Fathers are known to be tough on their sons — especially those who try to follow in their footsteps.
But Tokyo Apache coach Joe Bryant, dad of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, did not attempt to conceal his paternal pride when asked Tuesday about his son’s 81-point outburst in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.
The effort by the younger Bryant was the second-highest single-game scoring performance in the 60-year history of the NBA, behind only the 100-point masterpiece of Wilt Chamberlain back in 1962.
“Amazing. Isn’t that something? What can you say? I think I better sleep on it before I say any more,” Bryant said by telephone, with a hearty laugh, clearly searching for words to describe his feelings.
When asked if he ever thought his son was capable of putting up such astounding numbers, Bryant, who played eight seasons in the NBA, paused for a moment to reflect.
“I never really thought about it. I was hoping they (the Lakers) would make the playoffs and have a better season than last year. That’s all I was thinking about.
“This is something special. You will appreciate it more as time goes on. In 10 or 20 years, when they talk about who is the best ever and that whole scenario — but it does make you think more about Wilt’s 100-point game.”
Kobe Bryant, who leads the NBA in scoring at 35.9 points per game, broke the Lakers’ franchise record of 71, set by Elgin Baylor in 1960, with his big night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
When asked to contrast the percentage of his son’s ability that is God-given with that which came from hard work, Bryant was firm in his response.
“There are a lot of talented people, but you still have to put the work in. That’s what I tell my team. Sure, we have practice, but it’s what you do at practice.
” ‘Do you come early and stay late?’ ” Bryant said.
“That’s what I am trying to instill in our players — especially our Japanese players,” Bryant said, following a weekend in which his team swept a two-game series from the Oita Heat Devils at Tokyo’s Ariake Colosseum to improve to 11-9 in the bj-league’s inaugural season.
The 51-year-old Bryant, who played the final nine seasons of his pro career in Italy and France, took stock of where his son’s career is now and also had kind words for Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
“I am really happy for him (Kobe) and the Lakers. He is in his prime at 27. He has been in the league for 10 years now and is really enjoying the game.
“It is good having Phil back. He is a veteran coach. He is a big part of that (Kobe’s success) — having experienced it over the years with Michael (Jordan).”
Bryant, a first-round draft choice out of LaSalle University by the hometown Philadelphia 76ers in 1975, also addressed the difficult personal situation that his famous son — who faced highly publicized sexual assault allegations in 2004, in which the charges were ultimately dropped — has endured the past couple of years.
“We, as human beings, go through trials and tribulations.
“You can be a basketball player, you can be a doctor, you can be a writer. The most important thing is how you stand strong and how you stay focused through those times. That’s what makes you who you are.”
Bryant, who played with NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving on the 76ers, concluded with a succinct thought on his son’s historic achievement.
“People are going to be talking about this game for a long time.”