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01-23-2006, 10:26 PM
Stats say Kobe's 81 is better than Wilt's 100

By John Hollinger
ESPN Insider

It seems at first glance that Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point night in 1962 is far superior to Kobe Bryant's 81-point game Sunday. After all, Bryant still needed 19 more points -- roughly Pau Gasol's average -- just to catch the Dipper.

But if you stack the two games side by side, you'll come to the startling realization that Bryant's performance was actually far superior. Breaking the two games down by the numbers, it quickly becomes apparent what a dominant night Kobe had. Consider the facts:

Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt scored 100 of his team's 169 points in the 1962 game.

Bryant was more efficient. Bryant needed 46 shot attempts and 20 free throws to get 81 points. Chamberlain needed 63 field-goal attempts and 32 free-throw tries to get his 100. Bryant's true shooting percentage for the night was 73.9 percent; Chamberlain's was only 63.9 percent.

Bryant's performance was more real. In Chamberlain's game, the Warriors intentionally fouled the Knicks in the final minute of play to get the ball back for another Chamberlain try at the century mark. Only on his third try did he get to 100. At the time, his team was comfortably ahead, as it was for the entire second half, and it won 169-147. Bryant, on the other hand, got almost all his points when they were desperately needed, as his team trailed by 18 early in the third quarter.

Bryant needed fewer minutes. If you want to really be amazed, consider the fact that Kobe sat out for six minutes in the second quarter. So Bryant scored his 81 points in only 42 minutes, while Wilt played the full 48 in his 100-point effort. Had he played for an additional six minutes and scored at the same rate (hardly an unreasonable assumption, given how much gas he appeared to have at the end), Kobe would have finished with 93 points. Yes, 93.

The game was different. Of all the differences between Bryant's game and Chamberlain's, this one is perhaps the biggest. Chamberlain's game ended up 169-147, Bryant's 122-104. Obviously, there was a huge difference in the speed of play, and that meant Chamberlain had far more opportunities to score than Bryant did.

Chamberlain's game featured 233 field-goal attempts versus 164 for Bryant's, and 93 free-throw attempts to 60 for Bryant's. We have no data on turnovers and offensive rebounds for Chamberlain's game, but based on the numbers I just mentioned, we can estimate there were 46 percent more possessions in the Chamberlain game than in the Kobe game.

If that's the case, we need to inflate Kobe's numbers by 46 percent to get an accurate idea of what it equates to in Chamberlain's era. The answer? An unbelievable 118 points. And if we add in six extra minutes for Bryant, we end up with the mind-boggling total of 135. By one player. In one game.

Another way to look at it is by deflating Chamberlain's numbers by a similar amount. If we change his currency into "2006 points," so to speak, the Stilt ends up with 68 points -- still an awesome performance, but clearly not on a level with Kobe's 81-point outburst. And once you adjust for the 48 minutes Chamberlain played vs. Kobe's 42, you end up with 60 points for Wilt -- or just a bit more than Kobe rang up in the second half.

So when our Marc Stein says this is the most amazing performance ever, believe it. Once you adjust for the differences in pace between the two eras and the fact that Bryant sat out for six minutes, even Chamberlain's monumental 100-point game pales by comparison. For basketball historians, Bryant's effort is now the scoring effort against which all others should be measured.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. His book "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06" is available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books. To e-mail him, click here.

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SportsNation John Hollinger: Hey everyone, welcome to the chat. I thought LeBron's game against Utah was the best I'd seen in a while -- he scored 51 and got a standing ovation from the opposing crowd when he checked out -- and then Kobe goes and blows it out of the water withi his 81. Let's discuss....

Anthony (Detroit): You said in a prior chat that the Spurs have a tougher path to the Finals than the Pistons because they will have to get past Phoenix, while Detroit won't have to face a comparable team. What about Miami? Don't you expect Shaq to be at his best come playoff time, making the Heat a serious threat to come out of the East?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Everyone in Miami is saying the right thing about Shaq being in top form by the playoffs, but let me offer two counterpoints. First, he wasn't last year, so why should this year be any different. Second, have you seen the guy lately? I was shocked at slow and out of shape he looked. I mean, he can still get 20 and 10 most nights due to his sheer size, but what set him apart was his amazing quickness for a player of his size, and this year he's shown none of that.

mike (philly): The Sixers are a mess right now. There was a report in the paper that the Sixers might do the unthinkable and trade Iverson. Do you think it will happen if they continue to lose?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Let's clarify: It wasn't the Sixers saying they might trade Iverson, it was a columnist suggesting they should think about it. Two very different things there. At this point, I see no point in trading Iverson unless you were going to trade Webber first, because otherwise the team still has the same cap problems, only now they don't have their best player.

And while Sixers fans are despairing, I should piont out that all Cheeks' teams in Portland showed a dramatic improvement in the second half of the season. Not saying it will happen here, but food for thought.

Aubin (Hobart, IN): What do you think about Kobe Bryant? I seen it on sportscenter last night and I am still not over it!!! Do you think you'll ever see anything like it again?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Ah yes, I suppose I should discuss Kobe. As you'll read in my story today, I think once you adjusted for the difference in era, Kobe's 81 is actually more impressive than Chamberlain's 100. No matter what your thoughts are on Bryant, what he did last night was simply awesome.

Ryan Boston: ESPN reported a deal involving Mark Blount was "almost done" and I still haven't heard any final verdict. Will this be the only Celtics trading option or are there more to come (Paul Pierce) ? ?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Ryan, with the exception of Al Jefferson and Delonte West pretty much everyone on the Celtics is in play at this point. A Blount deal of some kind makes too much sense not to happen, but teams tend to dawdle on this stuff until the trade deadline forces them into action.

Mike (Dallas, TX): Is Josh Howard an all-star this year. He is the second best player on a team with the third best record in the league. Isn't that deserving?

SportsNation John Hollinger: He's on the cusp, but it's virtually impossible to make the Western team as a forward without being a superstar. If you figure that Duncan, Brand, Garnett, Dirk, Marion, Gasol, Melo, Kirilenko are all better, and the fans will vote in T-Mac, that doesn't leave much room for Howard.

John California: With kobe's 81 points last night, do you see him holding the MVP Trophy if the lakers can make it to the second round in the playoffs?

SportsNation John Hollinger: The MVP vote comes after the regular season, so playoff performance will have no bearing on it. As for MVP, if Kobe can get the Lakers to 45-50 wins he's going to get a lot of consideration, especially after last night. What will hurt him, however, are a few efforts like the selfish gunning in OT against Sacramento that remove some of the luster from incredible performances like last night's.

Henry (NY): I find the most surprising thing about Kobe is that he's leap-frogged Lebron in the PER rating. Is that just from the sheer volume of points he's put up lately?

SportsNation John Hollinger: It's not just the points -- it's also the efficiency. Think about it: He scored 81 points last night on 46 shots.

Ron, North Hills: With Kobe going as good as he is, would you trade Odom and a draft pick for Artest? The rumors are that the Pacers are interested in Odom and the numbers work.

SportsNation John Hollinger: Obviously something like this is a calculated risk, but Phil Jackson's track record with Dennis Rodman tells me there's a good chance he could keep Artest under control. If I was LA I would be very tempted.

Joe Morris (Toronto, Canada): Why would the Raptors let Kobe drop 81 on them without seriously double or triple teaming him in the last 3 minutes when the game was already over. Do you think it's the coach's fault?

SportsNation John Hollinger: This came up a lot when Michael Jordan played too. The answer is that it's much harder to double somebody when they catch the ball 30 feet from the basket. Could the Raptors have done a few things different defensively? Absolutely. And I'm sure the Knicks would have liked to revist their strategy after Wilt got 100 on them in 1962. But it doesn't change the fact that it was a tremendous individual effort.

Nick (Washington DC): Do you see Kobe or somebody else repeating a 80 odd performance anytime soon?

SportsNation John Hollinger: I think it's possible he could do it again. All the conditions are right -- there is no secondary scorer around to siphon away shots, and he already had the Dallas game where he could have had 80 if he hadn't sat out.

Adam (Chicago, IL): Are the Bulls too undermanned to expect a push for the playoffs? It doesn't seem like Wiz and Sixers are all that much better. Thanks.

SportsNation John Hollinger: I expect Chicago to get back into the race. Comparing their point differential with teams like Milwaukee and Philly, there's not much of a difference, and Chicago could potentially get help if they find a taker for Tim Thomas.

JKL (Boston): Anyone else in the NBA who COULD drop 80? I'm not expecting anyone else besides Kobe to do it anytime soon.

SportsNation John Hollinger: I suppose McGrady doing it, especially while Yao is out, but Houston's slow pace could get in the way and I don't think they'd want to play him 45 minutes with his back. And in a few years, who knows what LeBron will be capable of ...

Mike (Detroit): Today the NY papers suggested that Eddy Curry starts strong and then disappears. Is Larry Brown using his big money center the "right way"?

SportsNation John Hollinger: He had the same pattern in Chicago. i don't know if it's disappearing as much as its tough to contribute when you're saddled with fouls. Also, if you look at most NBA teams, they'll make a concerted effort to get their bigs touches in the first quarter, but then drift away from it as the game wears on. So Curry's big-first-quarter pattern isn't terribly unusual.

SportsNation John Hollinger: West's development has been a real pleasant surprise in a bummer of a year for Boston. He's at 52.5% from the floor and 43.5% on 3s. I'm not sure he'll keep producing at that rate -- it's very rare for a guard to shoot such a high percentage on 2-point shots -- but he has a smooth stroke and shot well at St. Joe's, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him near the top of his position in TS% for some time to come.

Chel Union,NJ: Yes it was a great performance by Kobe but couldn't any of the top 5 players in the league have done the same if they shot as much as Bryant did?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Actually, this is what made it amazing-- it wasn't just a question of taking a ton of shots and having a few go in. Kobe's True Shooting Percentage last night was 73.9%.

Ronald San Francisco, CA: Mark Stein says it's the greatest individual performance ever. I think I agree with that - eventually either Kobe or LeBron will eclipse that 100 mark, although Kobe definitely has the hotter hand and shooting touch. Do you think that Kobe will ever be better than Jordan. I think offensively, he's better than MJ, but MJ has the power to change the entire game whenever he wants to, especially in clutch situations.

SportsNation John Hollinger: Sorry, but Kobe isn't in Jordan's league. He's never had a single season that approached Jordan's best years, much less a string of them in succession. What he's had are moments -- single games, like last night, where he's looked like the best player on earth. But MJ was far more consistent.

John (Grand Rapids, Mi): The Grizzlies have just signed Chucky Atkins today. Do you think there will be some sort of sign and trade deal involving Memphis and Detroit? Maybe Arroyo and a Pick for Atkins??

SportsNation John Hollinger: Atkins held off on signing with Memphis to see if the Pistons were interested. Obviously, they weren't. No point in Detroit trading for him now when they could have had him for free.

Rodrigo (Miami, FL): If the starting lineup in the Olympics includes Kobe, Lebron, and Wade, will the U.S. be unstoppable?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Actually, am I the only who's a little worried about Kobe on that team? With the zones that everybody plays against the U.S., a winning offensive strategy is to fire eight passes or so and end up with somebody wide open for a jumper. I'm not sure Kobe's interested in playing that kind of game, but I hope I'm wrong.

Bernard: While I agree that Kobe hasn't had a single season that compares to Jordan, however, you have to realize that Kobe is still only 27 years old and still has time.

SportsNation John Hollinger: It's his 10th year -- how much time would you like to give him?

Jeremiah (Wyoming): What are the odds of Theo Ratliff finishing the year in Portland? I'd imagine the Blazers would look to move him with the size of his contract and limited production?

SportsNation John Hollinger: The Blazers are very willing to move him. The problem is that, due to the aforementioned big contract and limited production, nobody particularly wants him.

Rob (Los Angeles, CA): Re-examine the Shaq trade for a minute. As Shaq's numbers and health decline, doesn't this trade look better and better from the Lakers perspective? Don't you think people were a little too quick to call this a bad trade when it happenned?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Not really. An out of shape Shaq is still better than Lamar Odom, especially when Odom has so much trouble co-existing with Kobe. Remember, they didn't trade Shaq for Kobe. They traded him for Odom and, now, Kwame Brown.

Dallas, TX: In my opinion this is the best team Dallas has ever had. We have a great chance to dethrone San Antonio.. what do you think?

SportsNation John Hollinger: I think Dallas has a great shot at coming out of the west this year, but it's very important that they beat out San Antonio for the division. They'd have to win three tough series if they end up as No. 4.

Artie (Shepherdstown, WV): With Tim Duncan's lingering foot problem and now with Ginobli going down will the Spurs be ready come playoff time?

SportsNation John Hollinger: They should be ready -- Manu could be back in a week or two and Duncan might take some stategic rest in the spring to be in top shape for April. The bigger questions are whether they'll have to win multiple series on the road, and if they can get their wing guys (Manu excepted) to give them more offense.

Layla (TX): Would it make sense for the Spurs to just give Timmy a month off to rest his foot?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Following up on the previous question, yes, I think that would make sense, but it's a non-starter unless they can convince Duncan.

