LeBron James: Ending the Debate on LeBron's Clutch Ability

Michael Mill@@MikeMill23Senior Analyst IIIJune 12, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 05:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat runs up court against the Boston Celtics in the first half of Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on June 5, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Shout out to @ESPN_Colin for tweeting this article.

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is one of the best players in the NBA today. In fact, many are already willing to place him along side some of the all-time greats that played the game.

Despite there being very few flaws in his game, LeBron is one of the most hated and criticized players in the league.

Sure, there are always improvements to be made. For example, his post game could surely still use some work.

However, it's a different argument that you often hear people use when bashing LeBron. It's one that we have all heard countless times.

He is not a clutch player. He chokes with the game on the line.

We listen to "experts" like Skip Bayless rant and rave about James' inability to close out close games. He doesn't have that "clutch gene" as Bayless likes to put it.

What is it that Adolf Hitler said?

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed”.

Take the time to briefly analyze what you believe to be the truth about clutch performers in the league.

The majority of people will tell you that Kobe Bryant is the best shooter in the NBA when the game is on the line.

Those same people will tell you that Dwyane Wade should be taking the shots in the final seconds of Miami Heat games, not LeBron James.

These are the things that we are told daily.

It really doesn't matter who you hear it from. Whether it's on ESPN or from John Doe at the water cooler, when you hear these statements over and over again you tend to believe them.

That doesn't mean they are true.

We can sit here and debate about it all day, or we can simply sit down and look at the stat sheet.

Using Basketball Reference, a statistical breakdown on players in clutch situations gives us a clear view on how players really do perform with the game on the line.

The definition of "clutch" is different for every person. For the sake of this analysis, clutch is defined as a shot made by a player to either tie the game or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or in overtime.

These stats are based on a time frame from the start of the 2006 season until June 11th, 2012 (Including Playoffs).


NameShots MadeShots AttemptedPercentage
Dirk Nowitzki4394.457
Rudy Gay4297.433
LeBron James61143.427
Kobe Bryant80193.415
Chris Paul3995.411
Ray Allen42105.400
Carmelo Anthony3385.388
Jason Terry3081.370
Kevin Durant52144.361
Joe Johnson38106.358
Paul Pierce3293.344
Derrick Rose36107.336
Dwyane Wade40121.331
Russell Westbrook2577.325
Andre Iguodala2595.263


There you have it. The numbers speak for themselves.

Bryant may take more shots with the game on the line, but LeBron hits a better percentage of his.

People have been clamoring about Durant's clutch shooting heading into the NBA Finals matchup between the Thunder and the Heat. Where is he on this list compared to LeBron?

Tell me again, should Dwyane Wade really be taking the last shot in Miami's games?

The facts are above.

The perception that James plays poor in the 4th quarter or late in games really has no validity.

I'm interested to see what the haters have to say in the comments below.

You can dislike LeBron as a person. You can dislike him as a player. You can try to come up with whatever argument you want to support either of those statements.

Unfortunately, his success in the clutch can't be that argument.


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