Editor’s Note: As the Knicks face Kobe Bryant for the final time in his career Sunday (9 PM, MSG), look back at his historic 61-point performance at The Garden from 2009.
Bernard King‘s 60-point MSG scoring record stood for nearly 25 years. Then, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers came to town on February 2, 2009.
The Lakers were in the midst of what would be a 65-win season and an eventual NBA Championship, and Kobe was playing some of the best basketball of his career.
Kobe came out of the gate hot, scoring 13 points in the first 5:25 of the game. At the end of the first quarter, Bryant and teammate Pau Gasol (who quietly scored 31 points), had 30 of the Lakers’ 31 points, and by halftime, Bryant had 35 points.
He didn’t stop after that, doing most of his damage from the free-throw line in the second half. Kobe was a perfect 20-20 from the charity stripe and 15-15 in the second half.
With just under four minutes left in the game, Bryant eclipsed Michael Jordan’s record for most points scored by an opponent at The Garden (55 points). Then with 2:33 left, he sunk two more free throws for points No. 60 and 61, leaving him alone at the top.
Kobe’s shot chart from that night, courtesy of nba.com:
Even though he was on the opposition, The Garden crowd recognized the fantastic performance they were witnessing and cheered for Kobe during the game and gave him a standing ovation as he exited the court.
While King’s record stood for nearly 25 years, Kobe’s would last for under five as Carmelo Anthony claimed the MSG scoring throne with a 62-point performance in 2014.