Kobe Bryant's Top 10 Clutch Shots
Larry Bird. Reggie Miller. Michael Jordan. Robert Horry. Some players just have a knack for knocking down clutch shots. They are able to put the pressure of the situation aside and make the end-game plays that change games.
These clutch shots are what legends are made of. Larry Bird telling the opposing team where he plans on hitting the game-winner, then making good on the promise. Reggie Miller scoring eight points in nine seconds to defeat the New York Knicks. Michael Jordan ending his Bulls career with a shot over Byron Russell.
Kobe Bryant has the gift. He is among the few players in sports who is capable of making critical plays when the game is on the line. Everyone knows he'll be the shooter at the end of games.
Doesn't matter. Makes it anyway.
These are the 10 greatest clutch baskets in the career of Kobe Bryant.
10. January 12, 2006: Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Lakers
The 2005-2006 season featured unbelievable performances by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. LeBron would average a career-high 31.4 points per game that year, while Kobe's average stood at a staggering 35.4. Needless to say, this January matchup between Bryant and James was heavily hyped.
Having scored more than 40 points in each of his previous five games, Bryant's 27 point output against the defense of James seemed paltry. However, Kobe's performance in the clutch would make this game memorable.
In the final minute of the fourth quarter, Kobe Bryant hit three consecutive long jump shots over James, including the game-winner with 8.6 seconds to play. The game would end on James' miss at the buzzer, with Kobe Bryant draped all over him.
This game displayed Kobe's clutch ability in a pressurized, hyped situation. Playing against a player of equal talent, Bryant raised his level of play to meet the challenge. The shot he hit over James is often forgotten, due to a Chamberlain-esque performance by Bryant just 10 days later.
9. January 31, 2010: Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics
Since losing to Boston in Game Six of the 2008 NBA Finals, the L.A. Lakers had defeated their arch rivals in every game. However, on this day, it appeared that Boston would finally make good on its "Beat L.A." chant for the first time since that blowout in the championship.
Kobe Bryant had other ideas. Trailing 89-88, Los Angeles put Kobe Bryant in an isolation against Ray Allen. To that point, Bryant had hit only 7-of-19 shots. However, in the huddle, he told Phil Jackson that "the next one's going in."
With 7.3 seconds remaining, Bryant buried a tough fadeaway over the brilliant defense of Allen. The shot would give Los Angeles yet another victory over the hated Celtics, and would perhaps give them the confidence that they could indeed win in Boston.
That confidence, provided by Bryant's winner, would come in handy in Game Three of the 2010 NBA Finals.
8. December 4, 2009: Miami Heat at Los Angeles Lakers
Caught in yet another duel with yet another superstar, Kobe Bryant showed his incredible ability to outshine even the brightest of opponents.
This December game between the Heat and Lakers had come down to the wire, with Dwyane Wade scoring nine points in the final two minutes to give his Heat a four-point advantage. That lead was far from enough against two of the great clutch shooters in NBA history.
With just 4.3 seconds remaining, Derek Fisher hit a three-pointer to bring L.A. to within one. Wade was then fouled, but made only one of two free throws. That would set the stage for Bryant with 3.2 seconds remaining in the game.
Wishing only to drive to the basket for a tying layup, Bryant slipped upon receiving the inbounds pass. With time running out, he would throw up an off-balance three from the top of the arc. The rest, as they say, is history.
7. December 19, 2003: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers
In perhaps one of the most improbable clutch moments in sports history, Kobe Bryant completed a day that began horribly with one of his greatest moments.
After spending nearly the entire day in a Colorado court room, Kobe Bryant landed in L.A. 25 minutes before the tip-off of a game against the Denver Nuggets. He would arrive in the locker room with four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Coming off of the bench for the first time since 1999, Kobe was reluctant to shoot for most of the game. However, with 25 seconds remaining and the Lakers leading by one, he fired a long jump shot that missed. At the other end, Shaquille O'Neal fouled rookie Carmelo Anthony with 2.5 seconds remaining, and he tied the score at the line.
The ball was inbounded to Bryant off a broken play. After a pump-fake, the ball left Kobe's hands with just one-tenth of a second remaining, swishing through the net as the buzzer sounded.
After waking up at 4:30 a.m., and spending the day in court, Kobe Bryant had beaten the team from the state in which he was being tried.
6. April 14, 2004: Los Angeles Lakers at Portland Trail Blazers
In one of the more dramatic and wild seasons ever put together by one team, the Los Angeles Lakers stood just one win away from clinching the Pacific Division title. However, the Portland Trail Blazers were not about to make it easy.
With Portland holding an 87-84 lead, Ruben Patterson (the self-proclaimed "Kobe Stopper") missed two free throws that would have iced the game. With just eight seconds remaining, the ball was inbounded to Bryant at the top of the arc.
Guarded by Patterson, who knew that L.A. needed a three-pointer, Kobe would be forced far beyond the line. Twisting and contorting his body in an effort to get the shot off, Bryant would drill a three to send the game to overtime.
After moving into a second extra period, Damon Stoudamire would make a layup with just 2.2 seconds remaining, giving Portland a two-point advantage. The 2.2 seconds would be all Bryant needed to give L.A. a division championship.
