The New York Knicks don't figure too heavily into Kobe Bryant's legendary career. The 1998-99 team made the NBA Finals one year before Kobe's Lakers made their first championship run, and within a couple years the Knicks would become the laughingstock we all know and love.
However, as Kobe plays his final game against the Knicks Sunday night, we might as well recognize his place in the ultra-exclusive MSG 60 club. We Knicks fans have an over-inflated sense of pride in THE WORLD'S MOST FAMOUS ARENA, but the MSG single-game scoring record is a truly big deal -- not because of the setting, but because of the men who have held it.
Fans of my generation all knew that the record belonged to the legendary Bernard King:
Until Feb. 2, 2009, that is. By this point the franchise had sunk about as low as it could, and was just starting to pull itself out of the mire of the Isiah years. The Knicks took their beatings on a fairly regular basis, and fans were pretty numb to it by this point. But what Kobe did to them that night was different:
Looking back now, Kobe was a worthy foil in the race for the record. He wasn't some scrub; he was an all-time great scorer who took down an all-time great scorer in Bernard. And it would take another all-time great to wrest the title back from him.
Enter Carmelo Anthony:
That night meant so much -- it was the (kinda) heir to Bernard taking back the record from Kobe friggin' Bryant. Would it have been the same if Melo had taken down Tony Delk or Mike Dunleavy?
Kobe still has the record for a visiting player at Madison Square Garden, and I bet you he'll smile every time somebody brings that up. It may not be high on the list of his career accomplishments, but the race for the record sure made for a few magical nights at the Mecca.