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So Who is this "Database Guy"?

The Database Guy or "DB Guy" for short is actually a rabid Rockets fan like yourself. He also happens to work for us so his opinions are of course absolutely based on pure fact and there are no influences on him at all. He spends each day here at Toyota Center locked in a cave collecting data and tidbits of Rockets information. He processes more information on a daily basis than most of us do in an entire year.

We decided to let him share his wisdom with you right here on a weekly basis in the form of a top ten list. You may not agree with this list and that's O. K. You can disagree with the DB guy... you'll be wrong, but you can disagree.

And now.... the List!

Top 10 NBA Clutch Players of All Time

“Pressure pushing down on me, pressing down on you no man asked for,” belted out like only a strung-out David Bowie could do, to a back-beat later made famous by white boy rapper and Max Headroom lookalike, Rob “Vanilla Ice” Van Winkle.

Pressure. The same oppressive condition that inspired David Bowie and Queen’s 1982 hit has perplexed sport psychologists for years. Why do some athletes continuously rise to the occasion in pressure situations, while others fold like Liza Minnelli in a liquor store?

The following is my Top 10 tribute to those athletes that have risen to the occasion over and over again.

10. Kobe Bryant – If you know me, you know how much it kills me to put Kobe on this list. I’ve been the quintessential “Laker Hater” all of my life. When Magic hit that shot in Game 4 of the 1987 Finals against the Celtics I wanted to crawl under and rock and die (this will be discussed later). At least Magic is a likeable guy. Here’s a guy that broke up a dynasty in L.A., has always isolated himself from his teammates, clearly frustrated the unshakable “Zen Master,” Phil Jackson, and couldn’t get along with one of the most likeable figures in NBA history…and yet Laker fans still adore him. I just don’t get it.

That being said, I’m putting aside my personal feeling for the guy and the team he plays for, in order to write this column. Kobe is clutch. He’s very much like Magic and Kareem and “Big Game” James in that when the clock is ticking down, and you’re really pulling for the other team, you’re terrified to see Kobe with the ball. You know he’s going to hit the shot. He’s done it a thousand times before and no doubt he’ll do it a thousand more times before he retires. There, I said it. I feel dirty now, like I need to take a shower or something.

9. Bill Russell – OK, maybe he didn’t hit nearly as many clutch-time shots as the other guys on this list, but when it came to performing in big games, Bill Russell always came through. In an era when Wilt Chamberlain absolutely dominated NBA teams, Russell never let Chamberlain get the better of him. During their decade-long rivalry, Russell and the Celtics hung nine NBA Championship banners, while Wilt’s Warriors and Lakers were left hanging their heads. Forget Pedro and the Yankees, Bill Russell was Wilt’s original “Who’s your daddy” guy.

8. Tracy McGrady – Maybe it’s a little premature to put T-Mac on this list, but let’s be honest, the guy is sick. Thirteen points in the last 35 seconds, Rockets beat the Spurs by one. Are you kidding me? I’ve watched a lot of NBA games in my day, but T-Mac’s 13 in 35 made Isiah’s 17 consecutive points look like Roseanne Barr at a Hawaiian Tropics bikini contest.

The biggest difference to me between having T-Mac on our team as compared to some of the other “Franchise” players the Rockets used to have? When the ball is in his hands at the end of a close game, I expect the Rockets to win. I expect him to hit the shot and make the smart decisions. In years past, I would be pacing around, mumbling incoherently to myself, terrified at all the bad things that could possibly go wrong. Thank you, T-Mac, my stomach and Mylanta both appreciate it.

7. John Havlicek – Some call him “Hondo,” others might call him Jerry West with all the bling-bling. “Havlicek steals it! Over to Sam Jones. Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!” In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

6. Robert Horry – He will never be as great as the other nine names on this list; however, when it comes to hitting big shots in big games, Robert Horry will have to be remembered as one of the best ever.

All of these clutch shots and no nickname? Here’s a few just off the top of my head: Robert “Cinderella Story” Horry. Robert “Death or Glory” Horry (The Clash tribute nickname). Got some suggestions of your own? E-mail me at dbguy@rocketball.com.

