After the Los Angeles Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal in the summer of 2004, they fully unleashed Kobe Bryant on the rest of the NBA, and he would soon start to enter his prime.
Early in the 2004-05 season, he had trouble with his shot and finding the right balance between scoring and facilitating, but after a while, he started to get the hang of his new role.
On Dec. 28, the Lakers, fresh off a loss in their massively hyped Christmas Day matchup with O’Neal and the Miami Heat, hosted the Toronto Raptors, one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.
Bryant put it to the Canadians, scoring 48 points on 14-of-26 shooting from the field, 4-of-7 from 3-point range and a beastly 16-of-18 from the free throw line.
He still had the time, though, to dish out four assists, as the Lakers got four players in double figures in a 117-99 wipeout.
Instability was the keyword for the Lakers that season, but at least for one night, all seemed right for them.
At the time, it was one of the highest-scoring games of Bryant’s career, but the following year, he would push the envelope to the max, with the apex coming against those same Raptors.