Today, Feb. 1, is the first day of Black History Month, and it got me thinking — who had the best run during this month in NBA history?
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rick Barry and Oscar Robertson account for the five highest scoring February’s in NBA history. All have eclipsed the 590-point mark, and Wilt’s total of 705 is head and shoulders above Barry’s second-place count of 628. Although the volume is significant, none of these guys averaged more points a game than Kobe Bryant, who racked up 569 points in just 14 games.
Bryant’s per game number works out to 40.6. Everyone above him on the list has played in more games, while everyone below him as scored fewer points.
The 2002-03 season was when the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe dichotomy was coming to an end. Coming off their third-straight championship, Bryant realized his worth as a franchise player and possible Hall of Fame talent, and this was when he posted his first Mamba-like stat line.
By the end of the year, Bryant finished with an average 30 points a night on 45.1 percent shooting overall and 38.3 percent from three. In addition to that, he hauled in 6.9 rebounds, dished out 5.9 assists and picked off 2.2 steals. The rebound and steal numbers are his career-bests, while the assists are his fourth-best.
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I don’t know what got into Kobe, but his 14-game stretch 14 years ago was sensational. Los Angeles went 11-3 on the back of Bryant, and this was truly Killer Kobe.
The Utah Jazz were his first victim, and he hung 42 on them while making 12 of his 25 shots from the field and 16 of his 18 free throws. Following that performance, Bryant dumped 35 and 46 on the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks while the Lakers skated by both teams by three and five points.
Bryant then led Los Angeles into Denver, where his hot hand nearly burned all the snow off the Rocky Mountains. The Nuggets were blown out by 28 in the first meeting while Kobe casually posted 42 points. Then, on the second night of a back-to-back, the Mamba netted 51 in just 31 minutes by building a house on the free throw line and not leaving until he went there 20 times — he hit 18.
San Antonio and the Knicks brought the Lakers back down to Earth by handing them consecutive losses, but Bryant’s descent was slower than his team’s, and Kobe registered 42 and 40 on those nights.
A double overtime game against the Houston Rockets kicked off a six-game winning streak.
Every player not named Kobe Bryant (or Yao Ming, who finished with 24 points) had a paltry night shooting, and the Lakers didn’t score their 100th point until there was 2:26 left in the second OT.
It took Los Angeles nearly 55 minutes to crack the century mark. Kobe poured in 52 in 54 minutes.
As the days wore on, Bryant wore out, and his (second) 40-piece against Utah was his last scintillating performance. The five games after that saw volume scoring with extreme inefficiency, and he shot just 41.8 percent.
By the beginning of March, Bryant had collected 569 points on 47.2 percent shooting overall, 42.9 percent from three. His second most impressive metric during that stretch were his free throw attempts and Kobe had made 175 trips to the charity stripe. The rest of the year paled in comparison to that torrid stretch, but that was Bryant’s climax. Individually, the subsequent seasons were the best of his career, and it was indisputable that Bryant was the closest we had seen to Michael Jordan.
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