NBA Power Rankings: The 50 Most Clutch Players of All Time
As Jimmy McGinty famously said, "Winners always want the ball when the game's on the line."
Such is the mantra of a clutch player. No matter how poorly this athletic species' performance may have been throughout the rest of the game, the final few minutes, final possession, or final shot is an entirely new ballgame.
They are the epitome of extraordinary, the guardians of greatness, and the acme of achievement. Without these players, basketball games simply wouldn't be as exciting.
Take away buzzer beaters and incredible playoff performances, and sports fans would never have the pleasure of meeting the gut-wrenching entity known as "the edge of our seats."
With that, here is a list of the 50 most clutch NBA players of all time. The rings between them outweigh the entire Valentine's Day stock at Zales, and their game-winning shots are more plentiful than 15-year-old girls at a Justin Bieber concert.
Methodology: "Clutch" was defined through a combination of championships won, game-winning shots made (regular season or playoffs), big-time late-game plays and big-time playoff performances. We were hoping that Gus Johnson could narrate the slideshow, but alas, he has NFL games to immortalize.
50. Bruce Bowen
Bowen may not be the most imposing offensive force, but as one of the best defenders in league history, the five-time all-defensive first-teamer's place on this list is certainly deserved.
A three-time champion, Bowen's ability to lock down opposing teams' star players helped established him as the league's premier perimeter defender for a time.
His hard-nosed style, which sometimes landed more on the side of dirty, proceeded to anger a number of players, many of whom, like Vince Carter and Steve Francis, openly vented their frustration.
To his defense, Inside Hoops columnist MJ Darnell responded: "They're whining because Bruce Bowen has frustrated, upset, hurt or angered them in some way...He just plays tough, physical defense, does not play with any intent to injure, but isn't afraid to get in someone's grill."
Without his defense, it is likely that the Spurs wouldn't have developed into the borderline dynasty that they have become.
49. Allan Houston
One of the most prolific scorers in New York Knicks history, Houston is most remembered for striking a dagger in the hearts of Heat fans nationwide, eliminating Miami from the 1999 NBA playoffs in heartbreaking fashion.
In the final seconds of a decisive Game 5, the eighth-seeded Knicks found themselves trailing the top-seeded Heat by one point with a chance to win the game.
Houston received an inbounds pass, dribbled down the lane, and fired up a floater that, after bouncing off the top of the front rim, ricocheted off the backboard and through the hoop with .8 seconds remaining.
That same postseason, Houston would lead the last-seeded Knicks all the way to the Finals, where they would fall to Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.
48. John Paxson
Whenever you're on a team with Michael Jordan, hitting an NBA title-clinching shot is no small feat.
The Bulls were down two to the Phoenix Suns in the closing seconds of Game 6, staring a decisive Game 7 in the face.
To the tremendous dismay of the fans at the America West Arena, Paxson stunned the world by draining a three-pointer with 3.9 seconds remaining, giving the Bulls a 99-98 lead and their third consecutive NBA title.
47. Rex Chapman
Rex Chapman is not a Hall of Famer, nor is he one of the more coveted players in NBA history. His moment in the sun, however (while on Phoenix) remains one of the most memorable plays in NBA playoff history.
Perhaps it was complete luck, but Chapman's improbable three-point heave during Game 4 of the 1997 Western Conference quarterfinals will be forever embedded in NBA clutch folklore.
Down three in the final seconds of the game, Chapman somehow managed to stay on his feet while saving the ball from going out of bounds, and in the same motion, he threw up a desperation heave from beyond the three-point line with 1.9 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
The Suns would end up losing the game, but Rex's miracle shot has certainly not been forgotten.
46. Rik Smits
The Dutchman, who was the Robin to Reggie Miller's Batman throughout much of the 1990s, always seemed to turn it on come playoff time.
Smits is probably best known for his miracle shot during Game 4 of the 1994 NBA Finals. After Penny Hardaway hit a tough three to put the Magic up a point in the final seconds of the game, Smits responded with a pivot, pump fake, and jumper to give the Pacers a thrilling victory.
Earlier in that postseason, he outplayed a usually dominant Patrick Ewing, especially in his 34-point Game 1 performance, eliminating the hated Knickerbockers in the second round.
For that playoffs, Smits averaged 20.1 points, which was significantly higher than his regular season output.
45. Brandon Roy
Roy has fallen off a bit recently due to injury, but during the 2009 season, Roy was arguably more clutch than Tom Brady, Tiger Woods and Sidney Crosby combined.
To validate this opinion, Vincent Thomas of NBA.com had the following to say about Roy, who he ranked third in his piece titled "With the game on the line, who would you want to have the ball?" over the likes of LeBron, Carmelo, and Ray Allen:
"I want to see what the youngster (Roy) does against Artest and Battier when the game's on the line and the Blazers have a chance to win. My money would be on him canning some mid-range jumper and then scowling while his teammates mob him.
