Kobe vs LeBron; Who’s more clutch?


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It’s a question that’s asked among many NBA fans; who’s more clutch between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.  Over the years both super-stars have had their fair share of clutch moments but let’s look at the facts and step away from the narratives for a second.

There are many definitions as to what people define as “clutch”. Personally, I feel that a player being “clutch” means that they provide for their team efficiently and on consistent basis when their team needs it most: whether that be in the last 24 seconds; 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, elimination games or a game 7 and therefore these are the examples that I will use.

Note: I will try to keep these stats as up to date as possible.

(Last update: Wednesday 1st April, 2015. 160:00 GMT)

Regular Season; a shot to tie or take the lead

Last 24 seconds

Kobe: 48 for 165 (29.1%)

LeBron: 29 for 99 (29.3%)

Last 30 seconds

Kobe (since 01): 54 for 176 (30.68%)

LeBron: 33 for 108 (30.56%)

Last 2 minutes

Kobe (since 01): 130 for 346 (37.57%)

LeBron: 89 for 227 (39.21%)

Last 5 minutes

Kobe (since 2001 season): 243 for 586 (41.47%)

LeBron (since 04 season): 189 for 434 (43.55%)

Conclusion: Neither Kobe or LeBron shoot a good percentage when the time is winding down (last 30 seconds or less) although LeBron has the edge in the last 24 seconds compared to Kobe having the edge in the last 30 seconds (all be it by the smallest of margins).  In the last 2 minutes and 5 minutes of a regular season game LeBron has the edge over Kobe.  Overall I would give LeBron the edge as he leads in 3 out of the 4 categories.

Post Season; a shot to tie or take the lead

Last 24 seconds

Kobe: 7 for 28 (25.0%)

LeBron: 7 for 17 (41.1%)

Last 30 seconds

Kobe: 7 for 28 (25.0%) (0 for 8 from the 09 post season till present day)

LeBron: 9 for 19 (47.30%)

Last 2 minutes

Kobe: 17 for 50 (34%) (0 for 8 in the last two playoffs; 2010 and 2011)

LeBron: 21 for 43 (48.8%)

Last 5 minutes

Kobe (since 01 season): 30 for 88 (34.09%)

LeBron: (since 06 season): 36 for 74 (48.6%)

Conclusion: In the last 24 seconds and 30 seconds of a post season game Kobe only shoots 25%, which is terrible.  LeBron however is clearly ‘more clutch’ shooting 41% in the last 24 seconds and 47% in the last 30 seconds of a game.  This disparity between LeBron and Kobe continues as in the last 2 minutes and 5 minutes of a game LeBron shoots 14% higher than Kobe in both circumstances.  Overall LeBron is more ‘clutch’ in a land-slide.

MJ vs LeBron vs Kobe in the last 10 seconds in the post season.
MJ vs LeBron vs Kobe in the last 10 seconds in the post season.

Playoff Games

Game 7 of a Playoff Series

Kobe 22.2ppg on 38.9% FG with 8.0rpg and 5.0apg (6 games)

LeBron *34.0ppg on 46.5% FG with 8.1rpg and 3.5 APG (4 games) (*NBA Record)

LeBron is clearly the better player when it pertains to game 7s

Elimination Games

Kobe 21.5 ppg on 41.4% FG with 5.8rpg and 3.5apg (19 games)

LeBron 31.5 ppg on 46% FG with 10.0rpg and 6.5apg (12 games)

LeBron is also clearly the better player when facing elimination.

I have deliberately left out the two player’s records in these games because whether a team wins or loses is a team accomplishment.  Basketball is a team game and therefore it’s foolish to attribute a loss to just one player alone.

Game 7 of their most recent NBA Finals

Kobe in game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals: 23 points, 6-for-24 shooting (0 for 6 from 3pt range), 25% FG, 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 4 turnovers

LeBron in game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals: 37 points, 12 for 23 shooting (5 for 7 from 3pt range), 52% FG, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 turnovers.

LeBron clearly played better in his respective finals game 7, scoring more points, more efficiently from both 2 ant 3pt range, while he fell shot in rebounding in comparison to Bryant he accumulated more assists and steals while committing less turnovers; advantage LeBron.

Overall Conclusion

When you ask the majority of people “who’s more clutch?” more often than not they always reply with Kobe.  Why is this? Because of the narrative that is put out there by the main-stream media that Kobe is an “assassin”, he’s a “killer” and you want the ball in his hands in the final moments of the game.

Every year the NBA conducts a survey in which they ask all the head-coaches a series of questions ranging from who is the best player at each position to who is the most athletic player and so on and so forth.  One of these questions is “who is the most clutch player?”  Up until recently Kobe Bryant had been crowned “most clutch” in the league by coaches (Kevin Durant recently took his spot).  But why is this? Because of the narrative! (Yes, even NBA coaches are fooled by the narrative, shocking isn’t it?)

But it’s not just coaches, the NBA recently asked 26 NBA player who they’d rather have take the last shot; MJ, Kobe or LeBron and these are the results (below) .

Poll results from 26 NBA players voting as to who they'd like to have take the last shot
Poll results from 26 NBA players voting as to who they’d like to have take the last shot

Yes, along with NBA coaches, even NBA players are fooled by the narrative.

What do I mean by ‘narrative’?  The ‘narrative’ is simply the story that’s put out there by main-stream media organisations such as ESPN.

For example; after LeBron joined the Heat he missed 8 straight clutch shots in the regular season (clutch was defined as 4th Quarter of OT with under 10 seconds remaining).  Now, while the regular season is important, it’s obvious that the post season and NBA Finals hold more weight than the regular season.  Coincidently, Kobe has also missed his last 8 clutch (same definition) shots however this time these shots weren’t in the regular season but in the post season! LeBron is known by many fans as a “choker” whereas Kobe was still known as “clutch” despite the fact that he had missed the same number of shots in a more important situation!

LeBron's 8 straight misses (and eventual make) after joining the Heat
LeBron’s 8 straight misses in the regular season (and eventual make) after joining the Heat

The table below shows that Kobe has missed his last 8 “clutch” (same definition) shots but in the post season.

Rk Player Season ▴ Tm G FG FGA FG% FGX 3P 3PA 3P% 3PX eFG% Ast’d %Ast’d
1 Kobe Bryant 2001-02 LAL 4 1 4 .250 3 0 0 0 .250 0 .000
2 Kobe Bryant 2002-03 LAL 1 0 1 .000 1 0 1 .000 1 .000 0
3 Kobe Bryant 2003-04 LAL 2 1 2 .500 1 1 1 1.000 0 .750 0 .000
4 Kobe Bryant 2005-06 LAL 2 2 3 .667 1 0 0 0 .667 1 .500
5 Kobe Bryant 2007-08 LAL 1 0 1 .000 1 0 0 0 .000 0
6 Kobe Bryant 2008-09 LAL 2 0 2 .000 2 0 1 .000 1 .000 0
7 Kobe Bryant 2009-10 LAL 2 0 2 .000 2 0 1 .000 1 .000 0
8 Kobe Bryant 2010-11 LAL 1 0 1 .000 1 0 1 .000 1 .000 0
9 Kobe Bryant 2011-12 LAL 2 0 2 .000 2 0 2 .000 2 .000 0
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/12/2013.

The truth is though that Kobe doesn’t perform to the level that many would expect him to when the stakes are highest on a consistent basis.  Has he had clutch moments; yes. Does he consistently come through when his team needs him most; no!  This isn’t ‘hating’ or ‘bashing’ or ‘slander’, this is the truth.

Kobe vs Gasol in the 4th quarter of the 2009 and 2010 NBA Finals
Kobe vs Gasol in the 4th quarter of the 2009 and 2010 NBA Finals

LeBron clearly out-performs Bryant in the post season in all circumstances; last 24 seconds, 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, game 7s and elimination games.

Additionally, the majority of this blog post focuses solely on scoring however, even the most biased of Kobe-fans should be able to admit that LeBron is a far superior rebounder and passer to Kobe Bryant.

Source: http://maryland.247sports.com/Board/59410/Lebron-is-amazing-in-elimination-games-stats-included-19394195/1

Credit to Basketball Reference for providing some of the statistics used.

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22 thoughts on “Kobe vs LeBron; Who’s more clutch?

  1. Nice work compiling those stats. Lebron it is. I would be interested to know what the NBA average is for shooting in the last 2 minutes / 30 seconds / etc. The eyeball test for me is KD and/or Russell Westbrook–I’d be willing to be they have the highest teammate clutch shooting percentage around.

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  2. Clutch stats should be extended for the last 5 minutes of the game (and the last 2 minutes) to include shots in close games even if they aren’t to tie or take the lead. 82games.com has stats for clutch play defined by: 4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points. They don’t have career stats for these guys, but you can see that both Kobe and Lebron have been dominant in the last 5 minutes for years (Lebron more so, especially recently). This increases the sample size a lot because you are counting a lot of additional clutch shots and it prevents those shots in the last 24 seconds from being weighted so heavily (makes sense if you’re trying to use both to show that Kobe is ineffective).

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  3. There is a reason they pick Kobe over LBJ. Does anyone remember the 2011 nba finals. Kobe had a bad shooting game in the 2010 nba finals. LBJ had a terrible Finals in 2011. The man got out played by Jason Terry. Not to mention he went 2-2 in the Finals with a team that should have won 4 rings.

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    1. Yea but kobe played sidekick for 3 rings . Also remember kobe in 04 ? And in 09 ?

      Remember in game 7 . 6 for 24 . In a game 7 finals. And plus kobe has only 1 mvp and only 2 finals mvp. He didnt get outplayed by Jason Terry . Jt just won. What has Jason Terry done since then ? Nothing ! Kobe is kinda overrated . Come on look at all the stats above.

      How can you pick kobe over lebron still ? Or call him more clutch than lebron ?

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      1. First Championship Run
        Shaq lead scoring 16 times
        Kobe lead scoring 6 times

        First Round(Pts/Trb/Ast)
        Shaq: 29.4/17.4/2.8
        Kobe: 27.8/4.4/3.6

        Second Round
        Shaq: 30.2/16.2/2.6
        Kobe: 21/3.8/3.4

        Third Round
        Shaq: 25.9/12.4/4.3
        Kobe: 20.4/4.9/5.9

        Finals
        Shaq: 38/16.7/2.3
        Kobe: 15.6/4.6/4.2

        Second Championship Run
        Shaq lead scoring 8 times
        Kobe lead scoring 8 times

        First Round
        Shaq: 27/15.7/2.7
        Kobe: 25/4.3/7.7

        Second Round
        Shaq: 33.3/17.3/2.3
        Kobe: 35/9/4.3

        Third Round
        Shaq: 27/13/2.5
        Kobe: 33.3/7/7

        Finals
        Shaq: 33/15.8/4.3
        Kobe: 24.6/7.8/5.3

        Third Championship Run
        Shaq lead scoring 8 times
        Kobe lead scoring 9 times

        First Round
        Shaq: 25.7/11.3/4
        Kobe: 26/5.7/5

        Second Round
        Shaq: 21.4/12.2/3.2
        Kobe: 26.2/5.4/4.8

        Third Round
        Shaq: 30.3/13.6/1.6
        Kobe: 27.7/6.3/3.9

        Finals
        Shaq: 36.3/12.3/3.8
        Kobe: 26.8/5.8/5.3

        Conclusion
        The first championship run, shaq carried kobe all the way to the finals, but the second and third, kobe led shaq to the finals. But when shaq faced weak competition, they let the offense flow through shaq. I’d still pick a 22 year old and 23 year old kobe over shaq. Over the course of the playoffs, kobe locked down the best perimeter players while being the #1 option on the scoring end such as allen iverson, jason Kidd, Mark Jackson, and etc. All though, he wouldn’t guard them ALL the time, but he he still locked them down when he did.

        Fourth Championship Run

        First Round
        Shaq: 28.7/15.3/3.7
        Kobe: 31.8/5.2/6.7

        Second Round
        Shaq: 25.3/14.3/3.7
        Kobe: 32.3/5/3.7

        Fifth Championship Run

        First Round
        Shaq: 16.2/11.2/3.6
        Kobe: 24.4/5.6/6.2

        Second Round
        Shaq: 22.5/14.5/2
        Kobe: 26.3/6.3/5.8

        Third Round
        Shaq: 20.7/15.7/2.8
        Kobe: 24.3/4/5.5

        Finals
        Shaq: 26.6/10.8/1.6
        Kobe: 22.6/2.8/4.4

        Conclusion
        If you looked at shaq’s match ups, his numbers decreased when went up against elite big man like tim Duncan, Yao ming, and etc. while only dominating weak competition. Kobe went through tougher competition like raja bell, Bruce Bowen, Reggie miller, allen iverson, and etc. That’s why you see shaq’s numbers explode through the roof every time he gets to the finals and plays against a weak ass eastern conference team(except Detroit).

        Copy and Paste from (Lebron Not Top 15)
        Kobe = saved Shaq
        and even in 2000 when Shaq was clearly better
        2000 WCF Game 7
        Kobe led team in points rebs assist blocks and back to back clutch shot + assist to Shaq and lockdown defense
        Shaq led team in turnovers
        2000 Finals
        helped lock down Reggie in Game 1
        injured Game 2
        no Game 3
        saved Game 4 with Shaq fouled out
        crap in Game 5
        and even with poor 26 points on 27% FG in Game 6 dropped 10 rebs 4 assist 1 steal 2 blocks
        Kobe= earned all five rings and was the leader for four of them

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  4. The author is forgetting something – the percentages between Kobe and Lebron are close, but Kobe is giving his team MORE shot attempts in every clutch category, whereas Lebron is letting teammates take more clutch shots even though they have invariably worse clutch percentages.. Kobe simply gives his team more clutch shot attempts down the stretch of games, which benefits his team because he has better clutch percentages than them (just like Lebron has better clutch percentages than HIS teammates, but he chooses to take a lower proportion of clutch shots than Kobe – maybe this is part of the difference between 2/5 and kobe’s 5/7).

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  5. You mentioned it’s a team game. But failed to point out that part of lebrons efficiency should be attributed to his teammates ability compared with lobes. In 01-03 Kobe had to finish games with double/triple teams forcing up shots (in part to his teammates inability) and again in 2010 finals game 7 the entire game was a defensive scrap. He had 17 rebounds (game high and career high). And in 05-06 Kobe averaged 35.6 ppg with smush Parker, kwambe brown, Chris mihm and odom as teammates. His fg% no doubt negatively affected. When he scored 81 pts he was triple teamed for a half. Still he was 28/42 from the field. He had no one to pass to. Lebron has had the opportunity to pass, or shoot creating doubt either way. Kobe is a hog but who could he pass to? No d wade or bosh?? So being a team game. We can never measure what the team members brought (positive or negative) to their stars and vice versa. This, the narrative remains. At the end of the day. If you had to pick either player in a pick up game in their prime you’d pick lbj. But I’d take kb24 in crunch time!!

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  6. You can’t seriously make the case that LeLoser is the better player in the clutch and cite his performance in elimination games as evidence. After all Kobe has faced far fewer elimination games precisely because he is the far better player. LeLoser is 2-3 in the NBA Finals; Kobe is 5-2. That’s the only statistic that matters. But if you want to go to Game 7s and what not, how about 15 rebounds in Game 7 of an NBA Finals as a shooting guard? Or look at the assist totals, since LeLoser is touted as the greater passer.

    Quit making LeLoser into something that he isn’t!: a top-15 player all-time.

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    1. Jason what ? In a game 7 he grab 15 boards so what ? He also went 6 forb24, and plus kobe was a sidekick . Lbj never will be. Kobe has 2 finals mvp,lbj about to get his 3rd finals mvp you bugging bro.

      Numbers don’t lie

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  7. This is a futile analysis that will fall on the deaf years of countless Kobetards who grasp any rationality even if the truth is staring them right in the face. 6 for 24 in a game 7 and you are still shooting when you have Gasol, Odom, and Bynum above 50%! Let’s not also forget that those players are wide open because Kobe is so predictable that he gets triple teamed. Since when is it smart to shoot with 3 bodies in your face? Admittedly it looks awesome the rare times Kobe actually finds the target and that is the moment Kobetards live for. It simply does not justify the all the missed shots.

    Furthermore, the Batman of a team shooting 40% anytime and especially in the finals is just plain garbage. James’ 2015 finals was admittedly also. Pathetic. Great rebounding and assists though…and he didn’t have 3 7 footers with the talent of Gasol, Odom and Bynum. He was alone, tired and without Love, Kyrie and Verajaro.

    The author of this peace did an amazing job of defining clutch and proving kobe’s lack of clutch. These are indisputable facts…not a brain washing narrative by the media that has successfully convinced many that a Lexus (Kobe) is closer to a Ferrari (Jordan) than we think.

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  8. What’s funny is that it doesn’t matter at all what facts are laid before some people. In their minds Kobe is clutch and it doesn’t matter what facts say. Saying Kobe had to pass because of his lack of teammates is kinda funny. That would account for about two seasons of shooting bad in the playoffs. What about all the rest? Lol

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    1. IF ANYONE PLAYED OR COACHED THE GAME OF BASKETBALL AT ANY COLLIGIATE OR HIGH SCHOOL OR PROFESSIONAL LEVEL ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, THAT PERSON WILL KNOW KOBE IS MORE CLUTCH THAN LEBRON, IN CLUTCH GAMES, CLUTCH QUARTERS, MINUTES and SECONDS.

      Yes, there is a reason, and it’s not due to media narative that professional coaches and players would choose Kobe over Lebron in clutch moments. Stats tell so little, especially in a discussion about “clutch”, which in itself has multiple definitions to different people.

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  9. What I Find Remarkable in this shady piece is that Lebron Drives the ball in the last seconds? Where is the stat for jump needed for the tie or go ahead With the way they put this together … the narrative is people are think ” jump shot ” and we know who is better at it but since Lebron does shoot and tends to pass have you notice his overall number are low and Id bet money those are driving to the hole shot 80% of the time! with this Shaq and most center are more Cluth than Jordan!

