Tip-Off Timer: Kobe Bryant's Record 61 Points at Storied MSG
Tip-Off Timer counts down the days until the first game of the 2009-10 season. On Thursday, there are 61 days remaining.
Kobe Bryant has spent his entire career flirting with greatness, chasing the ghosts and the records of the game's most phenomenal players, adding notches to his belt all along the way.
Although winning his fourth NBA title with the Lakers last season was a crowning jewel, scoring 61 points to set the record in New York's storied Madison Square Garden last season was pretty cool, too.
The bigger the stage, the better he plays.
Bryant has scored more -- he had 81 points at home against Toronto three seasons before -- but this was a New York moment, one that will etched in the lore of the Garden .
"You always want to play well here,'' Bryant told reporters after the Lakers beat the Knicks, 126-117 in February. "This building is special because it's the last one left. This is the one that holds all the memories of all the great players. Thinking about Willis Reed, about Jerry West and all the great rivalries they had in this building, it makes it special.''
Bryant broke the record of 60 points, set by New York's Bernard King on Christmas Day of 1984. Michael Jordan, who Bryant is chasing through history, previously held the record (55) for an opponent at MSG.
Bryant started strong and he stayed strong. In 37 minutes, he made 19 of 31 shots. He hit all 20 of his free throws, including 11 in the final period. He had 18 points in the first quarter, 16 in the second, 12 in the third and 15 in the fourth. He scored on drives to the basket, turnaround jumpers and fadeaways.
The Knicks didn't guard him. They waved at him. The always-vocal crowd booed him early, but they serenaded him late with chants of M-V-P, M-V-P, M-V-P, giving him a standing ovation when he left the game with 1:37 remaining.
His previous high at the Garden was 46 points, six years earlier.