"I think Roy hit, like, 2,395 game-winners this season. He's every bit the clutch franchise player that the elite of the elite are."
44. Steve Kerr
To hit a championship-clinching shot when Michael Jordan is on your team is pretty impressive. To hit a championship-clinching shot when Michael Jordan is depending on you is downright legendary.
With the game winding down during Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the Bulls found themselves tied with the Utah Jazz with a chance to win the game.
As Phil Jackson outlined a championship winning play during a timeout (which, of course, everyone expected to involve MJ taking the shot) Jordan famously turned to Kerr on the bench, telling Kerr that he was going to win the Bulls the championship.
The point guard famously responded to MJ: "If he comes off, I'll be ready," referring to the fact that Kerr's man, John Stockton, would likely leave Kerr to go help double a driving Jordan. If such was the case, there would be nobody on Kerr.
Sure enough, a wide-open Kerr received a pass from a driving Jordan at the top of the key and proceeded to drill one of the most famous 15-footers in NBA history, delivering Chicago back-to-back NBA titles.
During the Bulls the victory parade, Kerr joked about having to "bail out" MJ, jesting that MJ wasn't comfortable enough with winning the game himself. As we will find out much later in the slideshow, such an opinion is simply outlandish.
43. Ralph Sampson
Sampson, one of the greatest collegiate basketball players of all time, didn't have as prolific of a pro career. His playoff buzzer-beater in Game 5 of the 1986 Western Conference Finals, however, was incredible enough to earn him a spot on this list.
With one second remaining, Sampson caught the ball about a few feet away from the left block, his back to the basket. In one fluid motion, Sampson more or less blindly guided the ball over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The ball proceed to softly bounce atop the front of the rim and into the hoop, giving the Rockets an improbable win.
The Rockets would go on to win the series, ending the Lakers' several years of dominance of the Western Conference.
42. Penny Hardaway
If it weren't for a number of injuries, Penny Hardaway could have ended up as one of the all-time greats. Fortunately, his legacy has left us with some incredible plays to remember.
A deadly scorer, Hardaway was known for mercilessly killing the hopes and dreams of the opposition late in games.
This clip, which is from Game 4 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, features an off-balance three from Hardaway, which gave the Magic a one point leading following a thought to be dagger by Reggie Miller.
Contrary to the title of the clip, Hardaway's shot was not in fact a game winner, as the Pacers Rick Smits responded with an incredible shot of his own, a buzzer beater which proved to be the difference.
Regardless, it was Hardaway's stellar play that series which propelled the Magic past the Pacers and into the NBA finals.
41. Sam Cassell
Sir Charles once said, "When Michael Jordan is on the floor with Sam Cassell, Sam Cassell still thinks he's the best player out there."
While this demonstrates "turrible" basic intelligence by Cassel, it demonstrates the undying confidence the Sam Cassel had in his own playing ability.
A three-time NBA champion, Cassell started wearing his clutch hat rather early in his career, gaining playing time over a much more experienced Kenny Smith in late-game situations due to his ability to knock down big shots during the Rockets 1994 title run. Cassell was a rookie at the time.
During the 1995 NBA Finals, Cassell served as a major contributor to the Rockets second consecutive championship, averaging 14.3 ppg while shooting 47% from beyond the arc. It is important to note that during the regular season, Cassell averaged only 9.5 ppg and shot 33% from three point range.
Sammy C was also instrumental in the Bucks' 2001 Conference Finals run (17.4 ppg, 6.7 apg), as well as the T-Wolves' 2004 Conference Finals appearance, where a hamstring injury to Cassell may have cost Minnesota a shot at their first-ever NBA championship.
40. Bill Laimbeer
Whenever Laimbeer was one the court, you were very aware you were playing against Bill Laimbeer.
The forward's presence was downright intimidating, enabling him to make clutch play after clutch play en route to back to back NBA Championships in the late 80's/early 90's.
It's worth noting that Laimbeer and few of his Pistons' teammates are the only players to have winning records against Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.
Wolfing down big rebound after big rebound, Laimbeer demonstrated amazing durability throughout his entire 14-year career, something that served as a boon in late-game situations.
39. Gar Heard
If you haven't "Heard" of Gar, I sincerely hope you ignore my cliche and proceed to the next paragraph.
The former Suns forward is best known for his incredible shot during Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals, which is considered by some the greatest NBA game ever played.
Heard's buzzer beater, immortalized as "the shot Heard round the world," came at the end of the second overtime in the triple overtime classic, which was eventually won by the Celtics.
After Boston's John Havlicek hit an improbable runner, the reincarnation of "the band is one the field" occurred, as fans stormed the court thinking Havlicek's shot was in fact a buzzer beater. The celebration was all for naught however, as there was in fact still one second remaining.
After JoJo White sunk a free throw to put the Celtics up by two (a result of an illegal timeout by Phoenix), Heard received an inbounds pass at the top of the key, turned and fired a prayer that cost the announcers their sanity.
