John Salley reveals Phil Jackson benched Kobe Bryant in 81-point game to prevent him from scoring 100

David Akerman
3 Min Read

Los Angeles Lakers fans surely remember exactly where they were when team legend Kobe Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in January of 2006.

Bryant led his team to a comeback victory in the game by going 28-for-46 from the field and 7-for-13 from beyond the arc. Of course, he etched his name into league history by scoring the second-most points ever in an NBA game.

Former Lakers champ John Salley recently offered some interesting insight regarding the contest. Salley claims that then-Lakers head coach Phil Jackson benched Bryant during the game because “some records need to stand.”

“I didn’t agree with something Phil Jackson said to me,” Salley began. “… I said, ‘Phil, Kobe had 81.’ No matter what you do, he was about to get 104. They would’ve kept feeding him the ball. The other side would’ve been like, ‘Don’t hurt him.’ But, there would’ve been clearouts, and Kobe would’ve got 104.

“He goes, ‘Well, some records need to stand.’ And I was like, ‘Wow.’ He goes, ‘He’s No. 2. He doesn’t need to be No. 1.'”

Some Lakers fans surely won’t be happy to hear Salley’s claim. Many fans likely would’ve loved to have seen Bryant break Wilt Chamberlain’s long-standing record.

It would be great if Jackson were able to corroborate or dispute Salley’s claim and offer some more information regarding that game. While Jackson and Bryant had their fair share of differences, it seems a bit far-fetched that the 77-year-old would purposely sabotage Bryant’s chances of setting an NBA record.

Jackson and Bryant worked alongside each other on the Lakers for many years and had lots of success. They helped spearhead a three-peat for the Lakers alongside Shaquille O’Neal from 2000 to 2002.

A look at the game’s box score shows that Bryant played 42 of a possible 48 minutes during the contest. With 4.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Lakers already up 122-104, Bryant was removed from the game for the last time.

Since that epic show in 2006, not many have come close to matching Bryant’s 81-point total. Bryant himself actually scored 65 points in the following year against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, who idolized Bryant growing up, recorded 70 points against the Boston Celtics in 2017. Only time will tell if someone ends up surpassing Bryant’s and Chamberlain’s marks at the top.

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David is a University of Maryland graduate who has spent most of his life in Miami. He has experience in writing, editing and video production. He is a proud contributor of Lakers Daily.