Why Kobe Bryant's 81-Point Game Held A Special Significance In His Family

Kobe Bryant was born in Philadelphia in 1978, Britannica reports, and shooting hoops was clearly in his blood. His father had also carved out quite the career in the NBA and beyond. His equally brilliant son began playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in the season of 1996-97, and set about defining himself as one of the greatest players in recent memory.

A Laker legend through and through, Bryant was critical to the team's success throughout his career with them. It's difficult to pick out specific highlights of his long run with the team, but there was one game of his that surely meant more to his family than almost any other. Here's why.

Bryant, CNN reports, was an NBA star for two whole decades. He spent the entirety of that time with his beloved Lakers, and for his efforts and sheer prowess, he was an icon for both the fans and the rest of the team. In February of 2020, the NBA's Shaun Poawell defined Bryant's career as "two decades as a certified and relentless winner."

The team's first match since his sad death the month before was marked by a touching tribute to the man and the powerhouse player he was, the outlet reports, and in the wake of the devastating loss, his widow Vanessa took to Instagram to thank the sporting world (and beyond) for its love and support.

One of the greatest NBA moments ever

"I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved," Vanessa wrote in an Instagram post. "Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us." An adoring husband, father and wider family member, then, but Bryant was known by millions more for his remarkable talent on the court.

In one very special match, however, he combined all of these roles: his legendary 81-point game occurred, it seems, under the watchful eye of Bryant's grandmother.

As the NBA reports, Bryant accrued a huge selection of accolades over the course of his career. He was deemed the All-Star MVP on no less than four different occasions, the NBA's Player Of The Month 17 times over, and has two Olympic Gold Medals to his name. Perhaps his most remarkable feat, however, was his 81 point game, which took place on January 22 2006. His unfortunate opponents were the Toronto Raptors, who were on top against the Lakers until Bryant's one-man show, which made the NBA's Top Moments series.

Inspired by his grandmother and grandfather

According to the NBA, Kobe Bryant scored 55 points in the second half, with the rest of his team combined contributing just 18. In any sport, it takes great strength of character to recover from falling behind, marshal every ounce of talent and pull yourself back into the game, but Bryant was an elite athlete who could do so with absurd panache and style. Most astonishing of all, he did this while nursing an injured ankle. In a post-match interview (via whizz kidd on YouTube), Bryant said, "my ankle was hurting me ... I was a little tired, but ... we needed to get this W so I had to push through it."

There was more to the story than just that, though. In a 2012 interview with Graham Bensinger (via Graham Bensinger on YouTube), Bryant explained that the match took place on the birthday of his late grandfather. His grandmother, meanwhile, had never attended an NBA match of his, because, as he said, "her nerves can't take it. She ... flew out to California and she came to watch me play ... for the first time and the only time."

The star went on to say that this made the moment even more poignant for him, as his grandmother had been such a rock in his life. "Out of the family, we're probably the most similar ... personalities."