Ten years have passed since Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in one game.
Bryant’s huge night on Jan. 22, 2006 came at the expense of the Toronto Raptors and then head coach Sam Mitchell -- now on the bench in Minnesota with the Timberwolves.
“Ten years ago, what year was that, 2004?” asked Sacramento Kings Coach George Karl on Wednesday. “I was thinking as a coach, saying, ‘I would foul him.’ I would never let him have that many points. I would triple team him or something. I’ve got to let someone else beat me.”
Lakers Coach Byron Scott has a similar response after his team’s practice on Thursday -- first reflecting how he’d handle a red-hot Bryant as a player.
“I would have fouled out a long time ago, because there was no way I would let anyone score 81 points on me,” said the former Lakers shooting guard.
Scott coached against Bryant in the NBA Finals in 2002 with the New Jersey Nets (now in Brooklyn), back when the Lakers also had Shaquille O’Neal.
“I had that dilemma a bunch of times as well,” said Scott. “We wanted to double team him and get it out of his hands at times and say, ‘You know what? We’re going to play him straight up and if he scores 50, so be it.’”
Mitchell seemed to take the approach that Bryant couldn’t beat the Raptors by himself.
“It’s just the philosophy of the coach. You have to live with it,” said Scott. “Sam has to live with the fact that [Bryant] had 81 points on him.”
Scott’s own number might have been 50 points for Bryant, before changing up his coverage.
Karl all but had the same answer as Scott.
“There has been a strategy, and I’ve used it on Kobe, that you want him to take all the shots. It’s easier to try to control everybody else, than try to stop Kobe,” said Karl. “There’s got to be a number -- 40, 45, 50 -- where you probably have to change your strategy.”
Karl has made many stops throughout his long coaching career.
“I remember this summer, it was Kobe’s birthday and they had highlight games on NBA TV, and I think my teams were like on four of them,” said Karl, often on the losing end to the Lakers. “There’s a game against Denver. There’s a game against Seattle. There’s a game against Milwaukee. I was in every one of them."
Does Scott think anyone in the NBA can pass Bryant’s 81-point mark?
Scott did mention Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant and Golden State Warriors guards Stephen Curry as the players most likely to near Bryant’s modern record.
Wilt Chamberlain owns the single-game record with 100 points, scored in 1962 for the Philadelphia Warriors in a win over the New York Knicks.
Scott has sympathy for the Raptors, who were on the losing end of a historic night.
“I felt bad for Sam Mitchell,” said Scott. “I know Sam real well, that’s my buddy and he doesn’t want to talk about [that night].
“Hopefully, he feels we’ll just forget about it one day.”
Good luck with that, coach.
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