NBA Assassins: Kobe Bryant, Melo and the NBA’s Top 10 Stone-Cold Heartbreakers
There’s a dying breed in today’s NBA: The players that will rip out a crowd’s heart have dwindled.
We’re talking the true Assassins of the NBA, the stone-cold heartbreakers. Not just a game closer, not only a player willing to take the last-second shot, but the guy who does it willingly, wants to, can’t wait to.
Quit your whining right now, stop before we even get out of the gate. We’re not talking about just a guy who takes a final shot. Or someone who works hard. It's not even a timely block or a stop on the defensive end.
This is different. It’s about DNA. We’re talking real assassins. That's why the guy you love might not be on this list.
There are only a handful of players in the league who will really break your heart. In a hostile environment, among a crowd of 16,000 strong routing against him, this player will still take and make the shot.
And, they will do it with a sneer on their face. Or, they come up with the steal that lets them go down and score to take a lead. It's not about offense or just defense.
Whether it’s a player early in the game who silences the crowd or one that puts his failing team on his back and wills them to victory, or the one who hits the last-second bucket that delivers the final gasp, there are only a few true assassins left in the league.
This is the guy everyone knows will beat you. This is the guy we scream at the TV to not let get the ball on the inbounds play. If we were coaching, we'd triple-team the guy and let someone else beat us.
These players borderline on extinction now, are throwbacks to earlier generations and are really a dying breed. They are old-school, not in their play but in their mindset. They excel in these moments and wait for the chance.
So, who are these heartbreakers?
Here the NBA’s Top 10 Assassins.
10. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Don’t let the Big Fundamental fool you. Don’t let his calm and silent demeanor lull you to sleep. He’ll slip into the enemy camp and kill everyone while they sleep.
Duncan is an assassin. Don’t fall for it. His competitive fires burn just as bright as the rest of the players on this list.
Duncan just isn’t vocal. Maybe a grunt or a groan here and there. Maybe you can spot it from a timely fist pump or quick high five to a teammate. But don’t believe it.
Whether the first quarter or the end of a game, Duncan will bury you. He’ll dunk on you. He’ll block your shot. He’ll face you up and nail the patented bank shot.
The bank is always open with Duncan and he’ll rob you blind.
Don’t believe me? Try four NBA titles. He’s the silent assassin and just as deadly.
9. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
This is the little guy who will cut you dead. He’s an assassin in a smaller package. He looks all nice and innocent but he’ll rip out your heart.
He’ll silence a crowd. He can do it with a score or a pass. He’ll do it on the road. He’ll carry his team. Paul has this assassin DNA. He’ll rise up and kill you.
He’s got a little of Magic Johnson in him, where he’s smiling while he beats you. And, it looks like he’s really enjoying himself.
8. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
He’s cut from the same block as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. He’s an assassin through and through. He’s a proven winner, having brought the Heat back against Dallas to win the 2006 NBA Finals.
Wade will have the ball in his hands to close out a game, but that’s not all that makes a true assassin. He’ll put his body at risk throughout the game for the victory.
Other than Kobe, there isn’t another warrior in the NBA with as much skill and talent as DWade. And, he always rises to the occasions.
How else do you explain the Heat making the playoffs the past few years?
And, whine all you want, but Wade is the man I'd worry about killing my team. Stone-cold.
LeBron James might be the King and one day, he might too get on a list like this, but right now, in this time, in this day, LBJ doesn't have it in his DNA. He's too enjoyable, has too much fun. He doesn't get mad enough, not mean. He's fun, but stone-cold? Not even close. At least yet.
For now, Wade will crush you. He's the only Assassin on the Heat. And, that is okay, because him alone is enough. Don't turn your back on Wade or you'll be a goner.
7. Ray Allen, Boston Celtics
As much as it hurts to acknowledge a Boston Celtic, there is no denying that Ray Allen is an assassin. He’ll rip out your heart with a shot to beat the shot clock or end the game.
His quick release is legendary and a killer. He can get hot during a game (see 2010 NBA Finals) and go postal worker, nailing shot after shot, like some unconscious machine.
And, he seems to take pride in draining a jumper on the road. How many other players in the league would you run a final play for to win a game?
Allen is one. Run him off two strong picks, he’ll rub off the final one and you’ll be left with the ball in the bottom of the net. Assassin.
6. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
How many times can a player hit the same shot over and over again to win a game?
