10 Clutch Legends Who Could Mentor LeBron James
While LeBron James' issues in the clutch are overblown and may not actually exist, it never hurts to get a little extra help and ensure a great performance when it matters most.
These are the 10 NBA legends who could help him do so.
Each of the 10 players featured has enjoyed more than his fair share of big moments. They've all become true legends thanks to their exploits when the pressure cooker was turned up to the max.
Read on to find out who should mentor James and how they would help.
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Luckily enough, Larry Bird's name begins our alphabetical progression through these 10 players.
And boy, oh boy, who better to start with.
Larry Legend developed quite the reputation for clutch performances, simply because he had so many of them. One of the best players in the history of the Boston Celtics, Bird inspired belief that everything he did would work out.
The following is an excerpt from Bill Simmons' The Book of Basketball (and a recent online article) about a shot that Bird took in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals:
The Lakers stick two guys on Bird. Somehow, he breaks free at midcourt (seriously, how the hell does this happen?), slides down the sideline, grabs the inbounds pass, controls his momentum long enough to set his feet for a split second right in front of Riley, steadies his upper body for a nanosecond, and launches a wide-open three in front of the Lakers bench. At that precise moment, standing in front of my seat at midcourt with pee probably dripping down my leg, I would have bet anything that the shot was ripping through the net. I would have bet my baseball card collection. I would have bet my Intellivision. I would have bet my virginity. I would have bet my life. Even the Lakers probably thought it was going in. Watch the tape and you will notice Lakers backup Wes Matthews crouched on the floor and screaming behind Bird in sheer, unadulterated terror like he's about to watch someone get murdered in a horror movie. You will hear the fans emit some sort of strange, one-of-a-kind shrieking noise, a gasping sound loosely translated as, "Holy s***, we are about to witness the greatest basketball shot ever!" Hell, you can freeze the tape on the frame before the ball strikes the rim. It looks like it's going in. It should have gone in.
When you inspire that type of confidence—even in a notorious C's homer—you know that you're a clutch performer.
Bird is one of the few players that could not only mentor LeBron in one certain type of clutch situation, but in all of them.
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If LeBron James is looking for a mentor to help him perform at the highest level possible, when anything and everything appears to be going wrong, then he should turn to Walt Frazier.
During Game 6 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Willis Reed tore his quadricep, and all hope seemed to fly out of the building for Clyde and the rest of the uninjured New York Knicks.
Reed enjoyed the most famous moment of the ensuing Game 7, when he walked out of the tunnel, much to the elation of everyone in the building, and proceeded to drain his first—and only—two shots of the game.
However, it was the Knicks point guard who stepped up when his team most needed it. Frazier put together a Game 7 performance for the ages, scoring 36 points and adding 19 assists.
LeBron is already playing superbly, but maybe Clyde could help James raise his game to an even higher level when his back is against the wall.
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One of the many reasons that Magic Johnson is almost universally considered the greatest point guard the game of basketball has ever seen is his ability to perform when it matters most.
LeBron James isn't exactly a traditional point guard, but with similar size to Magic, he actually plays a fairly similar role on offense to that which Johnson played.
Magic's most memorable clutch performance came during his rookie year, when he filled in at center for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals. Johnson lined up at three different positions and recorded 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists to clinch the title for the Lakers and secure the first of his three NBA Finals MVP Awards.
There was also the "junior, junior" skyhook to win Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, among numerous other big moments in the legendary floor general's career.
If you're looking for how to lead a team in the clutch, Magic should be the mentor.
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If you're worried about Michael Jordan's willingness to help out LeBron James, you shouldn't be.
Jordan may be affiliated with the Charlotte Bobcats, but it's not like that franchise is going to be in a position to compete with LeBron for at least a few years. And that's if everything goes exceedingly well.
Summarizing the clutch play of MJ in one slide is a virtually impossible task. No player in NBA history has had more highlights worthy of inclusion.