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  10. First Championship Run
    Shaq lead scoring 16 times
    Kobe lead scoring 6 times

    First Round(Pts/Trb/Ast)
    Shaq: 29.4/17.4/2.8
    Kobe: 27.8/4.4/3.6

    Second Round
    Shaq: 30.2/16.2/2.6
    Kobe: 21/3.8/3.4

    Third Round
    Shaq: 25.9/12.4/4.3
    Kobe: 20.4/4.9/5.9

    Finals
    Shaq: 38/16.7/2.3
    Kobe: 15.6/4.6/4.2

    Second Championship Run
    Shaq lead scoring 8 times
    Kobe lead scoring 8 times

    First Round
    Shaq: 27/15.7/2.7
    Kobe: 25/4.3/7.7

    Second Round
    Shaq: 33.3/17.3/2.3
    Kobe: 35/9/4.3

    Third Round
    Shaq: 27/13/2.5
    Kobe: 33.3/7/7

    Finals
    Shaq: 33/15.8/4.3
    Kobe: 24.6/7.8/5.3

    Third Championship Run
    Shaq lead scoring 8 times
    Kobe lead scoring 9 times

    First Round
    Shaq: 25.7/11.3/4
    Kobe: 26/5.7/5

    Second Round
    Shaq: 21.4/12.2/3.2
    Kobe: 26.2/5.4/4.8

    Third Round
    Shaq: 30.3/13.6/1.6
    Kobe: 27.7/6.3/3.9

    Finals
    Shaq: 36.3/12.3/3.8
    Kobe: 26.8/5.8/5.3

    Conclusion
    The first championship run, shaq carried kobe all the way to the finals, but the second and third, kobe led shaq to the finals. But when shaq faced weak competition, they let the offense flow through shaq. I’d still pick a 22 year old and 23 year old kobe over shaq. Over the course of the playoffs, kobe locked down the best perimeter players while being the #1 option on the scoring end such as allen iverson, jason Kidd, Mark Jackson, and etc. All though, he wouldn’t guard them ALL the time, but he he still locked them down when he did.

    Fourth Championship Run

    First Round
    Shaq: 28.7/15.3/3.7
    Kobe: 31.8/5.2/6.7

    Second Round
    Shaq: 25.3/14.3/3.7
    Kobe: 32.3/5/3.7

    Fifth Championship Run

    First Round
    Shaq: 16.2/11.2/3.6
    Kobe: 24.4/5.6/6.2

    Second Round
    Shaq: 22.5/14.5/2
    Kobe: 26.3/6.3/5.8

    Third Round
    Shaq: 20.7/15.7/2.8
    Kobe: 24.3/4/5.5

    Finals
    Shaq: 26.6/10.8/1.6
    Kobe: 22.6/2.8/4.4

    Conclusion
    If you looked at shaq’s match ups, his numbers decreased when went up against elite big man like tim Duncan, Yao ming, and etc. while only dominating weak competition. Kobe went through tougher competition like raja bell, Bruce Bowen, Reggie miller, allen iverson, and etc. That’s why you see shaq’s numbers explode through the roof every time he gets to the finals and plays against a weak ass eastern conference team(except Detroit).

    Copy and Paste from (Lebron Not Top 15)
    Kobe = saved Shaq
    and even in 2000 when Shaq was clearly better
    2000 WCF Game 7
    Kobe led team in points rebs assist blocks and back to back clutch shot + assist to Shaq and lockdown defense
    Shaq led team in turnovers
    2000 Finals
    helped lock down Reggie in Game 1
    injured Game 2
    no Game 3
    saved Game 4 with Shaq fouled out
    crap in Game 5
    and even with poor 26 points on 27% FG in Game 6 dropped 10 rebs 4 assist 1 steal 2 blocks
    Kobe= earned all five rings and was the leader for four of them

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  11. If today’s NBA & older greats speak. Let them speak, cause they would know. Numbers are cute but if their peers choose. Then that’s all that needs to be said. Also, these “numbers” are more loaded to make Kobe look worse due to the fact for half his career (10yrs) he’s played w/well below average talent which forced him to shoot more. Where as LeBron leans more on his teammates & does majority of scoring from lobs & layups. Championships are TEAM accomplishments but in basketball, it takes a SUPERSTAR to get you there & CLOSE. Kyrie closed out game 7 also. So let those numbers do the talking. 5-2 VS 3-4…

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