Roll the tape. Time running down. Ball to Dirk at the elbow. He’ll face up, spin, then put his opponent on his hip. Dirk will spin once, the back the other way into the lane. At about the free throw line, he’ll bump into his defender, then fade away, rising up and draining his 15-foot jumper.
It’s textbook, predictable and at 6’10”, unguardable.
Dirk will rip your heart out with a closing shot. Or, he’ll go for 40-plus and put his team on his back to deliver the win over four hard-fought quarters.
How many other guys, let alone ones his size, would you want with the ball with the game on the line? Not many.
Dirk is a true German assassin.
5. Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers
Stop it right now. He made the list. He has to. It's in his DNA to rise to the occasion.
He’s a brother in arms with Kobe Bryant.
0.4 seconds. The time it took Fisher to kill the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs. His last-second shot is historic.
But, he’s got a resume full of them.
He’ll make them in the regular season. He’ll deliver in the playoffs. And, he’ll pick up the team and bring them to victory with a championship on the line.
He might miss shots all game, but Kobe will still stick him with a pass with nothing left on the clock. And, D-Fish will drain the rainbow jumper.
You can scream all season at your TV to replace Fish because he doesn't seem to stick with smaller guards. Forget it. That's a joke. Resistance is futile. When it matters, he'll slice you open.
This guy is a warrior and assassin all in one. How else do you explain an undersized guard from Little Rock, Ark., winning five NBA titles and becoming a legend? Assassin.
4. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
As much as I hate the most bitter of rivals of the Lakers, you have to respect the Boston Celtics. They have poise and skill.
But Pierce is the other true assassin on that team. He will kill you. He will break your heart. He will even get out of the wheelchair (2008 NBA Finals) and come back to beat you.
Pierce can be counted on to make the last-second shot or drive and go to the line. And, he’ll do it on the road in the playoffs. He might not be liked but, man, he’s respected.
Don't even suggest Kevin Garnett. He might have been a few years ago, but on the Celtics, right now, Pierce is the assassin for that team. This slideshow is all about stone cold, and Pierce is all that.
3. Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
Melo might not give 100 percent on defense all of the time but offensively, other than Kobe Bryant, Melo is an assassin unlike any other.
He can kill you so many ways and loves to do it in a hostile environment, when everyone is against him. Maybe it all started with the NCAA tournament at Syracuse, when Melo won the title as a freshman.
He’s got the game to beat you so many different ways and he always seems to sink the last-second shot. But, he’ll beat you with a drive, a steal or a blocked shot. Never count him out.
And, Melo is that guy who will laugh in your face doing it. That's the extra layer he adds, the level he takes stone-cold to. He'll punk you and rub your nose in it.
And, here's the worst. You know he'll get the ball but it won't matter. Opposing coaches and defending players can't stop him. Neither can you. Heartbreaking assassin.
2. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
This guy is the Argentinian assassin. He literally rises to the moment. He’ll beat you in February. He’ll beat you in the Olympics. He’ll kill you in the NBA Finals.
He demands the ball in his hands in the closing minutes and he delivers. He’ll manufacture the win, in any one of his crazy ways, his leaners, his left-handed dribbles, his flops, his getting a charge call. All of it. And he'll talk smack to you in Spanish.
But, you want him on your side because he’s a winner.
1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe blocks Dwight Howard's shot in the 2009 NBA Finals
Kobe is the standard for NBA assassin. He is the true warrior who believes deep down that he is in a real life-and-death struggle, that an NBA game is a real battle. He is not only willing but demands to rip out the opposing team’s heart.
And, he’s proven. Time and time again he’s gone into an opponent's arena and come out with the victory. Not just a last-second shot but an entire game.
Whether it's 55 at the Garden, beating Phoenix with an inferior Laker team, or taking out Orlando in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on their home court, Kobe lives for those moments.
And, who do you think each and every player on the 2008 USA Olympic team turned to when the gold medal game got tight? That's right. Even the other best in the world knew who would bring them home.
Don't ever underestimate him. Kobe loves that. Think he is old. Think he is injured. Think LBJ is better. Fantastic. You'll get a sneer, maybe a snicker and then before you know it, he'll have sliced you open and will show you your heart before you die.
Kobe is the stone-cold assassin poster child. End of discussion.
Want to learn what really separates Kobe from other NBA players and where his inner drive is derived? Or why he considers himself a lifelong "outcast"?
Check out the new book, The Kobe Code: Eight Principles For Success—An Insider's Look into Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant's Warrior Life & the Code He Lives By, at www.PatMixon.com.