LA Lakers: Ranking the Most Clutch Players in Lakers History

Joshua SextonSenior Analyst IIAugust 4, 2011

LA Lakers: Ranking the Most Clutch Players in Lakers History

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    It seems as though every basketball fan has his or her own definition of what constitutes a “clutch” basketball player.

    A player one fan believes to be clutch could be considered completely the opposite by another fan.

    I have always had one rule of thumb when judging a player to be clutch or not: The player must have a record of big performances in the most important games.

    There are plenty of current and former Los Angeles Lakers who fit my rule for being a clutch player.

    So who are the most clutch players in Lakers history? Who is No. 1?

    Let’s go to the power rankings.

8. Derek Fisher

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    Derek Fisher is one of the most beloved Lakers of all time. Known for his timely three-point shooting in big games, Fisher has played a big role in the team winning five championships since 2000.

    In Game 5 of the team’s 2004 conference semifinal series with the San Antonio Spurs, with .4 seconds remaining, Fisher hit an improbable, fall-away buzzer-beater to give the Lakers the victory. The shot is widely considered one of the most remarkable shots in playoff history.

    The Lakers would eventually eliminate the Spurs and make their fourth finals appearance in five years.

    In the 2009 NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic, Fisher once again exhibited his ability to hit clutch shots. In Game 4 of the series, he hit a game-tying shot to send the contest into overtime.

    In the extra period, Fisher hit another clutch three-pointer, sealing the victory.

7. James Worthy

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    If you had to guess which Laker led the team in scoring during the 1987 and 1988 postseasons, both of which were championship years, who would you guess?

    Magic Johnson?

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

    You would be wrong on both guesses. The answer is James Worthy.

    In the 1987 and 1988 playoffs, Worthy averaged 23 and 21 points per game, respectively.  

    He would eventually be named the 1988 NBA Finals MVP, as the Lakers defeated the Detroit Pistons in seven games.

    Worthy’s nickname, “Big Game James,” which he acquired as a collegiate player at North Carolina, proved to be fitting during his tenure with the Lakers.

6. Shaquille O'Neal

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    In his eight years with the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal won three consecutive championships (2000-2002), being named NBA Finals MVP each time.

    Shaq joined Michael Jordan as the only two players to win the award in three consecutive years.

5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five championships in the 1980s.

    Kareem’s most impressive playoff performance came during the 1985 finals against the Boston Celtics.

    Abdul-Jabbar averaged 30 points, 11 rebounds and six assists per game, claiming his second career NBA Finals MVP award.

    Abdul-Jabbar won six MVP awards throughout his career, in addition to being the league’s all-time leading scorer (38,387 points).

4. Robert Horry

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    During Robert Horry’s seven-year stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, he was notorious for hitting clutch shots.

    While Horry may not have the natural talent of the other players on this list, he could very well be the most clutch player.

    In Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference finals against the Sacramento Kings, Horry hit a three-point shot at the buzzer, preventing the Lakers from falling to a 3-1 series deficit.

    Had it not been for Horry’s heroics, the Lakers may not have won their third consecutive championship.

    During the 2002 postseason, Horry averaged nine points, eight rebounds and three assists per game.

3. Jerry West

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    Jerry West, known as “Mr. Clutch,” helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to nine NBA Finals appearances in his 14-year career, winning his only championship in 1972.

    After the Lakers were defeated in seven games by the Boston Celtics in the 1969 NBA Finals, West became the only player in league history to be named finals MVP from the losing team, averaging 38 points a contest.

    West had more clutch moments in 1970 NBA Finals against the New York Knicks. Trailing by two points In Game 3, West hit a last-second, half-court shot to send the game into overtime (there was no three-point shot in those days).

    The Lakers would eventually lose Game 3 and the series in seven games.

    West’s career postseason scoring average was 29 points a game, two points above his career regular season average of 27.

2. Kobe Bryant

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    In his 15-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant has helped lead the team to five championships and seven conference titles.

    Bryant was named the NBA Finals MVP in 2009 and 2010.

    In 208 playoff games, Bryant has averaged 25 points, five rebounds and four assists.

    One of Kobe’s most clutch playoff moments came in Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers.

    After missing Game 3 with an ankle injury, the 21-year-old came up huge in Game 4.

    Midway through overtime, Shaquille O’Neal fouled out of the game. This forced Bryant to carry the load for the Lakers. Kobe went on to hit numerous clutch shots, giving the Lakers a commanding 3-1 series lead.

    The team would go on to win its first championship since 1988.

1. Magic Johnson

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    Magic Johnson helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five championships in the 1980s.

    In Magic’s rookie season, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was injured and unable to play in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals. Magic stepped up and had one of the greatest games in team history.

    The rookie went on to score 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, as the Lakers captured their first championship since 1972.

    After his spectacular performance, Magic was named the NBA Finals MVP.

    Another clutch performance from the "Magic Man" came during Game 4 of the 1987 Finals against the Boston Celtics.

    With the Lakers holding a 2-1 series lead, Magic took a page from teammate Abdul-Jabbar’s playbook and beat the Celtics with a baby hook shot of his own.

    Magic would finish his career with three NBA Finals MVP awards.