38. Tracy McGrady
McGrady never won a playoff series, so it's truly tough to consider him among the pantheon of clutch. Whenever you score 13 points in 33 seconds to give your team a one-point victory however, chances are you're a clutch player.
Down by double digits against the Spurs with 45 seconds left, McGrady somehow hit four three pointers (and was fouled on one) to give the Rockets one of the most improbable victories in NBA history.
McGrady has also had a few shining moments in the playoffs, where he has averaged an incredible stat line of 28.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg, and 6.2 apg.
During Game Two of the Rockets' 2005 first round playoff series, McGrady hit a game-winner with 2.2 seconds left, giving Houston a 2-0 series lead.
37. Carmelo Anthony
The legend of Carmelo's clutch originated in college, when, as a freshman, he led Jim Boeheim's fifth-seeded Syracuse squad all the way to a National Championship.
Anthony, who starred throughout the NCAA tournament, had what is considered by some experts as the greatest single season for a college freshman.
In 2005-2006, Anthony let the league know that he was going anywhere but toward superstardom when he hit a string of game-winners to earn himself a reputation as a great finisher.
Entering the prime of his career, we will likely get to enjoy a number of future clutch Carmelo moments.
For proof of Anthony's tremendous closing abilities, look no further than the video to your left. Big ups to Eminem for providing the pump-up music.
36. George Gervin
The "Iceman" was never able to capture an NBA Championship, but the name says it all. The Spurs all-time leading scorer is considered by some to be the most clutch player in San Antonio Spurs history.
Gervin used his sweet shooting stroke to maximum effect, often burying teams late in the games with big jumpers.
The Iceman once racked up 46 points in a playoff game against the Washington Bullets. It's worth noting that this performance came before the institution of the three-pointer.
35. Tayshaun Prince
The man with freakishly long arms has used them in just the right moments.
Although quite a talented offensive player, Prince's best clutch moments have come on the defensive end.
In Game 2 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals, Prince made what is considered arguably the best block in NBA history, coming out of nowhere to chase down a streaking Reggie Miller to secure a dramatic victory for Detroit.
Then, in the 2008 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, Prince delivered yet again, swatting Hedo Turkoglu in the closing seconds to preserve a Pistons victory.
34. Mike Bibby
True, Bibby has never won a championship, let alone appeared in the NBA Finals. His performance throughout the 2002 Western Conference Finals however, is arguably one of the best individual series' in the past two decades or so.
After suffering a heartbreaking Game Four defeat at the hands of Big Shot Bob's heroics, Bibby and company answered emphatically in Game 5. Down one in the closing seconds, Bibby nailed a shot to put the Kings ahead for good, giving them a 3-2 series lead.
In Game 7 of that series, the only Game 7 in the history of the Western Conference Finals to go to overtime, Bibby scored 10 points in the finals three minutes of regulation, single-handedly keeping the Kings in the game against the defending champs.
Unfortunately, Bibby's heroics weren't enough, as Kobe and Shaq proved to be too much for the former Arizona guard, defeating Sacramento in an overtime thriller.
33. Vince Carter
Despite having an "I'm pretty good, but I could've been one of the all time greats" career, Vinsanity has come up with some insane shots during his all star career.
From 2003-2008, which may not even by Carter's prime, he hit 16-game winning shots. Only LeBron James has hit more game-winners during that span.
He may not have an NBA Championship under his belt, let alone a finals appearance, but Carter in his prime was as deadly as any player in the league.
32. Allen Iverson
The Answer can only question what it feels like to capture an NBA Championship, but A.I. certainly had his fair share of clutch moments.
Iverson, a four-time scoring champion, had number of huge games in the postseason, many of them coming in 2001, A.I's MVP season. After defeating the Indiana Pacers of the first round, the Sixers outlasted the Raptors and the Bucks in back-to-back seven-game series, and advanced to the finals to face the defending champion Lakers.
In Game 1 of that series, Iverson helped shock the NBA world, scoring 48 points en route to a six-point upset on the road. The Answer would score 23, 35, 35, and 37 points in the following four games, all losses. For that postseason, Iverson averaged an incredible 32.9 points, 6.1 assists, and 4.7 rebounds.
A.I also has scored over 50 points in three separate postseason contests. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have more 50+ point playoff games.
Throughout his career, Iverson has had a considerable amount of game-winning shots, as the feisty future Hall of Famer was always a late-game threat throughout his illustrious NBA career.
31. Elgin Baylor
Elgin Baylor never won an NBA championship, despite playing in 44 NBA finals games. Had he played in a time period where the Boston Celtics did not have Bill Russell, Baylor's lack of NBA Championships probably wouldn't be an issue.
At one point, Baylor held the records for most points in a game, in a playoff game, and in one half of a playoff game. He currently holds the record for the most points in a finals game, as the versatile forward dropped a mind-boggling 61 spot in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals.
30. Kevin McHale
Playing most of his career with the likes of Larry Bird and Robert Parish, McHale's big-time playoff performances often get lost in the shuffle. Any way you look at it, however, McHale was as clutch as the rest of 'em.
