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When he was asked after the game how many points he would have finished with had he played the fourth quarter, Bryant shrugged his shoulders. "I was in a really, really good groove."Brian Shaw: After the third quarter, the players were on the bench and the coaches went out and huddled on the court. Just stay in the first few minutes and get another eight points, get 70 and then come out of the game." He said: "I'll do it when we really need it. " I just said, "I'll do it when we really need it." Brian was like, "What?!

Phil asked me to go ask Kobe if he wanted to stay in the game and try to get 70 and then come out. I'll get it when it really matters."Kobe Bryant: Brian was mad. " It was something that just rolled off my tongue because I trained extremely hard and the physical tools were there. Phil Jackson, Lakers coach, 1999-2004, 2005-11; current New York Knicks president: I know people in [Los Angeles], particularly, like to see Kobe have a game like that; we all do.

The significance of the achievement isn't lost on Bryant as he traverses his 20th and final NBA season. The next season, Rudy Tomjanovich resigned as coach after 43 games for health reasons, and the Lakers missed the postseason for just the second time since 1976.

When he wrote a letter to fans this past November announcing his retirement, the photo behind the text was of him walking off the court after scoring 81 points -- his right arm stretched high with his index finger pointing to the sky. After leaving Los Angeles, Jackson had written a book in which he characterized Bryant as "uncoachable." Still, he came back after a year away at the behest of Lakers executive Jeanie Buss, whom Jackson had been dating since 1999.

The number is as synonymous with Kobe Bryant's career as 8 or 24. I think that game is a testament to what happens when you put no ceiling to what you're capable of doing."It's with that ambitious mindset that Bryant put on one of the most impressive individual displays in NBA history.

Bryant's two decades in the NBA have been highlighted by five championships, seven Finals appearances, 15 postseason trips and too many individual awards and honors to mention. This is the story of the game in which Bryant made 81 possible, as seen through the eyes of those who were a part of it.

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He was scoring 40 and guarding guys like Tracy Mc Grady, Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas and Paul Pierce every night.When he introduced the "Channel the Villain/Unleash the Hero" slogan for his final season with an online video, the opening scene featured him scoring his 81st point at the free throw line."It's really a testament to the power of imagination, honestly," Bryant told earlier this month. Kobe Bryant, Lakers guard, 1996-present: He [Jackson] is such a basketball genius in terms of the details of the game, the little nuances of the game and the rhythm of the game."There's a lot of players who come up now who don't think 80 points is possible. So the game with him gets played at a much higher level than I think people understand.Given what had happened with Phil writing his book, I just wanted to make sure Kobe and Phil were on the same page and they were doing well.It seemed they were on the page and on the same path.

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