Running off of a powerful Karl Malone pick, Bryant would get a wide-open three-pointer. Falling away with the clock striking zero, Kobe swished the three to send the Lakers to the playoffs on a high note.
5. June 18, 2000: Los Angeles Lakers at Indiana Pacers
Game Four of the 2000 NBA Finals would reach overtime. Entering the extra period, 21-year-old Kobe Bryant scored 20 points. Led by Shaquille O'Neal, the Lakers took an early lead in the overtime period.
Fortunes would turn for both teams when O'Neal, who had dominated with 36 points and 21 rebounds, fouled out at the 2:33 mark of overtime. Phil Jackson responded to the loss of his star by allowing the young Bryant to go isolation. He responded with two long jump shots to keep L.A. ahead.
Following two Rik Smits free throws, Indiana trailed 118-117. On the Lakers' final possession, Brian Shaw would attempt a running layup to give L.A. a three-point advantage. His miss seemed to give Indiana life, until Kobe Bryant rebounded the shot in the air and put it back on a reverse layup before coming down with 5.9 seconds to play.
The three-point advantage provided by Bryant's layup would prove insurmountable, and L.A., despite losing league MVP Shaquille O'Neal in overtime, would take a three games to one lead in the best-of-seven series. The overtime performance by Bryant would also propel him towards his future career as the game's best closer.
4. May 10, 2000: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers
The first game-winning field goal in the career of Kobe Bryant would come in the 2000 Western Conference Semifinals, at the expense of the Phoenix Suns.
Guarded by sensational defensive guard Jason Kidd and trailing by one, Kobe Bryant would make the first of many career game-winning shots.
In the second game of the second round playoff matchup between Phoenix and L.A., the favored Lakers trailed at home by one point. Giving the 21-year-old Bryant the ball in an isolation, Kobe made a hanging, double-clutch jumpshot over the stifling defense of Jason Kidd with 2.6 seconds to play.
The shot would give Los Angeles a 2-0 series lead on its way to the NBA Finals.
3. May 12, 2002: Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs
With the longest postseason road winning streak on the line, Kobe Bryant would come up big in the fourth quarter.
Having scored 16 points entering the final stanza, Kobe would make sure to go out with a bang. On his way to a 12-point fourth quarter, Kobe would make two three-pointers to tie the game before entering a final possession with an opportunity to go for the win.
As Kobe made his move with the game winding down, he dribbled the ball off of his foot. Derek Fisher, after rescuing the ball from going out of bounds, was forced to shoot as the shot clock expired. He missed, and it seemed that Kobe had failed in the clutch for L.A.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Kobe Bryant would appear in the lane to make a spectacular one-handed rebound of Fisher's miss. Following it in with 5.1 seconds to play, Kobe would give Los Angeles an 87-85 victory, and extend the team's playoff road winning streak to 11 games.
2. April 30, 2006: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers
Entering the 2006 Playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers were major underdogs. They had finished as the seventh seed in the Western Conference, on the back of Kobe Bryant's sensational individual play.
Despite their underdog status, L.A. had taken Game Two in Phoenix and Game Three in Los Angeles. With this 2-1 series advantage in hand, the Lakers seemed poised to take Game Four. However, Phoenix would take a two-point lead into the final seconds.
With a two-point lead, Phoenix inbounded to Steve Nash, hoping that the league's best free throw shooter would get fouled.
Smush Parker had other ideas besides fouling. Parker stole the ball from Nash, and advanced it ahead to Devean George, who would find Kobe Bryant streaking to the basket for a looping, teardrop layup with seven-tenths of a second to play.
In overtime, the Suns would take a one point advantage into the final seconds of play. Again inbounding to Nash, the Suns were confident that their leader could end the game for them at the line.
This time, however, Luke Walton would make the play. Tying up Nash for a jump ball, Walton had given L.A. a final chance.
Walton easily won the tip over Nash, and the ball went to Kobe Bryant. With the clock winding under five seconds, Kobe dribbled inside the three-point line, and fire his jumper over Boris Diaw. Entering the basket as the buzzer sounded, the shot sent the Staples Center into a frenzy.
1. June 8, 2004: Detroit Pistons at Los Angeles Lakers
Having been shockingly upset in Game 1 of the 2004 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers desperately needed a victory on their home court.
Despite playing significantly better than in Game One, the Lakers still trailed by three in the final seconds. On a set play to get the ball to Kobe, Shaquille O'Neal and Luke Walton managed to combine to find the star guard.
Playing one-on-one with Richard Hamilton, Kobe sized up the Piston guard. After getting his balance, he rose up from far beyond the three point line and drilled the shot with 2.1 seconds remaining. In the overtime period, Bryant continued his dominance, scoring two baskets and assisting on two others by Shaquille O'Neal.
While Bryant's heroics in the 99-91 Laker victory were eventually all for naught, they were absolutely massive in the context of the situation. Had L.A. lost both games on its home floor, the series would have effectively been over. By winning the game by himself, Kobe Bryant gave the Lakers an opportunity that they eventually failed to capitalize on.