While he didn't wow crowds with buzzer beater after buzzer beater, McHale was a beacon of consistency in the postseason.
The three-time NBA champion was not named one of the 50 greatest players of all time by mistake; rather it was his stellar late-game shooting that contributed majorly to this achievement.
29. Charles Barkley
Sir Charles never attained an NBA Championship, but he was undoubtedly one of the most dominant power forwards in NBA history. With that, he was also one of the most clutch.
For his career, Barkley averaged a highly impressive 23.0 points and 12.9 boards in the playoffs. His best postseason year was likely 1993, when his Suns fell in the Finals to the Jordan-led Bulls.
Barkley was simply a beast during those playoffs, averaging 26.6 ppg and 13.6 boards in 42.8 minutes played.
During the decisive seventh game of Western Conference Finals, Sir Charles proved to be the difference, scoring 44 points and grabbing 24 rebounds.
28. Paul Pierce
"The Truth" is, Paul Pierce is a winner.
He may not have rings upon rings, but there's no doubting that Pierce is one of the most competitive players out there, something that is apparent not just in the playoffs, but game in and game out. Currently, he's leading the seemingly ageless Celtics to what is likely to be yet another deep playoff run.
From his game-winner against the Knicks during the thriller at the Garden a few weeks ago to his team's legendary comeback against the Nets during game 3 the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals, Pierce has had some incredible clutch performances through the years.
With both Allen and Pierce on the same roster, the Celtics are arguably the most experienced team in the game today when it comes to late-game heroics.
27. LeBron James
True, he has never won an NBA Title. True, he's kinda sorta deferring his role as the man in Miami, perhaps ceding his propensity to climb higher up this list.
Regardless, James has had quite a considerable amount of game-winning shots and clutch plays through what is sure to be a Hall of Fame career.
When he's not asking people for $500,000 to sponsor his birthday party, James is busy attempting to lead the Heat to that elusive championship.
If he could recapture some of his previous playoff magic (i.e, burying Orlando, scoring his team's final 25 points (and 29 out of the last 30) en route to a double-overtime victory against a very experienced Pistons squad), James should be well on his way to finally capturing that elusive NBA crown.
Not to mention, James had a mind-boggling 17 game-winning shots in his first five seasons in the league, which is nearly a quarter season's worth.
26. Derek Fisher
Although he is by no means the most dominant Laker over the past decade, Fisher has been a stable force in all of the Lakers' conquests. Not to mention, he's had his fair share of shining moments.
We're all well aware of Fisher's miracle in San Antonio, during which he gave the Lakers a 3-2 series lead by hitting a game winner with .4 seconds remaining. Over the years, Fisher has had some playoff performances that, despite not being as miraculous as that one shot, are essentially timeless.
Last season, in the Lakers' second-round series against the Utah Jazz, Fisher hit a three-pointer with less than 30 seconds remaining to put LA up by one, giving them the victory.
In 2009, Fisher made Dwight Howard and the Magic pay dearly for their free throw shooting woes, as Fisher, after missed free throws by Howard that would have put the game out of reach, nailed a three with less than five seconds left to force overtime.
Furthermore, Fisher has been consistently hailed as one of the most passionate players in the game, his competitive fire palpable game in and game out, regardless of the score, time of year, or individual circumstances.
Fisher notably cried during a postgame press conference after Game 3 of this year's NBA Finals, during which he more or less demonstrated his gratitude for having a chance to help his team earn a championship.
The five-time NBA champion, the only other player besides Kobe on all five of the Lakers' recent Championship, certainly didn't earn this chance by accident.
For a more detailed list of Derek Fisher's playoff heroics, I implore you to read this compelling piece from the LA Times Lakers Blog.
25. JoJo White
JoJo White, a prolific point guard for the Boston Celtics in the 1970's was an instrumental part of the C's championships in '74 and '76. For his services, his No. 10 has been retired for the franchise.
White's most memorable moment came during Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals. In a triple-overtime thriller, White led the Celtics to a 128-126 victory, during which White logged an incredible 60 minutes played.
In that contest, White led all scorers with 33 points, and was also the game's high assist man (9). For his efforts in that game, and the entire series in general, White was awarded the NBA Finals MVP.
24. Ray Allen
Ray Allen always seems to be on a contender. Despite only having one championship on his resume, Allen has consistently carried teams deep into the playoffs, most notably his Milwaukee teams in the early 2000's.
In 2001, Allen and the Bucks barely missed out on an NBA finals appearance, falling in seven games to MVP Allen Iverson and the Sixers.
Allen's deadly shooting stroke is what makes him clutch. He has made a number of game-winning shots in his career, perhaps the most notable of which came during the classic Celtics/Bulls seven-game boxing match in the first round of the 2009 playoffs.
During that series, Allen not only hit the decisive Game 2 winner over an outstretched Joakim Noah, but he also hit an overtime-forcing three in Game 4, and incredible fadeaway to force Game 6 into triple overtime.
