As a sports fan, every time you purchase tickets to a game, as opposed to sitting on the couch and tuning in, you hope for the spectacular. You don’t just hope your team wins, but that there’s something memorable that happens. A no-hitter, a hat trick a hail mary.
Last night at the Garden, I got exactly that when Kobe Bryant set the MSG record with 61 points. Breaking Michael Jordan‘s record of 55 (a game Kobe remembers watching) and Bernard King‘s record of 60, Kobe put himself in a new echelon.
Sure you’ve seen the highlights on SportsCenter, and read about it in countless newspapers and blogs, but to be there last night, amongst the 19,763 capacity crowd on 33rd Street & 7th Avenue, you knew what you were in store for.
During the player intros, there were mixed reactions to Kobe, but from the tip you could tell Kobe Bryant was serious, knocking down his first three shots. At that point, I said to the guy next to me, “He could drop 50.”
Every time Kobe went to the line, surprisingly, the crowd (or at least of half it) was chanting MVP. After the game, Mike D’Antoni said, “It was a road game for us tonight.” I’ve been to the Staples Center before, and even before he ever won an MVP award, every time he touches the ball he hears it from the fans.
After five and a half minutes, Kobe had 13 against Q. As I called it, Brand Jordan vs. Heir Jordan. From there, D’Antoni brought in Wilson Chandler (who is now coming off the bench in favor of Al Harrington) and he couldn’t do much better. The highlight was his block to stop Kobe’s 19th and 20th points of the quarter. (After the game, despite torching Chandler, Kobe wouldn’t even give him that. “The block was my mistake,” Kobe said in the post-game press conference. That’s just cold.
After 18 in the first, Kobe checked back in at the seven-minute mark in the second and hits for nine straight. Perhaps I was seeing things, but I’m pretty sure he sold ankle insurance to Chandler before the game.
At this point, the Kobe MVP chants are crazy, and Josh Powell is logging the backup center minutes in Andrew Bynum‘s absence. Whatever happened to Chris Mihm? This guy used to start in this League.
Kobe ends with 34 points in the half using his entire arsenal at his disposal. (Just WATCH.) I’ve never seen a man throw as many fakes as him. It was like rope-a-dope on the parquet. Despite the onslaught, Lakers lead only 65-54 at the half.
In the second half, the Knicks start off on a nice run, cutting the lead to two (67-65) at the 10-minute mark. They’ve now switched Jared Jeffries to Kobe. Scratch 50, he could get 60. Put it this way: If the Knicks were the Raptors, Kobe would have had 82. Kobe ends the third with 46.
In the fourth quarter, Kobe checks back in with seven and a half minutes to play and hits his first attempt. It’s just his night. A minute later, he has 50! If Ruben Patterson was a Kobe stopper, Chandler certainly is not.
For all of you out there that have anointed LeBron this year’s MVP, DO NOT count Kobe out of the race. Without Bynum, there is plenty more to come. Think of this as a press conference on the world’s stage. If the Lakers win the West and Kobe continues to go off, there’s no way he doesn’t repeat.
Kobe exits the game at the 1:48 mark and the Garden gives him a standing O. He has 61. Truly amazing.
“I knew it in the first five minutes,” Phil Jackson said about Kobe’s big night after the game. “He had a determined and somber mood.” Seeing as the Zen Master was also Mike’s coach for his 55 in the Garden, he reminisced. “Michael was coming back after one and a half years off and wasn’t totally himself. He played mostly in the post. I don’t know if he had any threes. Both were remarkable.”
Kobe, after taking close to an hour to finally make his way to the press room, couldn’t have been happier. “It’s a blessing to do what you love and have moments like this,” said Kobe, who averages 30.5 ppg for his career against the Knicks. “You want to play well here.”
What’s the best game by one player you have ever seen?