The NBA has seen a lot of great clutch performances in the past 20 years, but which player would you want with the ball in his hands at the end of the game if you were an NBA coach?
This is a breakdown of the top 3 clutch players that I’ve seen in my time watching the NBA. Note: I didn’t include Larry Bird because he didn’t play as long as the other 3 during this time period.
While Shaquille O’Neal was most responsible for the Lakers’ 3 titles, Bryant was always the closer, i.e. the guy who took and made the big shots. His defining moment in the playoffs was when he single-handedly beat Indiana in overtime after Shaq had fouled out.
Kobe typically likes to pull up and elevate high over the defense to take long threes with the game on the line. His other options include a mid-range jumper, oftentimes a fadeaway, or a quick, aggressive drive to the hoop.
Overall, Kobe is the kind of guy who can heat up in a hurry and put a game out of reach late in the fourth quarter. And of the three players on this list, he is the guy who I would most want to take a shot down 1 with only a few ticks on the clock.
However, his weakness is his small set of hands which prevents him from keeping his dribble under control and getting where he wants to go at times.
Specialty: Finding ways to get his shot off over anyone and scoring from anywhere on the court.
He never won a championship but he hit tons of huge shots over the course of his career. Miller was adept at coming off screens and firing, even with hands in his face. It usually didn’t matter.
Miller was the one guy I feared the most when his team had a chance to win late in the game because you knew he only needed an inch of daylight to throw up a dagger.
On the other hand, Miller’s game wasn’t nearly as complete as Kobe’s or Jordan’s because he was not a great ball-handler and not a great shooter off the dribble by any stretch.
Even so, that didn’t stop him from being one of the best clutch players that league has seen.
Specialty: Firing away from deep with no conscience and usually making the shot anyway.
Jordan is widely regarded as the best player in the past 20 years if not of all-time, and his clutch performances have become legendary.
What made him so deadly was his well-rounded game. He started as a driver and a dunker but quickly added moves like the fadeaway jumper to his game as well as better passing skills.
Jordan put all these skills to good use at the end of games as he found news ways to win every time. Sometimes he’d pass the ball to wide open teammates like Steve Kerr or John Paxson, other times he’d pull up and hit a jumper over someone for the win. He could do it all and his ability to play in the post late in his career made him the best clutch player I’ve seen.
Specialty: All-around play with the game on the line.
Overall, I’d have to take Jordan as the best clutch player I’ve seen in my 20-or-so years watching the NBA.