Top 10 All-Time Clutch Performers

Lucky RiffContributor INovember 15, 2008

Every kid has played the scenario out on the playground: 

Bottom of the ninth, two outs, and the bases are loaded. 

No time on the clock, down by one, and you're standing at the free throw line. 

Two seconds left, the ball is spotted at the 30-yard line, the kick is up and it's...good!

So, here is the list of top 10 clutch closers:

1. Tiger Woods

U.S. Open on a blown-out knee.  Enough said.

2. Mariano Rivera

Rivera is Major League Baseball's all-time postseason leader in saves and ERA.  In his career with the Yankees, Rivera has won four World Series titles and been elected an All-Star nine times.  ESPN's Buster Olney says, "No other player can instill calm in his team's fans as reliably as Mariano Rivera, the game's dominant closer and arguably the best relief pitcher of all time."

3. Michael Jordan

No explanation needed.

4. Adam Vinatieri

Nicknamed "Automatic Adam" for his accuracy and "Iceman" for his incredible poise under pressure, Vinatieri has converted several of the most pressurized field goals in NFL history, including game-winning kicks in the final seconds of two Super Bowls.

5. Christian Laettner

You may hate him, but watch the Duke-Kentucky NCAA semifinal from 1992, the game most experts consider the "greatest college game ever played."  Laettner went 10-for-10 from the line in that game and hit the buzzer-beater for the win.

Besides the fact he is the ONLY college player to start in four consecutive Final Fours, his free-throw percentage in NCAA tournament games is 85 percent, or 142 out of 167, both all-time records.

6. Reggie Jackson

Settle down, David Ortiz fans. In time, he may overtake Reggie, but remember, in 27 World Series games, Mr. October amassed 10 home runs, including a record five during the 1977 Series (the last three on first pitches), collected 24 RBI, and batted .357.

7. Larry Bird

Most of you are thinking of Bird, the NBA version.  Well, that is part of it.  But go back to 1979, when Bird was a senior for the Indiana State Sycamores.  He carried that team to a 33-1 record and a Final Four appearance.  He is also one of the greatest free-throw and three-point shooters to ever play the game.

8. Vince Young

In the biggest game of his life, Vince Young put on one of the most dominating individual performances in college football history, accounting for 467 yards of total offense (200 rushing, 267 passing) and three touchdowns, including a nine-yard scramble with 19 seconds left, to lead the Longhorns to a thrilling, national title-clinching 41-38 victory over USC.

The performance earned Young Rose Bowl MVP honors for the second consecutive season.

9. Wayne Gretzky

Of course, the greatest scoring hockey player in history is on the list.  Who else would you want to take that last shot?

10. 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team

The greatest moment in U.S. sports history deserves recognition on this list.  The most unlikely "clutch" win of all time.