Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant scored 61 points to set the all-time scoring record at the current Madison Square Garden as Los Angeles trounced the New York Knicks 126-117 on Monday.
Bryant notched the 24th 50-point game of his National Basketball Association career.
He surpassed Bernard King’s 60-point performance on Dec. 25, 1984 at the storied Manhattan venue.
“The building is special because it’s the last one left,” Bryant said.
“We have the Boston Garden, which I never played in, the [Great Western] Forum and then there’s this building. This is the last one that holds all the memories of all the great players,” he said.
NBA icon Michael Jordan held the scoring mark for an opponent at the Garden with 55 points in 1995 — a famous outburst dubbed the “double-nickel.”
Bryant, a student of basketball history, recalled that game.
“I didn’t know that was a record, but I watched the game actually when [Jordan] had that game,” Bryant said. “Just oohing and ahhing and just marveling at the performance. I’m sure we all were.”
Bryant was 19-of-31 from the field and 20-of-20 from the free-throw line. He also nailed 3-of-6 from three-point range.
Bryant set the NBA’s season-high scoring performance — but fell 20 shy of his own extraordinary career-best effort.
Bryant torched the Toronto Raptors for 81 — the second-best output in NBA history — on Jan. 22, 2006.
He did, however, smash his personal season high of 41 points.
Bryant was hot from the start, scoring 18 points in the first quarter. The reigning NBA Most Valuable Player scored 34 points in the first half on Monday, the second-best mark in a half this season.
Carmelo Anthony poured in 36 points on Dec. 10, when he tied an NBA record with 33 points in the third quarter.
In this one, the fourth quarter was when Bryant really had the Garden buzzing as he nailed three free throws to give him 57 points and make it 119-100 with 3:56 left.
The trio from the stripe forged the largest lead of the game.
After making a tough jump shot off a reverse pivot, Bryant added two free throws with 2:31 left to surpass King, cap his memorable night and provide perhaps the greatest performance at the current incarnation of Madison Square Garden, which opened in February 1968.
Like Jordan before him, Bryant won over even Knicks fans.
“This place is special because the fans, they’ll boo you the whole game, but they appreciate the game,” Bryant said. “It felt great to get that reaction from these fans because they love what you do, and it’s a great performance and being able to celebrate that moment ... it felt great.”
Bryant said he had added motivation from one famous Knicks fan — film director Spike Lee.
“On a lighter note, I’ve got to go review this documentary I’m doing with Spike Lee after the game,” Bryant said.
“I didn’t feel like sitting next to him and hearing him talk trash about the Knicks. So, that was added incentive as well,” Bryant said.
The Knicks will try to stop another NBA superstar today, when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James.
James, Bryant’s rival in a race for the title of the league’s best player, hit for 50 points here on March 5 last year.
TRAIL BLAZERS 97, HORNETS 89
At New Orleans, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 points, as Portland overcame a 17-point deficit — after New Orleans guard Chris Paul was injured — for their fifth straight victory.