There's the flu game (Game 5) during the 1997 NBA Finals. There's the first-round series-clincher in 1989 over Craig Ehlo and the Cleveland Cavaliers. There's the game-winner after pushing off Utah's Bryon Russell in the 1998 finals.
Jordan had eight games in which he broke the 50-point barrier in the playoffs. He scored a playoff-record 63 points in a 1986 postseason game against the Boston Celtics.
I could go on and on.
Simply put, Jordan is the ultimate mentor for James because the former is the owner of the career which the latter should be trying to surpass.
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Hakeem Olajuwon is one of the two players on this list who is actually currently involved in mentoring LeBron James and making him into the best player he can possibly be.
After watching James' dismantling of the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, The Dream had this to say to Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida:
"You look at a lot of the moves, and it was unbelievable to watch. The way they were executed it was a joy to watch because I know that we worked on that, and to see him using it at a most crucial time. He is in a comfort zone, and he is doing it how he is supposed to do it. ...
"He is adding balance to his game because he is more comfortable making post moves. He's a more complete player. He is using a lot of the post moves (taught last summer). If you look at LeBron, with his physique and his strength and skills, you know that as he gets later in his career he will appreciate the post more, and it will get much easier for him.
"I don't know how you stop him."
Olajuwon spent a lot of time during the lockout with James, trying to help him develop a post game and take the next step as a player.
Clearly, it's worked out.
The stately former Boston Celtic is the gold standard when it comes to NBA championships—or, for that matter, championships in any major sport. Playing with a number of other Celtic legends, Russell won an astounding 11 titles during his storied NBA career.
When discussing the greatest winners in NBA history, the conversation shouldn't start with Michael Jordan. It shouldn't begin with Larry Bird or Magic Johnson, either.
The first player to mention must be Russell.
For LeBron James, who is looking to win his first title, there's no one better to turn to for advice.
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One of the biggest knocks on LeBron James up to this point in his NBA career has been his apparent willingness to disavow the mantra, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
LeBron has been following the latter part of the mantra, having gone home at the end of each season without a ring. He's also laughed off his failures to step up his play in playoff situations.
That wouldn't happen if Isiah Thomas had anything to say about it.
Zeke earned a reputation as one of the toughest players in NBA history because of his "never-say-die" attitude. Nothing could stop him when an obstacle stood in his way—not defenders, not pressure and most certainly not a bum ankle.
All the proof you need is contained in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals, when the point guard scored a playoff-record 25 points in the third quarter while playing on a severely sprained ankle.
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It may seem a little bit weird to see Dwyane Wade's name alongside some of these other NBA legends, but thanks to his performance in the 2006 NBA Finals—even if it was aided a bit by the referees—Wade has become one of the most clutch players in the history of the NBA.
Plus, Wade has already been mentoring LeBron James just by being around him. This is more of a friendly sort of mentoring among peers, but you can be sure that there is mutual aid given between these two teammates.
Wade wants to win another title and recognizes that LeBron stepping up when it matters most is the best way for that to happen.
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Yes, Jerry West came up big whenever he needed to and performed so well under pressure that he became the first and only player to win the NBA Finals MVP during a losing effort.
In fact, West was so good under pressure that he earned the nickname Mr. Clutch.
However, I'm not having West mentor LeBron James for his performances on the court. LeBron needs help with his hair and no one was better at maintaining his hairstyle during the big moments than West.
Have you ever seen a picture or video of West in which his hair wasn't perfectly slicked over to the side, seemingly ready for a photo shoot if the occasion called for it?
I certainly haven't.
If anyone can help LeBron with his receding hairline, it's West.
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Finally, we need to figure out how to make LeBron James come up with his biggest and best performance in the most dire of situations.
There's no one better to turn to than James Worthy.
The Los Angeles Lakers forward earned the moniker "Big Game James" after he exploded for a triple-double in Game 7 of the 1988 NBA Finals. It was the only time in his career he hit double-digits in three statistical categories during the same game.
If Worthy gets a hold of James and helps him save his best performance for last, we could witness the greatest single-game performance in NBA history.