Reggie Miller, one of the most clutch players of all time, provided the icing on the cake. During the 2009 playoffs, Miller stated that if he had to pick any player to take a last-second shot with the game on the line, he would pick Allen.
23. James Worthy
When your nickname is "Big Game James," your appearance on this list just as likely as it for Dan Snyder to make a counter productive decision for the Redskins.
Worthy is the proud owner of three NBA Champion Rings, and an NBA Finals MVP, which came in 1988 against a very talented Pistons squad. It was then when Worthy earned his clutch reputation.
While it was apparent that an aging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was no longer the force he once was, it was Worthy who stepped up to lead the Lakers to the promised land.
During that series, Big Game James averaged 22 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.4 assists for the series.
Worthy was at his best when it mattered most, as his 36 point, 16 rebound, and 10 assist performance in Game 7 propelled the Lakers to victory.
22. Chauncey Billups
While researching for this slideshow, I consulted my dad for players to potentially include on this list. After listing the usual suspects (Jordan, Bird, Kobe, Magic), he then said, "What about that guy on Detroit who hits all the three's?"
That guy is Chauncey Billups.
The former Colorado Buffalo has made a living out of clutch buckets, which is why he has been affectionately dubbed "Mr. Big Shot."
The pinnacle of Billups' clutchness came during Game 5 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Detroit, down by three in the final seconds, needed a trey to force overtime.
Miraculously, Billups, who finished the game with 31 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals, came to the rescue with a half-court heave, sending the contest into overtime.
The Pistons would eventually lose in triple overtime, but would go on to win the series, and eventually, the NBA championship.
21. Shaquille O'Neal
The Shaqtus, a four-time NBA Champion, dominated his way to winning three NBA Finals MVP awards in the early 2000's.
Shaq, not all to far removed from the rest of his career, his been simply dominant in the playoffs. Shaq's playoff averages are 24.5 ppg and 11.7 rpg, which are extremely impressive considering the significant drop in his numbers over the past few seasons.
In his heyday, Shaq's playoff numbers eclipsed both 30 points and 15 rebounds per game.
While the Diesel is by no means clutch on the free throw line, his clutch manifests itself through his ability to overpower opponents.
During the Lakers first title run, Shaq helped lead the Lakers incredible fourth-quarter comeback against the Blazers in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, putting an exclamation on the rally with a now legendary dunk.
20. Walt "Clyde" Frazier
Long before he was astounding audiences with his pristine rhyme schemes, Frazier was an integral part to the Knicks Championship runs.
A two-time NBA champion, Walt's role in those seasons are often overshadowed by Willis Reed, particularly the 1970 season, during which Reed miraculously made an appearance in Game 7 despite having a severely torn thigh muscle.
It was Frazier however, who was ultimately responsible for that Game 7 victory, and he just as easily could have won the series MVP.
His 36 point, 19 assist performance in that game 7, which was accomplished largely without the help of league MVP Reed, was about as clutch as a player could possibly be.
Without Frazier's stellar play, the Knicks would have fallen to the Lakers, and Reed's famous moment likely wouldn't have accrued the longevity that it enjoys today.
19. Dwyane Wade
Flash has an affinity for late-game heroics, something has been apparent throughout his career.
Wade's clutch performances started in college, where he led a lesser known Marquette team, a three seed, past a heavily favored Kentucky en route to a Final Four appearance. He then carried those abilities into the NBA.
As a rookie, Wade entered the playoff circuit with quite the bang, hitting a game-winner in his first-ever playoff game against the Hornets.
Two years later, Wade would emerge as the teams undisputed star, as he led Miami to the franchises' first ever NBA Championship.
Averaging a stellar 34.7 points per game during the series, his 33.8 PER (player efficiency ranking) was rated by ESPN's John Hollinger as the greatest NBA Finals performance since the ABA/NBA merger.
For his efforts, Wade was named the finals MVP.
His clutch moments are simply too many to list, but my favorite episode of the Dwyane Wade experience has to be his heroics during the Heat's 2009 double overtime thriller against the Bulls.
Wade who scored 48 points, recorded 12 assists, and shot a remarkable 71.4% from the field during that contest, stole the ball with less than five seconds remaining, then heaved up a running three at the buzzer to secure a 130-127 victory.
18. John Stockton
Stockton may have never secured an NBA Championship, but the league's all time assist leader was an outstanding playoff performer.
For one, the Utah Jazz made the playoffs every single season of Stockton's career, which, in case you were counting, is 19 consecutive years.
It's also important to note that Utah's consecutive playoff appearances streak, which spanned 20 seasons, ended the year after Stockton retired.
Stock averaged 13.4 ppg and 10.1 assists per contest during his playoff career. His clutch highlight came during Game 6 of the 1997 Western Conference Finals.
The Hall of Famer scored his team's final 9 points, including a buzzer beating 3 over Charles Barkley, sending Utah to their first ever NBA finals.
