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Why LeBron James May Be The Most Clutch Playoff Shooter Of His Generation
- Updated: May 14, 2015
Following two clutch performances in a row, including a game-winning shot at the buzzer in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, LeBron James continues to establish himself as arguably the most clutch postseason shooter of his era.
— Alok Pattani (@AlokPattaniESPN) May 11, 2015
James’ game-winner brought back memories of his other memorable playoff shots in a Cleveland Cavaliers‘ uniform:
*In Game 3 of the first round of the 2006 NBA playoffs, James connected on a game-winner against the Washington Wizards with just 5.6 seconds left.
*In that same series, James’ baseline scoop shot with .9 seconds remaining in Game 5 sealed the victory for the Cavaliers.
*The following year, James’ iconic Game 5 performance against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinals saw him twice drill important shots. The first came with nine seconds left in regulation, when he scored on a driving dunk to send the game to overtime. Then, with just two seconds remaining in the extra session, James drove all the way to the cup for the game-winning layup.
*In the 2009 Eastern Conference finals, Cleveland was on the verge of falling behind 2-0 to the Orlando Magic. However, James had other plans as he nailed a miraculous three-pointer at the buzzer to even the series.
All but one of those attempts came within the last five seconds, which many people consider the true test of a clutch shot. Within that framework, James stands alone among current players.
Looking at the past 15 seasons, as the website www.fivethirtyeight.com did, James still stands at the top, even though he was in high school for the first three years covered. Players usually mentioned as clutch shooters in this category like Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen and Dirk Nowitzki are all players who either didn’t take as many shots as James, or failed to connect as often as he did.
For example, Bryant’s ability to perform in the clutch has been hyped for years. He’s certainly matched James when it comes to getting off a shot when the money’s on the line. However, whereas James has connected five times, Bryant has connected just once.
With respect to Allen and Nowitzki, they’ve only put up four shots apiece in similar situations, connecting just once. Other players like the San Antonio Spurs’ pair of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili have actually been more active, putting up eight shots apiece. However, Ginobili has hit on just three of his attempts, while Duncan has connected on just two of them.
Two others, Jason Kidd and Hedo Turkoglu are the only others to have attempted even as many as four shots. Turkoglu has hit two of his attempts, while Kidd connected just one time, and while Turkoglu’s percentage is actually higher than James,’ the fact that the number of baskets James has made tops the mere attempts of Turkoglu gives the clear edge to James.
Even without this feather in James’ cap, another statistic stands out that shows how well he’s capable of performing when the postseason arrives. Right now, James is tied for second place with Kidd in post-season triple-doubles at 11. While he has no hope of catching the all-time leader, Magic Johnson with 30, he’s come very close to moving into undisputed second place four times during this postseason alone.
How prestigious a spot that is for James can be seen by looking at the three former players who are just behind him: Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson.