It’s been just over fifteen years since Kobe Bryant went on his 81 point scoring tear. The feat included scoring 55 points in the second half of a 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Only a few players have come within striking distance of Kobe Bryant’s historic scoring night. Now his former teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, has put together a list of five players he believes could challenge Kobe’s scoring feat under the right circumstances.
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In an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, Shaq gave his picks. He named Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, James Harden, Devin Booker, and Kevin Durant as the best possible choices to challenge Kobe’s impressive benchmark.
Thoughts on Shaq's five? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/SzM5BsomEU
— ESPN (@espn) March 2, 2021
When I look at this list, two immediate snubs come to mind: Damian Lillard and Luka Doncic. However, the problem with this list is not the players Shaq chose, at least not for me. My problem is that the feat is nearly impossible and would take unique circumstances to overcome. You have to be an elite scorer on an underperforming team, playing against a really bad team. It’s a formula that is hard to produce in today’s NBA.
Therein lies the problem. Under those circumstances, you can go ahead and rule out KD, Kyrie, and James Harden. They have to share the court with one another so any one of them popping off for 81 feels highly unlikely. Of the players on the list, Devin Booker has come the closest. It only goes to show how impressive scoring 81 points really is. I don’t doubt that any one of Shaq’s named players is a special scorer, but it would take some outlandish circumstances for any of them to beat Kobe’s 81 point scoring extravaganza.
Bottom line: I just don’t see it happening. Kobe truly was a one of a kind.