With Kobe’s final season coming to its close in less than 2 weeks, how could we not go back in time to the Bean’s MVP year of the 2005-2006 NBA season. The great debate about which of Bryant’s 20 year career always falls back on this great season and it’s not hard to see why.
Come take a trip with us after the jump and revisit the man that was Kobe Bryant from ’05-’06.
At this point in his illustrious career Kobe had already been privileged to see success in the NBA Finals as the famous duo of Bryant and O’Neal led the Lakers to 3 consecutive NBA Championships. As we all know the fallout was a big step for Kobe and the next few years of his NBA life.
With most of the Lakers roster disbanded it was clear that LA’s superstar would have to burden the task of racking up points. This was of course nothing new for Bryant as he was often criticised for taking too many shots ultimately being branded by some as the selfish player. However you choose to categorise his performance, there is no doubt that what Kobe gave in this season was exactly that – a performance like no other.
Bryant started out the first 18 games averaging 31 points with the last game of those 18 being and 11 point game against…. wait for it…. the Toronto Raptors. The next 62 games that Bryant played in that season he never fell below 20 points a game and in 46 of those games he scored 30 or more. Kobe finished the season averaging a sickening 35.4 points per game on an overall 45% shooting season. With this historic scoring season, Bryant holds the 8th best average PPG record in a season where 2 other players also had top 50 scoring performances that very same year in Allen Iverson (33.01) and LeBron James (31.37). Just to give some context to these records – the only person to come close to Kobe’s record since then was Kevin Durant in the 2013-2014 season with 32 points per game, capping his 4 straight scoring titles and earning him the NBA Most Valuable Player award.
Bryant entered 2006 in dramatic fashion and helped solidify his legendary career with a performance in the month of January of 43.4 points per game, almost 90% in Free-Throws and 47% from the field. While throwing out stats is fun, if you know your NBA history then you should know how Kobe reached these amazing stats and why Raptors fans would rather you not bring it up ever again.
It would be almost criminal to not mention one of the key reasons why Kobe will be revered around NBA circles for the rest of time. In a January 22nd game against the Toronto Raptors, Bryant “put on a clinic” as he dished out 81 points in that single game which, as we know, stands as the 2nd best scoring performance since Wilt Chamberlains 100 point game. A scoring display such as this hasn’t been seen since 2014, where both Carmelo Anthony (62 points) and LeBron James (61 points) cracked the top 20 in single game performances, and even more recently in February when Anthony Davis scored 59 points.
When the season was all said and done, there were a large number of NBA groups that would have conceded the NBA MVP award to Kobe this season and its hard not to look at the body of work that was the ’05-’06 season for Bryant. Instead, Steve Nash would take it over Bryant even as they both met in the first round of the playoffs that year. Bryant would lead a 45-37 Laker team into the first round and take them to 3-1 series lead over the Suns, until it all fell apart with the final 3 games being decided quite convincingly by Phoenix to bounce the Lakers out.
Regardless of the post-season result, the focus here is the regular season performance. For Kobe Bryant this season was and is his best performance in all of his 20 years in the NBA and something that needs to be recognised for at least the rarity that it occurs. It’s possible that we could see a scoring run like this in the future and perhaps even one better than those ahead of Bryant. For now however, as we bid goodbye to one of the NBA’s 10 best players in history, Bryant’s run during this season is one that will live in the history books and should be held with the highest regard.