17. Willis Reed
Willis Reed will be forever celebrated for his magical moment during at the Garden during Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Championship.
After suffering a severely torn thigh in the previous game, Reed, clearly in pain, walked out of the tunnel to the emphatic roar of the emphatic MSG Crowd. To add to their delight, Reed somehow managed to score the first bucket of the game, inspiring his team to victory.
For his efforts, Reed was named the Finals MVP.
In 1973, Reed, now severely slowed by mounting injuries, managed to piece together yet a another heroic championship performance, leading the Knicks to yet another title. Again, Reed was named MVP of the series.
16. Tim Duncan
While Timmy D. may not have the celebratory enthusiasm of most clutch players, his affinity for big-game performances is unquestionable.
Duncan has four NBA championships under his belt, and is a three time NBA Finals MVP. During the playoffs, Duncan has averaged 23.3 ppg and 12.6 rpg. More impressively, the 12-time All-Star has made the playoffs every single season he's been in the league.
One of Duncan's most memorable playoff moments, shown above, demonstrates that Duncan, despite being one of the best big men in the history of the league, isn't afraid to bury the trey when called upon.
15. Sam Jones
For those who don't know Sam Jones, he has more NBA Championships than Kobe and Shaq. Combined.
Whenever somebody wins 10 rings, its extremely hard not to consider them clutch. Jones won all his titles in an eleven year span with the Boston Celtics.
Although the NBA Finals MVP Award did not exist during Jones' time in the league, it'd be hard to imagine Jones, of of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, not earning the accolade at least once or twice.
Jones is in the elite company of players who have scored 50 or more points in an NBA playoff game.
The guard's 51 point performance came during game four of the 1967 Eastern Division Semi-Finals (Yes, it was called the "eastern division" back in his day) against the New York Knicks.
Jones has also accrued 2,909 postseason points in 154 games, the 15th most in league history.
14. John Havlicek
Havlicek was one of the most energetic players to ever play the game, as it was once recorded that he had run over one mile during a single NBA game.
On a team with a number of future Hall of Famers, Havlicek always managed to find a way to come up big when it counted most. During the 1975 Finals series against the Phoenix Suns, Havlicek came up huge in a thrilling triple overtime win. Down a point with less than five seconds remaining in double overtime, Havlicek made an improbable leaning runner that appeared to give Boston the victory. A crazy array of circumstances however, including a Phoenix technical and a stunning last second shot by Gar Heard forced the game into triple overtime, but the Celtics eventually prevailed.
Havlicek, however, will always be remembered for his clutch steal that secured the 1976 Eastern Conference Finals, a call that is considered one of the most famous in sports history.
Additionally, Johnny Most shares the Finals record for most points in an overtime period (9), and was named the 1974 NBA Finals MVP
13. Bob Petit
Bob Pettit, an 11-time NBA All-Star, had one of the greatest single-game finals performances in NBA history.
Against Bill Russell and the mighty Boston Celtics, Pettit single-handedly led the St. Louis Hawks to their first-ever NBA championship, dropping 50 points in a dramatic 110-109 victory.
The fact that this was done against Russell is simply incredible, as back in 1958, 50 point performances were less common than it is for Detroit Lions fans to praise Matt Millen.
If such a performance happened today, ESPN would likely create a 48-hour special dedicated to the unquestionable immortality of the player responsible.
12. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt the Stilt, perhaps the most dominant player of all time, didn't hold back when it came to big moments.
Chamberlain is a two-time NBA Champion and one time NBA Finals MVP, which was earned in 1972.
For his postseason career, the scarier, more powerful version of Shaq averaged 22.5 ppg and 24.5 rpg. Wilt totaled four playoff games with over 50 points, which ranks second most in league history.
It is important to note that Wilt's playoff success came with the Lakers, well past his prime. If he had the same supporting cast while a member of the 76ers, there's a chance we would be talking about Chamberlain with countless rings, not Russell.
11. Bob Cousy
"Cooz" may have played some time ago, but the years haven't taken anything away his late-game abilities.
The Celtics ballhandler, who is credited to revolutionizing the point guard position into what it is today, won six championships with the Boston Celtics, all coming in a seven-year span.
Cousy's dynamic play was largely responsible for a number of these titles, as he still holds the record for most assists in a four-game span during the NBA Finals (51), which propelled the Lakers to victory over the Minneapolis Lakers in 1960.
10. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The NBA's all-time scoring champion had quite a few buckets in moments when it mattered most.
His trademark sky hook helped Jabbar cruise to six NBA championships during his illustrious career, garnering two NBA finals MVP awards in the process.
Aside from his scoring, his length provided him all the tools necessary to become an absolute force in the shot blocking department, a role in which Jabbar certainly didn't shy away from.
He once recorded nine blocks in a playoff game against the Golden State Warriors, and recorded over seven blocks on five separate occasions during his time in the league.
Unfortunately, injuries hampered Jabbar throughout his career, sometimes limiting his playoff effectiveness. Regardless, having to face Jabbar meant that more often than not, your team was going to lose.
