In honor of Kobe Bryant celebrating his 40th birthday, Lakers Nation ranked the top 10 games in which he scored 40 points. It’s a threshold Bryant reached 135 times in his career, good for third-most in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain (284 games) and Michael Jordan (211).
Of Bryant’s 135 games with at least 40 points, 13 came in the playoffs, with the Lakers winning 10 of those contests. Additionally, six of the 135 games were 60-plus point performances, and 26 saw him score at least 50 points.
In 2003, Bryant scored 40 points or more in nine consecutive games, tying a record Jordan held when he accomplished the same feat during the 1986–87 season. The only player with longer streaks of 40 points or more is Chamberlain, who had a 14-game stretch in 1961–62 season and 10 consecutive games in the 1962–63 season.
In 2007, Bryant scored 50 points or more in four consecutive games. Chamberlain also holds that NBA record, pouring in 50-plus points in streaks of seven, six and five (twice) games, all during the 1961-62 season.
What Bryant can lay claim to is being the oldest player to score 60 or more points in a single game when he did so at 37 years and 234 days old to wrap up an incredible career.
As for the top-10 list of Bryant’s best 40-point games, it omits his career-best 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006. While a remarkable accomplishment, the second-highest scoring night the NBA has ever seen from a single player is an easy choice.
So too is when Bryant had 62 points to single-handedly outscore the Dallas Mavericks through three quarters on Dec. 20, 2005. It marked the first 60-point game of his career.
Bryant memorably told Brian Shaw he didn’t need to play the fourth quarter to pursue Chamberlain’s record because there would be another night. Turns out there was.
Also left off the list was Bryant’s crescendo. While dropping 60 points on the Utah Jazz was unforgettable, it’s another of his career highlights that’s easy to remember.
Without further ado, ranked below but separated by the regular season and playoffs, are the top-10 Kobe Bryant 40-point games that you may have forgotten.
1. 65 points vs. Trail Blazers on March 16, 2007; LAL 116, POR 111 (OT)
This marked the start of Bryant’s streak of four consecutive 50-plus point games. The majority of his points came in the fourth quarter when Bryant scored 24 of the Lakers’ 30 points, including their final 15.
2. 61 points @ Knicks on Feb. 2, 2009; LAL 126, NYK 117
With the Lakers coming off a game that saw Bryant collide into and injure Andrew Bynum’s knee, he was determined to not allow the team to become sidetracked. Bryant set the Madison Square Garden record for most points scored by an opposing player, which was previously held by Michael Jordan (55 ppints) at the current building — known as “Garden IV.”
3. 55 points vs. Wizards on March 28, 2003; LAL 108, WAS 94
Playing against one of his idols for the final time, Bryant put on a scoring display. He poured in 42 points in the first half and finished with 55 points against Jordan and the Wizards.
4. 45 points vs. SuperSonics on Jan. 7, 2003; LAL 119, SEA 98
Bryant settled into a groove from behind the arc, setting an NBA record by making 12 3-pointers in a single game. That was later tied by Donyell Marshall (March 13, 2005) and Stephen Curry (Feb. 27, 2016).
5. 40 points vs. Kings on March 12, 2000; LAL 109, SAC 106
Bryant’s first career 40-point game fittingly came against a Kings team that developed into an arch rival. Bryant shot an efficient 15-of-24 from the field, adding 10 rebounds and eight assists. This season was his fourth in the NBA but only second as a full-time starter.
1. 45 points @ Spurs on May 19, 2001; LAL 104, SA 90
The Spurs finished with the best record in the NBA that season and boasted the top-rated defense. However, they were no match for Bryant in Game 1 of their Western Conference Finals matchup.
He scored 12 points in the first quarter, and after a sleepy five points in the second, erupted for 15 points coming out of halftime and capped it off with 13 in the fourth quarter. Bryant’s 45 points are the most ever scored by a Spurs opponent in the playoffs.
This also gave Bryant back-to-back 40-point games in the playoffs for the first and only time in his career. The starting game of the streak appears at No. 3 below.
The performance led to Shaquille O’Neal revealing to reporters that he told Bryant he was his idol and was the best player in the league. “By far,” O’Neal added.
2. 50 points vs. Suns on May 4, 2006; PHX 126, LAL 118
While it was a night and first-round series to forget for Bryant and the Lakers, it stands as his only time scoring 50 points in a playoff game.
3. 48 points @ Kings on May 13, 2001; LAL 119, SAC 113
Bryant scored 40 points and hauled in 16 rebounds to lead the Lakers in their series sweep of the Kings in the second round of the playoffs. The game was Bryant’s first with 40 points in the playoffs.
4. 40 points vs. Rockets on May 6, 2009; LAL 111, HOU 98
The Lakers’ quest to atone for an NBA Finals loss to the Boston Celtics was nearly derailed in the second round of the 2009 playoffs. Having already dropped Game 1 to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Lakers were in danger of facing a daunting series deficit.
Instead, Bryant scored 40 points in as many minutes, pull the Lakers even in a series they needed seven games to win.
5. 40 points vs. Magic on June 4, 2009; LAL 100, ORL 75
Four wins from claiming his fourth championship, Bryant again faced one of the NBA’s top defenses in the Finals. This time he sent a message to Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic by scoring 40 points to lead the Lakers to a win in Game 1.
Bryant had 18 points in the third quarter, outscoring the Magic who combined for 15 points as a team. The 40 points Bryant had stand as his all-time high in an NBA Finals game.