- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Jared Jeffries vividly remembers the night of March 28, 2003, in the Staples Center when he thought Kobe Bryant might challenge Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time scoring record.

Bryant, whose 81 points Sunday were second-best all time, scored 55 points in the Lakers’ 108-94 victory against the helpless Washington Wizards three years ago.

“I was on the bench [with a knee injury] that night,” said Jeffries, then a rookie. “But he was going at everybody. [Jerry Stackhouse], [Bryon Russell], Bobby Simmons.”

Even Michael Jordan, who was in his final season with the Wizards?

“Nah, MJ said he saw that Kobe had that look in his eyes that night,” Jeffries said.

By halftime of that game, Bryant already had 42 points. He cooled considerably in the second half, making just one of 10 shots. But following that performance, Lakers coach Phil Jackson uttered these prophetic words.

“It came to a point where there was that curiosity factor: Was he going to hit 80? I’m sure it went through his head,” Jackson said.

Now that Bryant, who leads the NBA in scoring (35.9), has indeed eclipsed 80, the only question that remains is whether he will get to triple digits, a feat once thought to be unobtainable after Chamberlain scored 100 points in 1962.

Several Wizards players say Bryant can duplicate Chamberlain’s feat.

“He’s definitely capable of it,” said Jeffries, who also feels Houston’s Tracy McGrady and Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson also might be capable of pulling it off. “LeBron [James] might be able to one day, too. But he still doesn’t have whatever it is that Kobe has. [The Lakers] were up 20, and Kobe was still going at them as hard as he was when they were down by 18 at the beginning of the third.”

Last season Caron Butler was a teammate of Bryant’s and was the Lakers’ second-leading scorer.

“I think he can get it because, by his standards, he didn’t have a good first half,” Butler said of Bryant, who scored 26 points in the first half then erupted for 55 after the break. “Early on he was letting his shots come to him. When Toronto got the lead, that’s when he went crazy.

“Can he get 100? I think so. He works so hard. He’s an assassin on the court. He’s like that.”

Bryant probably has no bigger fan on the Wizards than Gilbert Arenas, who’s fourth in the league in scoring (28.4). Yesterday Arenas said Bryant would need to take “60 shots to get 100.”

Like every other Wizards player, Arenas said he has watched a DVD of Bryant’s 81-point game prepared by the team’s video department.

No one will be surprised when Arenas breaks the 50-point barrier — he scored a career-best 47 against Miami earlier this season despite going 1-for-6 in the fourth quarter — but he remains as mesmerized as anyone else about Bryant, who has averaged 45.5 points in his last 10 games.

“I think it was incredible,” Arenas said. “They can say what they want. They can say he is selfish or whatever. But if anybody else was in that predicament they would have gone for it, too. If you are going to go for it like that you have to have teammates that are willing to let you go for it like that, and he did.”

Notes — Wizards center Brendan Haywood (sprained left foot) is listed as probable for tonight’s game at Boston. Haywood did not practice yesterday. Reserve center Etan Thomas, who missed the last three games following the death of his grandmother, is expected to rejoin the team today.

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