Warriors

Fizdale, Barnes believe Klay is a sleeper to match Kobe's 81

Warriors
Kobe and Klay shaking hands

Friday marked the 15-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant's 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors.

The performance by the late Los Angeles Lakers superstar was one of the most iconic efforts in NBA history. Only Wilt Chamberlain has scored more points in a single game, when the Philadelphia Warriors star dropped 100 points on the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962.

Since Kobe's big night in 2006, the closest any player has come to reaching 81 is Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker, who scored 70 points in a loss to the Boston Celtics in 2017.

During Friday's episode of The Jump on ESPN, host Rachel Nichols asked former NBA head coach David Fizdale and former Warriors forward Matt Barnes if there were any current players who could equal Kobe's 81 points.

Fizdale: "There's only one guy that's gotten even close to that and that's Mr. Booker, right? Mr. Booker had 70 points in a game. So he's shown the ability to get it going. But I think there's other guys."

Barnes: "I've got a little list. I got [Kevin Durant], Steph [Curry], [James] Harden, Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard and Devin Booker. I think the only probably able to do it now because I think Harden and KD will cross each other out, either Dame, Booker or Steph can do it."

Fizdale: "Because they're going to have that ball all the time. But you know, the interesting name in that group which people sleep on is Klay because he gets it done."

 

Barnes: "He had 60 in three quarters."

Fizdale: "And he had the ball for a minute and 40 seconds."

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Thompson certainly has the ability to score at historic clips, but reaching 81 might be tougher given that when he returns to the court next season, he will be coming off two devastating leg injuries.

After missing the entire 2019-20 season while rehabbing a torn left ACL suffered in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, Thompson sustained a torn right Achilles on Nov. 18.

Thompson will be 31 years old when the 2021-22 NBA season begins and the Warriors likely will ease him back into the lineup, meaning he won't play crazy minutes early in the season. Depending on his rehab goes, they could limit him most of the season just to protect him.

But if Thompson returns to his peak performance, he's more than capable of going off for 81 points. His 3-point shooting has helped him notch three games where he scored at least 50 points, and his career-high of 60 came in three quarters against the Indiana Pacers in 2016.

During the height of the Warriors' dynasty, the team was so dominant that Thompson, Curry and Durant oftentimes sat out the fourth quarter because they were winning handily.

RELATED: Brian Shaw recalls Kobe's maturation from young gym rat to star

But the new-look Warriors might not have the luxury of resting their stars in the fourth quarter next year and beyond, meaning Thompson could have 60 points through three quarters and still need to play in the fourth quarter.

Thompson, a native of Southern California, idolized Kobe, so it would mean the world to him to match Bryant's career-high. And if the Warriors star ever is able to accomplish the feat, it will be good news for the Warriors because it will mean the shooting guard has returned to form after devastating ACL and Achilles injuries.