9. Isiah Thomas
Zeke may not have been the most clutch front office man, that's for sure. When it came to his playing days however, there were few who could perform better down the stretch.
The two time NBA Champion and 1990 NBA Finals MVP was an absolute force in the playoffs, especially in the 1990 championship series against Portland, during which he averaged a remarkable 27.6 points, 7.0 assists, and 5.2 rebounds.
In game one of that series, Thomas scored 16 points in the fourth quarter alone, rallying the Pistons from a 10 point deficit halfway through the quarter. Later on during that finals, Thomas would proceed to score 20 points in a single quarter.
Prior to his Finals MVP, Thomas scored 25 points in the third quarter of the sixth game in the 1988 NBA Finals, setting an NBA record. The feat would've been impressive enough if he were completely healthy. Zeke, however, did so with a severely sprained ankle.
His most clutch moment however, came in the decisive game 5 in their 1984 playoff series against the Knicks, when Thomas scored 16 points in the game's final 94 seconds to give the Pistons an extremely improbable victory.
One of the most underrated fourth quarter performances in NBA history, the video demonstrates Isiah's unique combination of fearless competitive desire and tremendous skill.
8. Robert Horry
"Big Shot Bob" didn't get his nickname by accident.
Horry is a member of seven NBA championship rosters, which makes him better than Michael Jordan by default. Well, not really. But kind of.
Some of Robert Horry's most memorable clutch moments throughout the years:
1995: With 6.5 seconds left in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, Horry nailed a jump shot to give the Rockets a 94-93 victory against the Spurs at the Alamodome.
1997: During Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, Horry went an incredible 7 for 7 from beyond the arc. His performance however, wasn't enough for the Lakers to earn the victory over the Utah Jazz, who won the game and eventually the series.
2002: During Game 3 of the Lakers' first round series against the Blazers, Horry nailed a three pointer with 10.2 seconds left to give the Los Angeles a one point lead, which proved to be the game winner.
2002: Perhaps Horry's most famous clutch shot, this one came during Game Four of the Western Conference Finals against the Sacramento Kings. Staring a 3-1 hole right in the face, the Lakers seemed doomed after Kobe Bryant missed a driving layup that would have sent the game into overtime, which was followed up by a missed put back attempt by Shaq.
Miraculously, the ball was tipped out to Horry in the final seconds, who fired a three as time expired. The buzzer beater evened the series at two apiece, and the Lakers went on to defeat the Kings in a thrilling seven-game bout en route to their third consecutive title.
2005: Now a member of the Spurs, Horry's heroics manifested themselves during Game 5 of the 2005 NBA Finals against the Pistons.
Down two with 5.9 seconds remaining, Horry hit a three on the left wing to give the Spurs a thrilling 96-95 overtime victory, giving them a 3-2 series lead. Horry scored 21 points in both the fourth quarter and overtime to help lead the Spurs to an eventual NBA title.
Horry also has the most three pointers in NBA Finals History, with 53. The previous record holder, Michael Jordan, had 42.
7. Reggie Miller
No other player decimated a team's spirit as Reggie Miller did the Knicks. Spike Lee's well being aside, it seemed as if every playoffs produced a "Miller Time" moment to remember.
Dubbed the "Knick Killer," Miller once scored 8 points in 8.9 seconds at MSG. During Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers found themselves down by six points with less than 20 seconds remaining. After hitting a three, he stole the ensuing inbounds pass from Greg Anthony, and dribbled a step back to hit another three to tie the game.
After a pair of missed free throws by John Starks and a missed put back attempt by Ewing, Miller retained the possession of the ball, was fouled, and sunk two free throws to give the Pacers an emphatic win amidst a stunned Madison square Garden.
In 2002, Miller's eighth seeded Pacers managed to play even with the top seeded Nets, forcing the series into its full five games.
During that decisive contest, Miller almost eliminated New Jersey by himself, coming up with a careers worth of clutch plays within the span of a few minutes. First, Miller sent the game into overtime with a 39 foot buzzer beating 3.
The fact that Miller was 13 feet beyond the three point line is impressive enough, but to hit it completely off-balanced is simply beyond the capacity of a normal human being.
Then, in overtime, Miller forced double overtime with a resounding dunk in the games winding seconds. The Pacers would eventually lose the contest, but even in loss, Miller's clutchness could not be contained.
Aside from his many fourth quarter explosions at the Garden, his tough jumper to win Game 6 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, or any other of his many, clutch performances, Reggie Miller is without a doubt one of the most clutch players in NBA history.
6. Jerry West
When your name is "Mr. Clutch," chances are you've done something right over the course of your Hall of Fame NBA career.
Jerry West made amazing happen in the NBA decades before the league itself. Although only a one-time NBA champion (that's what happens when you play the same time as Bill Russell), West was one of the best playoff performers in NBA history.
