So Who is this "Database Guy"?
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 Queens 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. Ive 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. Heres 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 couldnt get along with one of the most likeable figures in NBA history and yet Laker fans still adore him. I just dont get it.
That being said, Im putting aside my personal feeling for the guy and the team he plays for, in order to write this column. Kobe is clutch. Hes very much like Magic and Kareem and Big Game James in that when the clock is ticking down, and youre really pulling for the other team, youre terrified to see Kobe with the ball. You know hes going to hit the shot. Hes done it a thousand times before and no doubt hell 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 didnt 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 Wilts Warriors and Lakers were left hanging their heads. Forget Pedro and the Yankees, Bill Russell was Wilts original Whos your daddy guy.
8. Tracy McGrady Maybe its a little premature to put T-Mac on this list, but lets be honest, the guy is sick. Thirteen points in the last 35 seconds, Rockets beat the Spurs by one. Are you kidding me? Ive watched a lot of NBA games in my day, but T-Macs 13 in 35 made Isiahs 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! Its all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball! In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, Thats 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? Heres 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 email@example.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 dont 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 youll 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 didnt have to go through the Celtics. Whos your daddy, Jerry?]
By the way, Tom Satch Sanders once told me that by the end of the 1960s 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 dont know where three of them are. Im 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, Its going to be different this time around, but then a month later shes 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 wasnt. 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, Ive 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; heres 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, whos playing for second? Then he proceeded to hit 11 three-point shots in a row on his way to winning the NBAs 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
Medinas photograph that was taken of Jordan shooting it. If you
were to look in the background of that picture youd 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 Jordans last shot - that one clutch moment putting an
exclamation point on a career riddled with them and the final verse
in Jordans illustrious run in the NBA.
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