While Kobe Bryant won enough championship rings to fill up one whole hand, the number of unforgettable moments he had on the court amounts to far more than that you can count on ten fingers. However, the late Laker legend’s 81-point performance would serve as an incredible place to start. Sixteen years removed from this legendary game, the shooting shirt that Kobe rocked prior to tip-off is currently part of a single-lot auction through Sotheby’s.
Back in January of 2006, Bryant shattered the Lakers’ former franchise-high in points by double digits, eclipsing Elgin Baylor’s previous record of 71 by a formidable 10 points. While this Reebok shooting shirt wasn’t the key element that turned him into an offensive dynamo against the Toronto Raptors, it is a relic from one of the most unfathomable games in sports history. Of the five performances that sit atop the all-time scoring leaderboards in a single game, an eye-popping four of them belong to the late Wilt Chamberlain, with Kobe’s 81-point barrage sitting at second behind the Warrior center’s mythical 100-point game.
While Chamberlain’s performance has proven to be insurmountable, the modern era of basketball has dictated that the Black Mamba’s shotmaking prowess may be equally difficult to reach. Plus, the listing suggests that Kobe went on to wear this exact shirt on a handful of other occasions through his tireless 2005-06 campaign, most notably on the day he hit an iconic buzzer-beater in the playoffs against league MVP Steve Nash and the rival Phoenix Suns.
With a variety of shoes and shirts bearing the late great’s name being unethically upsold on the resale market, it’s good to see that an authentic artifact from Bryant’s playing days is garnering the respect it deserves. Sotheby’s’ “81” lot, featuring this game-worn shooting shirt and an exclusive NFT, is ongoing through February 22 and is expected to sell for more than $200,000.