ORLANDO — It is five years ago today that Kobe Bryant made headlines at the expense of the Toronto Raptors.
Jay Triano was an assistant and Jose Calderon was a rookie when Bryant got locked in like no one before or since other than that Wilt Chamberlain fellow who had 100 way back in 1962.
Bryant’s 81 points that night are the stuff legends are made of.
What people looking back on that night though forget, and something Triano pointed out, is the Raptors had a 16-point lead as late as the second half in that game.
And what Joe Public doesn’t realize is that night the Raptors went into the game intent on giving Bryant single coverage and making sure no one else around him got on any kind of roll. Even if Kobe had gone off for 40, the thinking was, they limit the surrounding cast to very little and they still have a good shot to win the game.
“And it was working,” Triano said. “We were up. We just didn’t expect him to go off for 31 in the fourth quarter.”
Actually it was 28, but when you’re dealing with 81 in a game, it’s acceptable to be a little off.
Triano’s worst part of the night was an easy one.
“The fact that no one put him on his ass,” Triano said, “but at the same time he was too far away and in such a zone we never really got that close to him.”
Calderon wasn’t getting a lot of court time at that stage in his career, but he did get into the game late and was matched up against him.
“I just fouled him,” Calderon said. The way Calderon remembers it the only Raptor not get scored upon that night was Mike James.
Morris Peterson, Matt Bonner, Chris Bosh, Jalen Rose all took their Kobe lumps that night.
Calderon has seen plenty of players, both teammates and opponents get into a shooting zone where they can’t miss but nothing like Kobe that night.
“We thought we were in control of that one until he couldn’t stop making shots,” Calderon said. “He was just walking into threes, not even threes, fours almost (he was so far from the three-point line). He was just hitting from anywhere. It was just crazy.”
The Lakers were in Denver Friday night and Bryant was asked about his memories.
“I still don’t know how the hell it happened to be honest with you,” Bryant told ESPN.
But then he did reveal an additional motivator he had that evening that he had not had before or since.
Turns out Kobe’s grandmother was in the stands that night for the only time in his career. It was also the anniversary of the death of his grandfather.