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If Kobe Bryant's Six Game-Winning Shots Are Not Clutch, Then What Is?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMarch 18, 2010

PHOENIX - MARCH 12:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers in action during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on March 12, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Lakers defeated the Suns 102-96.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Miami, Milwaukee, Dallas, Sacramento, Memphis, and Toronto—all last-second victims to Kobe Bryant, considered by some as the most clutch player of the last decade, and by others as not even worthy of being in the conversation.

The debate has been fierce, and the statistics for Bryant's worthiness—especially against it—have been swift and steady, with his detractors clutching to numbers credited to a website and ESPN.

Most are familiar with the website so I won't go into great detail, and everyone has heard the musings of ESPN which uses complicated methods like the PER system to measure the value of a player on the court.

All of this dims in comparison to what has actually transpired on the court of play because Bryant's sixth game-winning shot this season—coming against the Toronto Raptors—gave him the most in the last decade.

Take a moment to let this information process before a rush to judgment commences. Over the past decade, no other player has successfully ended a game with a last-second shot as many times as Bryant.

The argument that Bryant is not a clutch player looks ridiculous when enlightened by that information, but unbelievably this accomplishment—like Bryant's many others—has been trivialized.

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There have even been some who say that just because Bryant hit a couple of game-winning shots, it does not make up for the fact he takes more of those shots than any other player in the league.

This maneuver is usually initiated to draw attention away from a feat that most were not even cognizant of, and return the debate to a more familiar arena, such as Bryant's propensity to attempt questionable shots.

When used to ignore Bryant's clutch status, it is an effective tactic; but by employing this measure, other avenues are opened which must be considered also.

Bryant does take more shots in critical situations than any other NBA player and he connects on one quarter of those attempts, yet even this is used as fire against Bryant.

What other player has hit one quarter of their shots in situations which determine the outcomes of games? Furthermore, there are few players who have the courage to consistently perform under those circumstances and live with the consequences.

Bryant's focus makes him impervious to the pressure which falls on his shoulders—especially in those situations—and his mentality gives him the fortitude to show no fear on that stage.

Of course he misses more of these shots than he makes, but that is a theme which is repeated for the majority of the players who attempt shots in those scenarios, except none have been in that light as much as Bryant.

The clutch argument has become tedious and redundant. Even though everyone from NBA players, general managers, and coaches alike say Bryant is their choice for the last shot with the game on the line, the debate persists.

Fellow LA Lakers featured columnist, Nate Smith, penned an article in which he said Bryant was the definition of a clutch player. And although real facts back him up, the backlash was considerable.

Numerous detractors with statistics in tow stood ready to denounce Nate's article as another example of "Kobe Love," when all he was really doing was stating the obvious.

It would be simple for anyone to recognize the merits of Bryant as a clutch player if they would spend less time crunching numbers, and more time actually watching the games.

If they did, they would be aware of Bryant's six game-winning shots this season, which stands as the most in a decade, and the one-statistic naysayers can't bury that beneath their irrelevant numbers.

I'm not sure I would call Kobe Bryant NBA history's most clutch player, but based on his accomplishments this season, he is definitely the most clutch player this year and of the decade.

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