Stats say Kobe 's 81 is better than Wilt's 100
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:
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.
<By> John Hollinger