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.
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
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.
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) .
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!
The table below shows that Kobe has missed his last 8 “clutch” (same definition) shots but in the post season.
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.
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.
Credit to Basketball Reference for providing some of the statistics used.