The guard, who had two 50-plus-point playoff games in his career, averaged 29.1 points per game during the postseason, which ranks second to Michael Jordan all time.
West's most memorable playoff moment came during Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. The display of balloons in the Forum rafters had reportedly angered West as giving the Celtics extra motivation, and he responded with 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists.
The Lakers lost in heartbreaking fashion, 108-106, but West was still awarded the Finals MVP for his efforts, the only player ever to do so from a losing team.
5. Magic Johnson
Magic, the king of razzle dazzle, appeared in an incredible nine NBA finals, emerging victorious in five on them. He was named NBA Finals MVP in 1980, 1982, and 1987. Amazingly, 1980 was his rookie season, and Johnson is the only player to ever win the award in his first year in the league.
Johnson's age however, is not even the most impressive factoid regarding his performance in that Finals. The Lakers took a 3-2 lead with a Game 5 victory, but star center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar severely injured his ankle and was unable to play in Game 6.
Coach Paul Westphal decided to insert the 6'9" Johnson at center, despite his primary position being point guard.
The move paid off big time. Magic recorded 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals while playing three different positions, leading the Lakers to the promised land.
In 1987, Magic's clutch ways surfaced again against the hated Celtics. In game four, with the Lakers trailing by a point, Johnson hit an improbable hook shot over Kevin McHale in the game's closing seconds, giving the Lakers a one point victory.
The Lakers would go on to win the series, and Johnson and his 26.2 points, 13.0 assists, and 8.0 rebounds won the Finals MVP.
4. Kobe Bryant
Kobe, the modern champion, is undoubtedly the most clutch player in the game today.
A 5 time champion and 2 time NBA Finals MVP, Kobe has hit more game winning shots than the world's premier quail hunter. Yes, this is a terrible analogy, which demonstrates that Kobe's clutch performances are virtually unrivaled.
For his postseason career, Bryant has averaged 25.5 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game. However, it is his undying will to win that propels Bryant over the rest of the opposition, especially in later game situations.
Although defenders are probably scared to death that the Black Mamba will scowl at them and thus stay as far away as possible, they'd be unable to stop him regardless, something Ruben Patterson learned the hard way.
Whether it be division title winning three pointers, overtime playoff buzzer beaters, or orchestrating 15 point game 7 comebacks, Kobe's resume is simply too long to list.
With still a few years left in the tank, there's a high possibility that with a few more championships and/or incredible plays, Kobe could very well retire as the most clutch player in the history of the game.
3. Larry Bird
When it comes to pressure situations, the Bird is the word.
C's center Robert Parish has been credited for saying that there were always "40,000 eyes on Larry Bird" during the end of games, because everybody in the arena knew he was getting the ball.
The consummate shooter, Bird used his sensational shooting touch to propel the Celtics to not one, not two, but three NBA Championships, racking up 2 NBA Finals MVPs along the way.
His long list of buzzer beaters, game-sealing defensive plays, and big time performances are endless, but can be summed up in a single quote, which was spoken by Bird's bitter rival Magic Johnson during Larry Legend's retirement party.
"Larry, you told me one lie. You said there would never be another Larry Bird. Larry, there will never be another Larry Bird."
2. Bill Russell
Nobody wins 11 NBA Championships by accident. Of course, Bill Wennington and Brian Scalabrine have tried to, but they have fallen tremendously short.
Arguably the best big man in the history of the league, Russell used his incredible defensive prowess to scare off those who even considered entering his lair in the post.
Russell played 13 years in the league, which meant that he won an NBA title over 80% of the time he was an active player. Such statistics are simply unheard of today.
The all time playoff leader in total rebounds (4104) and rebounds per game (24.9), and recorded over 40 rebounds three separate times in the postseason.
Having played in 11 series deciding games (10 Game 7's & one Game 5), you'd think he'd had lost one or two along the way. Nearly unfathomably, Russell was a perfect 11-0 in these contests, averaging a so-so 18 points and 29.45 rebounds.
When the NBA Finals MVP Award is named after you, chances are you've been a pretty clutch player throughout your career.
1. Michael Jordan
Where to begin?
Jordan is a six time champion, and six time NBA Finals MVP. He currently holds the record for most points in a single playoff game (63), and has eight 50+ point playoff performances, four more than anyone else.
For his career, he's the only player in league history to average over 30 points per game during the playoffs, as his gaudy 33.4 ppg four whole points higher than Jerry West, who ranks a distant second.
And with that, we're just getting started.
Naming Michael Jordan clutch moments is kind of like making up excuses to protect your child. Simply put, you'll never shut up.
If the NBA were to construct a highlight reel of great playoff moments, they could probably exclusively use Michael Jordan clips.
Be it his series-clinching buzzer beater over Craig Ehlo, his 63 point dismantling of the Celtics, the flu game, the up and under, the 1996 comeback championship, or MJ's farewell cross-up of Byron Russell, there has been no player that has provided us more clutch performances than Michael Jordan.
I'd keep going, but the highlight video is significantly more entertaining than I am.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!