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On This Date in Sports January 22, 2006: 81 from Kobe

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Kobe Bryant electrifies Staples Center by having the second-highest scoring game in NBA history. Kobe scores 81 points as the Los Angeles Lakers pummel the Toronto Raptors 122-104. Kobe Bryant gets to 81 points by shooting 28-for-46 from the field, including 7-of-13 from three-point range. Kobe Bryant set a new Lakers' franchise-record topping the 71 points scored by Elgin Baylor in 1960. Only Wilt Chamberlain, in his 100-point game in 1962, had more points in an NBA game. Kobe would win his first scoring title with 35.4 points per game in 2006. 

Kobe Bryant was born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia. The son of Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, Kobe learned how to play basketball at an early age. Spending some of his childhood in Italy when his father played in Europe, Kobe Bryant became a star a Lower Merrion in the suburbs of Philadelphia. In 1996, with many top schools recruiting him, Bryant decided to go from high school to the NBA. He was selected with the 13th overall pick by the Charlotte Hornets but traded on draft day to the Los Angeles Lakers for an aging Vlade Divac in one of the worst trades in NBA history. 

Kobe Bryant showed signs of stardom right away as an 18-year old, winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest in Cleveland. A year later, Kobe made his first of 18 All-Star Game appearances. Kobe Bryant would continue to develop into an NBA star as the Lakers won three straight championships at the start of the century. In 2004, the Lakers seeking a fourth title in five years as the relationship between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal unraveled. Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat as coach Phil Jackson stepped down, leading to a lost season in Los Angeles.

After one year away, Phil Jackson returned to the Lakers for the 2005/06 season. Kobe Bryant would hit the peak of his career as the Lakers looked to rebound. Nearing midseason, the Lakers were hovering near .500, at 21-19, while the Toronto Raptors were shuffling at 14-26 for coach Sam Mitchell. The Raptors got off to a strong start, leading 36-29 at the end of the first quarter. Despite the bad start, Kobe Bryant was heating up, scoring 14 points, on five of nine shooting from the field. Kobe added 12 points in the second quarter as the Lakers continued to struggle, trailing 63-49 at the half. 

In the third quarter, Kobe Bryant came out as hot as a firecracker, making 11 of 15 shots, including all four from three-point range. Scoring 27 points, Brant broke the 50-point threshold as the Lakers took control of the game, outscoring Toronto 42-22. Leading 91-85 entering the fourth quarter, Los Angeles rode the hot hand of Kobe Bryant. The Lakers' star scored 28 of his team's 31 points in the final 12 minutes, becoming the second player in NBA history with an 80-point game. In the fourth quarter, Kobe made 7 of 15 shots, making just two of his attempts from behind the arch. At the line, he made 12 of 13 free throws as the Lakers buried Toronto 122-104.

The 81 points is the second-highest in NBA history; overall, Kobe Bryant shot 28 of 46 from the field and 18-20 from the line while making 7-of-13 shots from three-point range. The fourth-quarter misses would haunt Kobe Bryant for years, as he claimed to have not watched videos from his 81-point game until he retired. Kobe added six rebounds with three steals, and two assists as Smush Parker with 13 points and Chris Mihm with 12 were the only other Lakers to reach double digits. Mike James led the way for Toronto with 26 points, while Chris Bosh had 18 points and Jalen Rose added 17.