The Legend of the 81-Point Game

Mar 12, 2023

The late great Kobe Bryant changed the game of basketball with his work ethic and killer instinct, also known as the Mamba Mentality. Among his many accomplishments in his Hall of Fame career, Bryant practically single-handedly dominated the 2006 Toronto Raptors one night in an 81-point barrage. Writer-director Johannes Guttenkunst’s The Legend of the 81-Point Game tells the story of that memorable night from those who witnessed that night’s greatness.
In 2006, the Toronto Raptors took on the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. The Raptors were dominating the Lakers for most of the game, up until the point Bryant hit a switch and decided to put the game into his hands. Bryant came out in the second half, making shot after shot while being guarded by up to five guys. This game is known as the most profound single game in the beloved athlete’s career, just topping his final game ever.
The Legend of the 81-Point Game opens up with talking heads recalling the tragic helicopter crash that took Kobe Bryant’s life, as well as his daughter Gigi and seven others. However, the accident is not mentioned again until the end and does not need to be, as this documentary is about one specific, impressive basketball game. Those describing the game include names such as Josh Powell, Chuck Swirksy, Sam Mitchell, Shawne Williams, Joey Graham, Brian Cook, and more.

“…Bryant practically single-handedly dominated the 2006 Toronto Raptors one night in an 81-point barrage.”
Each account provides great insight into the game. Unfortunately, not many household names are involved, such as Phil Jackson, Jalen Rose, or Lamar Odom (all of whom were a part of that game). Guttenkunst also doesn’t include any archival interviews from Kobe Bryant talking about the game. I think more prominent names (respectively) and past interviews would have added a lot to the narrative. However, some archival footage of Bryant, as well as Michael Jordan, is used, just not all surrounding the game at hand.
While a bit of a nitpick, there are awkward silences that occur throughout the film. There are times when a person will be sharing their perspective, and they are noticeably done. But still, the camera continues to record for a couple seconds more. I don’t know if it was meant to give dramatic effect, but it made it more awkward than anything. This occurs only a few times, so it’s not a huge deal. I just wish the editing was a bit cleaner.
Even though I am an avid sports fan, I was never all that big on Kobe Bryant. Hell, I always rooted against him even though I’m practically from Los Angeles. With that said, I do respect what he did for basketball and what he meant to the city of Los Angeles. It is tough to argue that Bryant is not still among the top three names ever to play the game. The Legend of the 81-Point Game made me respect the man even more. It is definitely a film that every fan of Kobe Bryant should watch. They will appreciate what Guttenkunst offers.

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