5. Reggie Miller – The original Knick-killer. As a huge NBA fan, was there anything better than watching Reggie and the Pacers go into The Garden (Madison Square Garden, that is, not to be confused with “Tha Gahhhhden” in Beantown) to battle Spike Lee and the New York Knicks.

Despite some of my recent comments about the Knicks, I don’t hate them (never have)…I just take great pleasure in watching them lose. If you were to go back in the annals of Knicks history you’ll find a series of great Knicks defeats that were snatched out of the jaws of victory. Two of my personal favorite clutch-Reggie moments: (1) Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals when Reggie hung 25 on the Knicks in the fourth quarter and (2) who could forget Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals when he scored 8 points on the Knicks in the final 8.9 seconds of the game? Tragic and poetic all at the same time, this is why I love the NBA.

4. Jerry West – Why is “Mr. Clutch” number four on my list, you might ask? Is there anyone else in the history of the NBA that you would want to have the ball at the end of a game? Honestly, probably not. But six out of the nine years from 1962 to 1970, the Lakers reached the Finals and three of those years they took their opponent to seven games. Two of those Game 7 contests were lost to the Celtics by two points or less. Where was “Mr. Clutch” then? Come on Jerry win yourself a ring! [By the way, he finally did in 1972, but he didn’t have to go through the Celtics. “Who’s your daddy, Jerry?”]

By the way, Tom “Satch” Sanders once told me that by the end of the 1960’s the Celtics were so tired of receiving championship rings after their title runs that they started purchasing other things to commemorate their victories, like inscribed silver plates. When I asked him where he kept his championship rings he replied, “Well, I don’t know where three of them are.” I’m not joking.

3. Magic Johnson – Have I mentioned my severe loathing for the Lakers? If this guy was on any other team in the NBA there is no doubt he would have been one of my favorite players of all time, but how can I like a guy that continuously stomped on my hopes and dreams as a kid?

For me it was like the friend everyone has that keeps going back to his cheating girlfriend. He keeps telling himself, “It’s going to be different this time around,” but then a month later she’s ripping his heart out again. Every time the Lakers went to the Finals I told myself that it would be different, and almost every time it wasn’t. When Magic hit that shot in 1987 to beat the Celtics in Game 4, I actually broke down in tears (hey, I was only 10 at the time). Even though the guy single-handedly ruined my childhood, I’ve got to give him his due, he definitely was “Magic.”

2. Larry Bird – Has there ever been a player in the history of the NBA that was more confident in his abilities than Larry “The Legend?” You want to talk about clutch; here’s a guy that used to come out of the huddle after a timeout and tell his opponent the play the coach had drawn up. Then he would proceed to run the exact play on the guy guarding him and of course nail the shot. I guess he felt he needed to even out the playing field.

My favorite Bird story goes back to the 1986 NBA Three-Point Shootout when Larry walked into the locker room before the contest and declared to his seven competitors, “OK, who’s playing for second?” Then he proceeded to hit 11 three-point shots in a row on his way to winning the NBA’s first three-point contest. Is there a better word to describe him than Legend?

1. Michael Jordan – Over his career the man hit 25 game winning shots. Twenty-five. The shot he hit in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz was probably one of the most memorable in NBA history. The thing I like most about that particular shot is Fernando Medina’s photograph that was taken of Jordan shooting it. If you were to look in the background of that picture you’d see about 1,000 Jazz fans with this uniform look of hope, fear, and amazement all in one moment. They all knew that shot was going in. They knew he was going to hit it and win his sixth (and final) NBA title and there was nothing they could do about it. In some ways I really wish that had been Jordan’s last shot - that one clutch moment putting an exclamation point on a career riddled with them and the final verse in Jordan’s illustrious run in the NBA.

The Database Guy wants to start a regular “Top 10 DB Guy Reader Questions” list. Send him your creative, random and witty questions at dbguy@rocketball.com. Maybe your question will be featured in his Top 10 list on Rockets.com!

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