In a recent clip, FanSided touched on whether LeBron James or Kobe Bryant are more clutch.
Being more “clutch” can go a number of ways, from my perspective. Of course, at first glance, it’s understandable for basketball fans to point to a player they’d want in a last possession situation, and for a player such as LeBron James, that might not be looked at generally as his forte.
James has had his moments in clutch time over the years, though, and in the postseason, that’s what comes to mind in relation to his Cleveland Cavaliers days. That’s more so in his second tenure with the Cavs, that is. Although James’ buzzer-beater in Game 2 in 2009 in the Eastern Conference Finals over the Orlando Magic shouldn’t be discounted.
What were a few big shots in the clutch/last possession situations more recently for James with Cleveland were in the 2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals over Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls in Game 4.
Then others were in Game 5 of the 2018 first round over the Indiana Pacers, after James blocked Victor Oladipo the possession before, too, and in Game 3 of the 2018 East Semis, James’ frighteningly casual walk-into-it runner over the Toronto Raptors at the buzzer was truly something else.
So why do we bring this sort of thing involving LeBron, who is on the Los Angeles Lakers now, courtesy of unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2018, up, you ask?
FanSided released a video on Monday debating whether James or the late Kobe Bryant is more clutch, of which you can view below.
On the subject, I agree with FanSided that LeBron James is more clutch than Kobe, too.
FanSided would go on to highlight each of LeBron and Kobe’s clutch credentials, if you will, and Bryant had his share of regular season clutch/end-of-game moments in his career. FS pointed out that Kobe had buzzer beaters against the Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings and the Miami Heat.
They also noted how in 2009-10, the Black Mamba even “nailed three buzzer beaters in a span of 28 days.”
That said, even while FS would go on to note how LeBron only has had two buzzer beaters in the regular season, the key has been in the postseason, where he’s taken it up a notch. FanSided highlighting how James has the combined number of buzzer beaters (five) of Michael Jordan and Damian Lillard is a quality tidbit, granted MJ and Dame haven’t played nearly the number of postseason games James has.
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Anyhow, I do weigh FS’ postseason argument heavily, too, and this is in an objective way. Furthermore, on the topic of Kobe vs. LeBron in the postseason in this realm, NBA.com’s Dan McCarney demonstrated how while in the regular season, neither had much success on shots to go for the lead in the “final five seconds of regulation or overtime,” albeit Kobe had more, LeBron was far more efficient in the postseason.
McCarney showed how Kobe Bryant was three-of-13 (a 23.1 percent clip) in those situations in the postseason in his career, whereas LeBron James was eight-of-16 (a 50.0 percent clip).
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So while James hasn’t had the raw jump shooting capability of Bryant really, and has been far more physically dominant in terms of driving to the basket, and has been more willing to kickout to shooters in these situations, the results in the postseason still show he’s pretty darn clutch on the big stage.
That’s in the overall scoring sense, and FanSided briefly hitting on James’ clutch layup over Paul George in Game 1 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals was an example of how James’ athleticism has aided him in these kinds of situations at times. That was when James was on the Miami Heat.
FS touching on James’ Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals scoring barrage at the Detroit Pistons, in which he scored 29 of Cleveland’s last 30 points in regulation/overtime, was in that realm, too.
Additionally, even while the FanSided clip above did not necessarily go into it, James’ elimination game statistics have been in a league of their own, as McCarney displayed.
His article did not include 2020 postseason stats, though, but the results even before this current postseason hold plenty of weight, and to me, this should factor into the argument.
McCarney showed how James’ career basic numbers in elimination games are as follows, for context: 33.6 points per game on 49.1 percent shooting, to go with 10.8 rebounds and 7.5 assists per outing. His record is 14-10 in said instances.
Kobe in those situations had 22.6 points per game on 44.0 percent shooting, to go with 5.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per outing, with a record of 8-11. McCarney had more to add for LeBron’s clutch case from there.
“These are monster numbers, including the highest scoring average in league history, coming in some of the most important games a player will ever face. And yet Bryant, despite having significantly worse averages across the board, and no clear edge in game-winners, is the one with the killer closer reputation, while LeBron’s narrative is that of a player who hasn’t always risen to the occasion.
Which isn’t untrue on its face. This is also a player who vanished under baffling circumstances as the 2011 Finals slipped through Miami’s collective fingers. But the overall body of work speaks for itself: When your season is on the line and “clutch” is required, LeBron is truly The King.”
So yes, while the narrative doesn’t necessarily scream for James in these instances, he, in an unbiased manner, was just better than Bryant when it mattered in the clutch in the postseason.
To me, while I fully understand that there were some instances perhaps when LeBron’s squads shouldn’t have let it get to elimination situations, he’s been otherwordly in those scenarios, as McCarney illustrated.
The elimination game part of the argument, which I believe is frankly part of it, given the stakes, and the postseason, indicates that LeBron’s been more clutch than Kobe, from my perspective.
I agree with FanSided here, circling back. But the late Kobe never shied away from those moments, and I give him plenty of credit for that, in any case, and it’s not as if the dude wasn’t a winner.
That’s as evidenced obviously by his five rings, all with the Lakers. I just personally am going with LeBron, who is still a three-time NBA champ that made eight straight NBA Finals appearances from 2011-2018, in this argument, based on FS’ and McCarney’s points.