One argument a lot of Kobe and Michael Jordan fans make to dispute LeBron’s GOAT status is the fact that he is not a clutch player. That is to say that with the game on the line LeBron isn’t someone in who’s hands you would want the ball.
But as far as myths and stats go, NBA has always had its narratives. A lot of stats disprove the myths that are gospel in the NBA. The clutch play of LeBron James is one such stat that seems to be a myth.
The premise for this is post-season games as they are the ones where true clutch performances stand out. The shot clock has to be less than 5 seconds. The shot has to give the player’s team the lead or as it is called a “go-ahead shot”. Once these parameters are set, let’s look at the numbers for Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
p class=”Body”>LeBron James who is considered not clutch has taken 13 attempts at go-ahead shots in the final 5 seconds of the game in a post season matchup and he has sunk 6 of them for an overall percentage of 46% which is a hair higher than that of Michael Jordan who has made 5 of the 11 such shots he has taken (Kobe’s numbers do not compare at all because he is closer to 27% on such shots).
While this does not conclusively prove that James is a better clutch player than Jordan (or it does if you are that deep into stats), but it does debunk the myth that LeBron can’t shoot the ball if the game is on the line.
The basis of this myth might be in the fact that LeBron isn’t someone who looks to shoot the ball in these situations irrespective of whether its the best basketball play.
If Ray Allen is open for 3 with 5 seconds on the clock and the team down by 2, LeBron will make that pass. But Jordan is viewed as someone who would look to take that shot irrespective because he is a shooter first and a mighty good one at that.
However, these are all to some extent mythologies that we have built around these great players. Sometimes LeBron does take the shot himself.
And sometimes Michael Jordan does defer to certain Steve Kerr. Even Kobe won both his titles without Shaq by assisting Derek Fisher and Ron Artest for go ahead 3s. The GOAT debate brings with it major narratives and myths of these kind. It is always better to look at the stats before jumping to conclusions.
Once again, while this does not make LeBron the GOAT or make him a definite better clutch player than Jordan, it does prove that LeBron not being clutch in comparison to Jordan is a total myth. <
In fact if you wish to also include stats from the regular season and post-season but increase the parameter to last 2 minutes of the games, LeBron James has a FG% of 46%, Kobe is 40% on those shots and Michael Jordan, supposedly the best clutch player of all time is 38% in such situations.
Make of that what you will. The GOAT debate is an endless one and one that cant be solved. 2 generations later, Jordan might be perceived the way Kareem and Wilt are today.
Legendary players, but so far back in the past that their stats and achievements do not hold much value in comparison to the bias of the present and the recent past.
All this proves is that these legends of basketball are doing some incredible things on the court and while debates about greatness are fine, they should not come at the cost of the thrill and excitement of watching them perform on court.