A night to be forgotten by some and mythologized by others, Kobe Bryant‘s 81-point performance against Toronto will go down as one of the more infamous moments in Raptors franchise history.
On Jan. 22, 2006, Bryant broke David Thompson’s record for most points scored by a guard in a single NBA game (73, a record that remained intact for 28 years) and led the Los Angeles Lakers in a comeback victory for the ages.
But at least time heals some wounds, and 11 years later at least one Raptor on the floor that night is able to have some fun with it.
In a new commercial for ESPN, Jalen Rose runs into Bryant at a restaurant. Mild hilarity ensues:
Rose, who was tasked with guarding Bryant 1-on-1 throughout the game — then-Raptors coach Sam Mitchell notoriously refused to double-team the Lakers legend — had squared off against Bryant years earlier in the NBA Finals as a member of the Indiana Pacers. A few weeks after the 81-point game Rose was dealt to the Knicks in one of the more bizarre trades in team history.
The 81-point night was a rough one in a season full of ’em for the Raptors, who started off with a putrid 1-16 record and only managed 26 more wins the rest of the campaign. But that Lakers game was a true low point that highlighted the dysfunction on the Raptors during the ’05-06 season.
You can take a deeper dive into that night here, in which then-starting point guard Mike James explains the frustration that evening:
“I would watch how during timeouts coach Mitchell would have, like, a smirk on his face,” recalled James. “Everyone [on the Raptors] was so amazed by what was going on. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone, and I just couldn’t figure out—‘Why aren’t we focusing on defence right now? Why aren’t we trying to regain our lead?’ Let’s get back in this game!. And everyone is laughing like, ‘Did you see that shot he just made?’, or ‘My goodness did you see that pump fake from the corner?’ Are you serious right now? We’re not thinking about winning no longer? That’s what bothered me because everyone in the gym was starstruck…”