You have to love Kobe Bryant's timing. Just in case you were worried that Andrew Bynum's injury would knock the Lakers down a notch, Bryant reminded the world on Monday night why you can't ever take his team for granted by exploding for 61 points against the Knicks.
Scoring in bunches is nothing new for Bryant -- this was his 17th game with at least 50 points, and his fifth with at least 60 -- but this performance was notable for a few reasons. For one, no player in the history of the game has ever scored more points at Madison Square Garden.
Before tonight, Michael Jordan had the record for visiting players with his double-nickel in 1995, while Bernard King set the mark for the home team with a cool 60 on Christmas Day in 1984. Tonight, Bryant's name sits atop both leaderboards.
But what's even more impressive than setting the record was the brutal efficiency in how he went about doing it. Bryant shot 19-for-31 (61.3%) from the field and a perfect 20-for-20 from the free-throw line. And while he may have stayed in the game a few more minutes than necessary simply to break the record, he did play only 36 minutes on the night, matching his season average.
What inspired his explosion? Surely part of it was wanting to pull Lakers fans back off the ledge after this afternoon's disappointing news about Bynum, but as he joked after the game, it was partly inspired by a certain Knicks super fan:
"On a lighter note, I gotta go review this documentary I'm doing with Spike Lee after the game," Bryant said. "I didn't feel like sitting next to him and hearing him talk trash about the Knicks. So, that was added incentive as well."
Way to help the home team, Spike. For what's it's worth, the rest of the fans in attendance seemed to appreciate the show, chanting M-V-P as Bryant approached and broke the record. You don't often see fans do that for a rival player, but there's something to be said for simply enjoying the moment as history is being made.
Kobe Bryant Scores 61, Most Ever at Madison Square Garden originally appeared on NBA FanHouse on Tue, 03 Feb 2009 00:50:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.