficit to four.
Now everyone is paying attention because they realize Kobe is putting on a once-in-a-lifetime show. He surpassed 60, then 70, as he set the record for the highest scoring player in Lakers history.
His 81 points secured the 122-104 victory while leaving a vivid memory for fans that will never fade. It was also the first step in Bryant’s restoration of his shattered public image, and a step toward eventually returning the Lakers to championship contention within a few years.
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Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire