Clutch is defined in basketball is the ability of players to play under pressure or duress. A player who is able to make big plays down the stretch in games is often referred to as a clutch player. When the game is on the line, who do you go to? The player who is able to deliver during those crucial moments are called clutch players.
In the history of the NBA, we’ve seen plenty of those players. But among the countless stars who can be called clutch players, there are those who stand out among the rest. Here are the most clutch players in NBA history:
When Tim Duncan made a go-ahead jumper with 0.4 seconds left in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals, the crowd thought the game was over. But in the ensuing play, Derek Fisher would make an improbable buzzer beating basket that would put him among the list of best clutch players in the history of the generation. Fisher was a
complimentary player on the Lakers during the first decade of 2000 but his shot making abilities rank him among the elites.
Remembered as Jesus Shuttlesworth in the movie “He Got Game” Ray Allen is one of the best pure shooters the game of basketball has ever seen. Allen’s 2,973 three pointers made are the most in NBA history. He made his most memorable three point basket with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. The basket sent the game to overtime where the Heat prevailed and later win the NBA title. Allen owns the most beautiful shot releases ever.
They called him Mr. Big Shot. after Chauncey Billups made a pair of game winning three pointers over the Golden State Warriors and the Atlanta Hawks during a two-game stretch in 2003. The nickname would stick for the rest of his career as Billups would come up big again in 2004 when he helped the underdog Detroit Pistons defeat a powerhouse Lakers team with Kobe, Shaq Karl Malone and Gary Payton to win the NBA championship that year.
The Catalyst of Showtime in the 1980’s wasn’t just a flashy passer. Earvin “Magic” Johnson was one of the best clutch players ever. At 6-9, he played point guard and the extra height gave him the ability to look up the basketball court and find the open man. Aside from being the lead man of Showtime, Johnson was one of the Lakers’ top shot makers. In his rookie season, he started at center in the NBA Finals and scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and issued 7 assists. Magic’s skyhook over Kevin McHale and Robert Parish in the 1987 NBA Finals sealed the Lakers victory.
Larry the Legend Bird. The most iconic member of the Boston Celtics during the 1980’s, Bird’s rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers’ Magic Johnson is one of the most popular rivalries in all of pro sports. Bird would lead the Boston Celtics to three NBA titles during the 1980’s while winning the MVP in three consecutive times from 1984-86. Bird’s most memorable play was during the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Knicks when he stole the ball and found an open Dennis Johnson as time expired.
The NBA commentators used to call the clutch “Miller Time” because that’s where Reggie Miller thrived. Remember his barrage against the Knicks and the ensuing “choke” gesture presented to Spike Lee? Well, that was just one of those “Miller Time” moments we saw during Reggie Miller’s illustrious career. Miller was a deadshot from downtown, one of the greatest three point shooters of all-time but had an awkward ball release. But what really made him special was the fact that he never shied away when his team needed a basket to win the game.
Surprised to find this journeyman on this list? Don’t be. Horry was known as Big Shot Bob throughout his NBA career. Beginning his early years in Houston where he helped Houston win back to back NBA titles in the 90’s to the 2000’s where he helped the Spurs win an NBA title, Horry’s clutch baskets are like a greatest hits tape. Who could forget his buzzer beating three pointer from top of the key which sank the Sacramento Kings in the playoffs? The guy has more rings than Jordan and Kobe.
He was christened as “Mr. Clutch” so you can’t question how good he was down the stretch. West is the silhouette in the NBA logo and he is the only player in NBA history to win Finals MVP while playing for the losing team. In Game 3 of the 1962 NBA Finals, he came up with a big steal on a pass by Sam Jones and raced down court, beating the buzzer with a game winning layup. Then in 1970 West sent a Knicks game to overtime by hitting a game-tying shot from beyond the half court line.
Kobe gave himself the nickname “Black Mambas” because like the venomous snake who has near 100% accuracy, Bryant’s game was as near-perfect. Kobe would team up with Shaquille O’Neal to build a three-peat title team. When Shaq left Los Angeles, Bryant proved he could win a title by himself and he won not just one but back to back. Once scored 81 points in a single basketball game, the second highest ever and next only to Wilt ‘s 100 point night. Scored 60 points in his final NBA game while delivering the game winning basket and free throws.
Regarded by many as the GOAT or the Greatest of All-Time, Michael Jordan was the most dominant player of his generation. A perennial scoring leader, MJ would lead the Chicago Bulls to six world championships in seven years. Along the way, Jordan destroyed teams with his high scoring games and yes, his winning baskets. Jordan famously played and delivered in the “flu game”. It is fitting that the last shot he took as a member of the Chicago Bulls was a game winning basket against the Utah Jazz in a victory that clinched the Bulls’ sixth title.