Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant could score points in bunches, and sometimes with no warning, a trait he demonstrated to opponent after opponent throughout his 20-year NBA career. Such was the case on Nov. 24, 2005, against Ray Allen and the Seattle Supersonics.
In a game that would have been a career highlight for some players, it remains just a footnote in Bryant’s chapter of NBA history books. After scoring just five points in the first 30 minutes of play, Bryant exploded over the game’s final 18 minutes, pouring in 29 points while playing shutdown defense on Allen to lead the Lakers to a 108-96 comeback victory.
Following the game, Bryant said he was prouder of the latter achievement in a quote that was quintessential of himself, via ESPN:
“The defense was more fun, more challenging,” Bryant said. “Scoring the ball is pretty much like breathing to me. Defense, I really take a lot of pride in.”
If scoring the ball was like breathing, then Bryant got plenty of air while choking it out of the Sonics. And nights like that were routine at this phase of his career as Bryant adjusted to playing without Shaquille O’Neal and tested how far he could truly expand his game on a Lakers team bereft of other significant contributors outside of Lamar Odom.
To emphasize this, Bryant averaged 35.4 points per game that season, meaning that a 29-point evisceration of the Sonics in the second half still left him below his scoring average on the year.
That he did all of that while playing good enough defense to hold Allen, one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, to 19 points on 6-of-15 shooting is a testament to how great Bryant was even in mostly forgotten games during his prime.
There will probably never be another player quite like him, making even seemingly random games like this worth remembering.
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