ESPN The Magazine polled 26 anonymous active NBA players, none of whom would want LeBron taking the last shot if Kobe and Jordan were on the floor. Twenty-three of the players polled said they would want His Airness to bomb away, while three rolled with the Black Mamba.
"That's like ranking the shortest giant," an Eastern Conference guard said, per ESPN.com. "I'd want the ball in LeBron's hands at the end of the game, but I'd want him to pass to Kobe or Jordan for the last shot. And don't forget, LeBron is not a great free-throw shooter, either."
Our friend, the Eastern Conference guard incognito, has a point: LeBron isn't a great free-throw shooter. Though he's previously said he could shoot 90 percent from the foul line if he wanted to, according to Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports, he's yet to convert more than 78 percent of his attempts for an entire season.
Still, the whole "LeBron doesn't have the clutch gene" pish-posh is getting old. Back in May, ESPN's Stats and Information database found that LeBron has been the most clutch player since his NBA debut:
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.
Per ESPN, LeBron doesn't top Jordan, but he does supersede Kobe.
On game-tying or go-ahead field goals in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime of playoff games, LeBron is shooting 42.1 percent (7-of-17) while Kobe checks in at 25 (7-of-28). Jordan topples all with a 50 percent clip (9-of-18).
It comes as no surprise, then, that MJ was heavily favored over both. But it's puzzling that not one player chose LeBron. Had Jordan received all 26 votes, then it would be more understandable. Kobe secured three, even though statistics show he's more erratic in the clutch than The King.
Is Kobe's 83.8 percent showing from the foul line for his career enough to warrant him getting the ball over LeBron? Or is it simply his Jordan-esque killer instinct?
"Everybody wants everybody to kill the same way," LeBron said in an interview for ESPN The Magazine with Chris Broussard. "Everybody wants everybody to kill like MJ or kill like Kobe."
Not everybody can.
"But there are different ways of killing," he later told Broussard.
LeBron's way of killing has proved effective, far more effective than the latest poll gives him credit for.