Critics in the media like to label certain athletes as “big game" or "clutch" players.
These labels are wheeled out and applied after a star has a lackluster performance in a regular season game against mediocre competition and used in the context:
“Well, he had a poor game, but when it comes playoff/tournament/championship time, count on them showing up big time!"
It’s true—there are athletes who seem to save their best stuff until they’re on the biggest stage. But there exists another breed of “selective” playmakers out there—the kind that seem to have one particular opponent that makes them go off.
Almost without fail, these players come in every year and set up shop against a certain opponent and take them behind the woodshed.
Why do certain athletes have certain team's numbers? The answers range from conference rivalry to coincidence, or maybe it's because they’ve figured their enemy out.
The following are the athletes who always seem to make a certain team their female canine companion. And every year, they come ready to put the leash on them.
Put it this way: there’s an ESPN 30 For 30 about Reggie Miller’s domination of the New York Knicks.
It’s called Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. New York Knicks.
Please just take a moment to notice that the title isn't Indianapolis Pacers vs. New York Knicks.
That should right there should tell you something.
Miller loved talking trash, but the problem for his opponents was this—he could back it up and then some.
And no team felt the wrath of Reggie Miller’s trash talking and dynamic scoring more acutely or regularly than the New York Knicks.
Between his on-going feud with Knicks guard John Starks or his back-and-forth with film director and diehard Knicks fan Spike Lee, Miller was the “itch” the Knickerbockers could never quite scratch.
There’s something about Eli Manning that the Patriots defense just can’t seem to get a handle on.
The Giants and Patriots have faced off twice in the Super Bowl in the past five years (2008 and 2012), and both games the Giants emerged with Vince Lombardi Trophy, with Eli Manning as the game’s MVP.
Sure, Eli Manning didn’t do it on his own—the Giant’s defense did their part, stymying Tom Brady and the typically potent Patriot offense—but you can’t argue Manning’s ability to step up in the big game and beat New England like they owe him money.
No one can question the greatness Roger Federer has achieved on the tennis court.
The man is a legend and one of the best players to ever swing a racquet.
But Federer has struggled against Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, a younger player who has already formed his own legend by beating the veteran in 18 of the 28 matches they've played.
Nadal’s expertise on clay has played a major role in maintaining his winning edge over Federer, taking 12 of their 14 clay court games.
Lets be honest—Adrian Peterson dominated everyone on his way to nearly breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record this past season.
But "All Day" seemed to take special exception to the Green Bay Packers, eviscerating the Pack’s defense twice in 2012 for an average of 204.5 yards per game.
Compare that to the 120.6 he averaged against the rest of the Vikings’ opponents, and it’s plain to see that Adrian finds an extra gear when he’s playing against Green Bay.
Two huge bouts, two big wins for Silva.
Chael Sonnen has always talked a smart game about his ability to take down MMA legend Anderson Silva, but on both occasions, Silva has shut down his noisy challenger.
After giving Silva one of his hardest fights in their first encounter, Sonnen took it upon himself to start trash-talking his way into a second match.
Sure, Silva beat everyone—but taking a guy for the second time after being subjected to two years of his jawing is truly owning someone.
Pedro Martinez might not have had a dominating record in terms of wins/losses against the Yankees, but as an individual pitcher, he managed some of the most consistent numbers against New York.
The Boston Red Sox pitcher went 11-11 against the Yankees during his career in Boston, with a 3.20 ERA. And for perspective, those numbers came against five different World Series winning teams.
Martinez also holds the record for throwing the most strikeouts against the Yankees in Yankees Stadium.
And boy was that night a sight to behold.
These teams have traded blows over the last 12 years, but Tom Brady continues to land the most punches in the on-going rivalry between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts.
After stepping in for an injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001, Brady led the Patriots to six straight victories against Indianapolis, including the 2003 AFC championship and a 2004 divisional playoff win.
The Patriots are currently on a three-year winning streak against Indianapolis—their most recent victory being 59-24 hosing of the Andrew Luck and the gang in Gillette Stadium this past season.
Beating up on the New York Knicks has been a favorite hobby of Kobe Bryant during his career.
The Lakers shooting guard always seems to produce against the Knicks and has scored 40 or more points against New York on five different occasions.
One of those appearances included a 61-point explosion in Madison Square Garden, a venue record for points scored during a single game.
It wasn’t as high scoring an affair as his 81-point nuking of the Toronto Raptors, but putting that many up on such hallowed ground is an amazing feat all the same.
Even Spike Lee had to applaud the effort.
No one seems to catch fire against the Chicago Bears' defense quite like Aaron Rodgers.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback is 7-2 against the Bears since his first NFL start in 2008—a noted improvement from Brett Favre’s play against Chicago at the end of his career (Favre went 2-6 against Lovie Smith in his last three years with the Pack).
Rodgers’ biggest moment against Chicago came in 2011, when the Packers beat the Bears in a make-or-break game to clinch a playoff spot. Three weeks later the two teams met again in the NFC Championship game, where Rodgers was intercepted twice but managed to run for one touchdown and put Chicago away, 21-14.
Evander Holyfield squared off against young champ “Iron Mike" Tyson twice and both times left the ring victorious.
Their first match took place in 1996, with a “washed up” and retired Holyfield coming back to the ring to fight a young Tyson fresh out of jail after serving time for the rape of an 18-year-old girl.
In a fight believed to be an easy victory for Tyson, Holyfield shocked the world by winning the bout by technical knockout in the 11th round.
After Holyfield's unlikely victory, a rematch was scheduled for 1997. You might remember it was the infamous “Bite Fight" in which Tyson was disqualified for sinking his incisors Holyfield's ear.
Sure, he might not have defeated Tyson by conventional knockout in their second bout, but Holyfield still managed to flummox Tyson enough to cause the boxer to chomp his way out of contention.
Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard “beast mode” run against the Saints earned the Seahawks running back his nickname and officially stamped Lynch’s personal ownership on Tracy Porter and the New Orleans defense.
It might’ve been a single instance, but it was one of the most powerful, dominating runs we’ve seen in the sport of football over the last decade.
They’ve faced off in three playoffs, and Tiger stumped him all of them.
This very easily could’ve gone the other way in favor of Els, considering he’s one of the few golfers who could keep up with Woods during his heyday.
But when the two have met in crunch-time, Woods has locked Els down, defeating him in playoffs holes at the 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic, the 2000 Mercedes Championships and the 2006 Dubai Classic.