Phil Jackson Apparently Stopped Kobe Bryant From Beating Wilt’s 100-Point Game
— 3 January 2023

Phil Jackson Apparently Stopped Kobe Bryant From Beating Wilt’s 100-Point Game

— 3 January 2023

January 23, 2006. 18,997 fans filled the seats of the Staples Centre, including the grandmother of Kobe Bryant, who was there to watch the only game she’d ever attend in person. But not even she knew that 81 points later, everyone there would witness what is unrivalled as the single most impressive individual performance in NBA history. Well… almost unrivalled.

In 1962, Wilt Chamberlain racked up a number with a little more prestige: 100 points. Across 48 minutes, The Stilt hit triple-digit points with 36-63 FG (57%) and 28-32 FT (88%), along with 25 rebounds. Despite bolstering a 22-point lead, Wilt played every single minute of the game to help the Philadelphia Warriors beat the everliving crap out of the New York Knicks.

For context, the three-point line didn’t even exist until five years after this feat. Every single bucket was pure grit from a man amongst boys.

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While discussing the fact that LeBron James is currently on a direct collision course to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leader in points scored, Bryant’s former teammate John Salley suggested the possibility that they’d intentionally prevent him from doing so. 

“I didn’t agree with something Phil Jackson said to me and then I got into my 50s and I got it,” said Salley,

“So, I didn’t agree, but I say, ‘Phil, Kobe had 81! No matter what you do, he was about to get 104.’ They would have kept feeding him the ball.”

“The other side would have been like, ‘Don’t hurt him’ – but there would have been clear outs and Kobe would have gotten 104. And then he goes…”

“‘Well, some records need to stand. He’s #2, he doesn’t need to be #1.’”

Translation: the legendary head coach essentially sabotaged Kobe Bryant, according to Salley’s considerable claim. Not to accuse Salley of outright lying, although we are a little sceptical of his story for a few reasons.

For starters, Kobe Bryant played 42 of 48 minutes in that game. 19 points in six minutes? Definitely possible, especially given how he caught fire that game. But not here. Bryant’s bench minutes were all in the first half, where he put up 26 points and the Lakers were down 63-49 to the Toronto Raptors. That is great; it isn’t challenging Wilt’s title just yet.

It was in the second half that Kobe Bryant would score the majority of his 81 points, lead the Lakers on a legendary comeback, and permanently disgrace the name “Jalen Rose.” He played all 12 minutes of the third quarter (scored 27) and all of the fourth quarter (scored 28) aside from 4.2 seconds when Jackson subbed him off and the crowd absolutely roared.  

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Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant had their differences, but they did ultimately win five championships together. It’s hard to believe that the coach would intentionally prevent his star player from making history, especially when his performance was the difference between a win and losing by 14. 

John Salley retired from the Lakers six years before this game would take place, so his insight into Jackson’s coaching decisions here is a bit limited. As for the LeBron James implications of his comments, it’s unclear how exactly “they” – unclear who “they” even are – will prevent him from breaking the all-time points record. If we later report on a Tonya Harding-esque orchestrated knee-capping attack on LeBron this season, don’t say Salley didn’t warn you.

While Wilt Chamberlain’s single-game record did happen to survive the onslaught of Kobe Bryant and his 81 points, if you asked most players around the NBA, they’d tell you that the Black Mamba’s figure is more impressive than the Big Dipper’s.

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The fact that footage from Wilt’s game doesn’t even exist – and recordings of the radio broadcast aren’t readily available – tells you a lot about the level of basketball being played. We’re not going to dismissively refer to the players of this era as milkmen, plumbers, and firefighters – even though a lot of them were part-timers – but Kobe’s game is simply on another level. Wilt’s stats off the court, however, remain unchallenged by anyone.

Watch Kobe Bryant scorch the bloody earth above.

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