The NBA is full of superstar players, outlandish egos and freakish athletes. But it isn't full of players who can perform in the clutch.
Sure, there are a bunch of players who think they have what it takes to be clutch, but thinking you are clutch and actually being clutch are two vastly different things.
Players don't just wake up and become clutch. It's a rare kind of intangible that is a natural gift while also being something that takes a lot of hard work and time to develop.
Players like Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller, Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird didn't just wake up and start hitting clutch shot after clutch shot. They woke up before every other player on their team, and took thousands of shots with the lights warming up in the gym so that they'd be prepared when the lights were shining their brightest on the biggest of stages.
Being clutch starts in a player's heart and resonates into every aspect of what they bring to the game. It's not a specific trait, it's an entire way of being and that's what I'm going to break down.
The first indispensable asset of the NBA's most clutch players is confidence.
Confidence: Kobe Bryant
Have you ever heard the saying, "fake confidence is better than no confidence at al|"? Well that doesn't apply when it comes to being a clutch player in the NBA. There is no substitute for confidence, and we see that when a clutch player has the ball in his hands.
Kobe Bryant is the perfect example of the high level of confidence it takes to be a clutch player.
Sure, Kobe's confidence gets him into seemingly impossible double and triple teams, but in those situations, he's just as dangerous as he is in an isolation offense. Kobe doesn't just think he's great, he knows he is and that's at the foundation of any clutch player.
Are there times when Kobe is overly confident? Yes. But when it comes to clutch-ability, it's better to be overconfident than airing on the side of caution.
Longevity of Success: Kevin Durant
One clutch shot doesn't make you a clutch player. Being a go-to guy when the clock is running out is something that takes time to establish and develop, and that's what Kevin Durant is doing right now.
Durant is slowly but surely becoming the NBA's next great clutch-time player and he's been developing into that for the past few seasons.
From his 40-plus point performances to his thrilling, game-winning three pointers, Durant is proving time and time again that he's ready for the brightest of lights on the clutch-time stage.
Durant is doing what Kobe did during the first few years of his career: he's establishing himself as a clutch player time and time again. It takes time to be a next-level superstar and it takes even more time to be with those elite players who are truly clutch.
Willingness to Fail and a Short-Term Memory: Dwyane Wade
To be the best of the best in the NBA, a player has to have a fearless quality about them, and that means not being afraid to miss shots and fail.
This is exactly what held LeBron James back from developing into a clutch player earlier in his career. LeBron was afraid to be the one to fail on his team, and it kept him from winning a title in Cleveland. It wasn't something he completely let go of until he joined forces with Dwyane Wade in South Beach.
Wade taught LeBron that it is okay to fail. It's okay to miss a game winner, as long as you make sure you don't miss the next one. Wade showed LeBron that missing a shot is just as important as making one sometimes in your career, and that's an incredibly important aspect of being a clutch player.
The beauty of Wade in the clutch is that when he misses a shot he doesn't hang his head in shame, he smiles to his teammates with a smile that says, "It's alright guys, I'll make sure I hit the next one." That's a trait that can't be taught.
High Basketball I.Q: LeBron James
Something that a lot of people overlook when it comes to clutch abilities is the high level of basketball I.Q. that it takes to be a truly electrifying and elite player with the game on the line.
Taking a game-winning shot is important, but also knowing when it might be better to defer to a teammate is also an integral piece of being a clutch player.
No NBA player does that better than LeBron James. While he gets a lot of criticism for it, his ability to create open shots for his teammates in clutch-time situations is something that makes him a truly special player.
LeBron, now, is not afraid to fail, and that means sometimes deferring to teammates in the clutch. He knows when it's time to pass up shots and when it's time take the shot himself. That's a sign of an elite, clutch player, and it's a skill that a lot of players will never develop.
Truly clutch players are hard to come by in the NBA, and that's because it takes natural talent combined with an incredible amount of work, dedication and confidence to become one.