James (Detroit): One of the deciding factors so far for the Pistons' season is that we haven't had to face any serious injuries like other teams (ie San Antonio). Do you think our roster is good and deep enough to survive an injury to one of the starting five?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Unlike last year, I think they probably are. However, they can't make a run at 70 unless the starting five play all 82. I should point out that Detroit's run of good health is reaching ridiculous proportions -- other than Ben Wallace's suspension they've literally had no important injuries to any key rotation players (sorry,Lindsey Hunter doesn't count) for two years running.

juan (ft. lauderdale): Any chance the Heat pull a trade for a defensive stopper?

SportsNation John Hollinger: I think they like Posey in that role, but Miami needs another wing player of some kind to fill out the rotation. Right now they're overloaded with big men and point guards but have to either play guys out of position or resort to using Kapono once Wade/Posey check out.

SportsNation John Hollinger: Folks, that's all the time I have, but if you just can't get enough Kobe talk, I'll be on ESPNews around 5.20 today to talk about it some more. Otherwise I'll see you all again next Monday at 3. So long!

01-23-2006, 10:27 PM
Eight ways to stop No. 8

By John Carroll

No coach is prepared for the kind of onslaught Kobe Bryant had Sunday night. When you devise a game plan, you aren't thinking about how to stop an opponent from scoring 81 points.

But extreme performances call for extreme responses. At some point, you have to draw the line and say, "Enough!"

So next time a team finds itself looking at another Kobe Show, here are some ways to slow it down.

First, since Kobe handles the ball so much -- after rebounds, outlet passes, steals and inbounds plays -- you should pick him up full-court.

This will force him to give the ball up, and it could have the effect of slowing down the offense's ability to set up the play and return the ball to Bryant.

It will also tend to wear him out, if he tries to bring the ball up against pressure. Normally, jump shooters tend to shoot the ball short when their legs are tired.

Second, to go along with that, you should run a fresh player at him every couple of minutes.

Third, you should be ready to double team him at all times in the frontcourt. As soon as another player crosses half-court with the ball, be ready. If Bryant brings the ball across half-court, trap him right away and force him to give it up. If he receives a pass in the frontcourt, trap him.

Fourth, deny, deny, deny. Don't let him have it up top, don't let him post up at the elbow (one of his favorite spots), don't let him post up down low. Deny the ball from him. Force the Lakers to make difficult passes to him or move the ball to an open man.

There is nothing easy about any of this. It's hard work, and sometimes it seems there is nothing you can do.

When I coached Paul Pierce, he would score in the 40s, and on those nights we would try to get him the ball every single time, and in a variety of ways so the defense couldn't key on him as easily. But sometimes it didn't matter. When he was going good, he would make all kinds of shots -- jumpers, step-back 3s, drives to the basket -- and get fouled repeatedly. There was little the defense could do.

But 81 is in another stratosphere. When facing that kind of performance, desperate measures are required. So while, for a variety of reasons, you wouldn't use these strategies every night, those are the defensive techniques to employ to have a chance to slow down a Kobe Bryant on such a night.

One way to prevent another explosion of 81 points -- or more -- is to focus your offense on Kobe. Normally, you wouldn't do this, of course, but again, we're talking about ways to slow him down.

First, you attack him directly. Kobe's a dynamic defender who doesn't like to back down from a challenge. So challenge him. Make him work. Wear him out.

Second, attack him indirectly, by running him around a lot of screens. If he's playing good defense, this will tend to tire him. Of course, if he's conserving energy for the offensive end, this might not work.

Third, get him in foul trouble. Of course, this requires the cooperation of the officials, who might be reluctant to assign fouls to Bryant on a big night.

Fourth, try to keep your team in the game mentally. When Bryant went off, the Raptors went into a slump, lost an 18-point lead and became deflated. Meanwhile, the Lakers were pumped. That's human nature -- everyone gets caught up somewhat in the emotion of the moment. But you should try to keep your team going on offense.

But sometimes everything fails. Kobe defies logic. He's one of the few people gifted enough to make, against almost any defense, the kinds of shots he made on Sunday.

If I'm coaching Toronto, I don't get too worked up about this one game. As they say, it happens.

Former NBA coach John Carroll of Scouts Inc. writes regularly for ESPN Insider.

01-24-2006, 08:01 PM
John Hollinger: Sorry, but Kobe isn't in Jordan's league. He's never had a single season that approached Jordan's best years, much less a string of them in succession. What he's had are moments -- single games, like last night, where he's looked like the best player on earth. But MJ was far more consistent.