Is it a game-winner shot at the buzzer? Or showing up late in the biggest moments?
Regardless of your definition, we know it when we see it. Not every player gets their buckets in the same manner. Some are spot-up shooters, while others create in isolation. Either way, legacy's are created on rings and moments. We're going to focus on the latter.
*Various elements will be used to determine this list. Some will be statistical. Others will lean on the eye test. For example: Clutch Shot Percentage, which includes field-goal attempts that tie the score or give a team the lead in the final 60 seconds of fourth quarters and/or overtime periods. A separate, but equal, approach will be how a player delivers in the biggest games.
With that being said, here are the All-time TOP 10 Most Clutch Player's in NBA History:
I'm aware this is a Top Ten list. However, to not include LeBron in some capacity would be difficult. In the last seven seconds of games, James has made eight shots to tie or win. Statistically, LeBron has done his job to be labeled clutch. The problem here is that his failures to close games have been showcased just as heavily. For that reason, I have him listed behind the official Top Ten.
Most modern-era stats were not tracked fifty years ago. West has totaled roughly two dozen game winners. He had two buzzer-beaters. The NBA in its first 24 years of existence had a combined ONE.
#9 Robert Horry
Clutch Shot Percentage: .400* (12 of 30)
Big Shot Bob. The name says it all. Horry has won more titles than any non-Celtic in NBA history (7). While Rob couldn't create a shot on his own, he proved he could hit the biggest shots in the biggest moments. If I needed to create a lineup for a final play, it would be difficult to exclude him.
#8 Joe Johnson
ISO Joe is one of the best closers of the modern era. From 2008-2017, JJ recorded eight buzzer-beaters, which was the most among the NBA. He may not be considered a Hall of Fame talent or a mainstream icon, but Johnson was always a safe bet with the ball in his hands late.
#7 Larry Bird
Larry Legend is not typically remembered for game winning highlights, but he showed up in the biggest of games. Bird has four buzzer-beaters in his career, all of which came while the Celtics trailed. Also, no other player has multiple 45-plus-point games with a buzzer-beater.
#6 Damian Lillard
It's Dame Time. We've seen Dame hit nine game winning shots in the final five seconds of games, most of which were highly contested. Lillard's two post-season game winners against Houston and OKC have helped to solidify his legacy as a clutch shooter. Everyone remembers the wave goodbye.
#5 Reggie Miller
Clutch Shot Percentage:.378* (87 of 230)
Before it was Dame Time, it was Miller Time. Cheryl Miller's little brother has came up clutch many times over his career. From 9 points in 8 seconds, to the elbow fall-away 3 over Jordan, Reggie Miller was the king of late games in the 90s, other than MJ of course.
Fun Fact: One of my favorite lines in music history is in reference to Reggie:
"It's Miller time and I'm pulling up for three, I'm a baller on the court, y'all just Spike Lee, y'all pulling up a seat. You ain't never been there, you will never be. Renamed a legend" - CL KID (me)
#4 Dwayne Wade
Wade owns five game-winning shots, which is the most in Heat history. His clutch performances in the NBA Finals cannot be ignored as well. This would include clutch free-throw shooting against the Dallas Mavericks in 2006. D Wade has a career littered with magical moments, such as the one pictured above after hitting a runner to defeat Golden State.
#3 Paul Pierce
My favorite player of all-time. If you include assists, Pierce he has been involved in the most buzzer-beaters ever. His 7 buzzer beaters is 2 shy of all-time leader MJ. Pierce was known for creating space and stepping back for the win. The Truth shall set you free.
#2 Kobe Bryant
Clutch Shot Percentage: .338* (97 of 287)
Buzzer Beaters: 8
Coming in at number two, is Bean. Kobe's 8 buzzer beaters is second all-time. Few have showed up in the biggest moments more than Kobe. He had a closer's mentality since he was a rookie in the league. With 26 game winning shots, Bryant is someone opponents don't want to see across from them with the game on the line. RIP Kobe.
#1 Michael Jordan
Clutch Shot Percentage: .409* (9 of 22)
Buzzer Beaters: 9
This seemed like a formality. Jordan has been the face of clutch. His nine buzzer-beaters are the most all time and we already know about his accomplishments. His case as the GOAT has been lifted by the clutch-gene and it's impossible to forget the winning moments we've experienced over his career. He's the clear number one.
*There were a few players that missed the cut, many of which could arguable fall into the Top Ten. Just for fun, here is a short list of players that failed to make the Top Ten with the most game-winners in NBA history. Just food for thought: