LeBron James: Heat Star Statistically Most Clutch Player Since NBA Debut

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2013

LeBron James has that clutch gene.

Previously portrayed as a choke artist who wanted no part of the last shot in tightly contested games, LeBron has developed into one of the most clutch scorers in the NBA.

Actually, strike that. Statistically, he is the most clutch player in the league.

Per ESPN.com, since LeBron entered the Association in 2003, he has the most game-tying/go-ahead field goals in the postseason's final 24 seconds of fourth quarter and overtime:

Magic never did it. Jordan never did it. Bird never did it. Not even Oscar or Wilt. Only LeBron. 

Not too long ago, the discussion was about how LeBron wasn’t clutch. That no longer seems to be a discussion. 

Since LeBron came into the league in 2003-04, nobody in the NBA has made more game-tying and go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of playoff games than LeBron, who is 7-of-16 on those shots. His 43.8 field goal percentage on those clutch shots ranks the best in the NBA since his rookie season among players with at least 10 attempts. The league average is 28.3 percent on those shots. 

Oh how quickly the narrative changes.

Roughly a year ago, LeBron wasn't considered clutch. With the game on the line, he was unreliable; he was a coward.

Now he's a hero. Someone who you want to have the rock in their hands late in the game, more so than anyone else in the league.

It bears repeating: LeBron's seven "clutch" playoff field goals over the last 10 years are more than anyone. And he's hitting said shots at a higher clip (43.8 percent) than anyone who has attempted at least 10 since he entered the league. That includes Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and yes, even Kobe Bryant.

Player Clutch Playoff FGs since 2003-04
LeBron James 7-of-16
Kobe Bryant 5-of-17
Kevin Durant 5-of-12
Dirk Nowitzki 5-of-12


Like I said, anyone.

LeBron's buzzer-beating layup versus the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was his first game-winner in the final 10 seconds of a playoff game since 2009, when he beat the Orlando Magic at the buzzer in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

But it's not just when he's hitting or taking these shots; it's how he's playing on the biggest of stages.

LeBron had a triple-double against the Pacers in Game 1 (30 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists). Since 2006, a player has had a triple-double while also scoring at least 30 points four times. Per ESPN.com, all four of those feats belong to LeBron.

And it doesn't stop there.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN), LeBron and Ralph Sampson are the only two players in NBA history to register at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and three blocks in a playoff game. 

Also according to Elias, LeBron's Game 1 triple-double was the ninth playoff triple-double of his career, tying him with Wilt Chamberlain for the fifth-most all time. Tops on that list are Magic Johnson (30), Jason Kidd (11), Rajon Rondo (10) and Larry Bird (10).

No one, however, has ever notched a triple-double and hit a buzzer-beating game-winner in the same playoff game—except LeBron.

Ten years into his career, it seems that we can finally put those anti-clutch arguments to bed. In fact, it seems they never should have be viable arguments at all. Not when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers and not now that he's with the star-studded Miami Heat.

They were myths. Now they're debunked myths.

"I mean, I made a layup. It's not like I made something from half court," LeBron said of his game-winner against the Pacers (via Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today) "I made a layup. I've been doing that since I was 8 years old."

And he's been coming through when it matters most for the last decade.


*All stats in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference and ESPN.com unless otherwise attributed.