Kobe Bryant had too many incredible scoring performances with the Los Angeles Lakers for all of them to immediately spring to mind when remembering his best ones. His game against the Orlando Magic on March 21, 1999, wouldn’t rank among his greatest, but it was an incredible step forward for the then-burgeoning superstar.
Bryant started the first half against the Magic fairly quietly, managing just five points as the Lakers trailed 63-43. But Bryant — in some of the earliest evidence of his future Hall of Fame status — did what stars do, and took the game into his own hands in the second half.
He scored 33 points over the final 24 minutes to finish with a season-high 38 points. Those 38 points weren’t Bryant’s only contribution of the day. He also managed four assists, three rebounds, two steals and a block to help Shaquille O’Neal beat his old team.
O’Neal was also big for the Lakers against the Magic that day, scoring 31 points on 14-of-19 shooting to go with 13 rebounds.
The dominant duo’s supporting cast wasn’t overwhelmingly helpful in the victory, but as was wont to happen during the three-peat era, those players Shaq so affectionately calls “others” chipped in just enough to get the job done.
There was Derek Harper scoring 20 points and dishing five assists, while Glen Rice chipped in 13 points of his own. No one else on the team was overly impressive offensively, with Robert Horry and Rick Fox tied for being the next-highest scorers with four points apiece.
In addition to Bryant’s scoring heroics, the Lakers also locked down defensively in the second half to escape the Magic Kingdom with a win. Los Angeles held Orlando to 41 points in the second half after giving up 63 over the first two quarters.
The Lakers also shot 10-of-16 (62.5 percent) from 3-point range in the victory, the type of long-distance success necessary to make a comeback like they did against the Magic. Still, like with so many games back in those days, they couldn’t have done it without an explosion from Bryant.