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 superstars 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, two minutes, five minutes, elimination games or a game 7. And therefore, these are the examples that I will use.

A Shot To Tie or Take the Lead (Regular Season)

(Note: Italics note who had better performance)

Last 24 seconds

Kobe: 45 for 140 (32.1%)
LeBron: 26 for 89 (29.2%)

Last 30 seconds

Kobe (since 2001): 65 for 181 (35.9%)
LeBron: 30 for 95 (31.58%)

Last 2 minutes

Kobe (since 2001): 125 for 327 (38.22%)
LeBron: 80 for 205 (39.02%)

Last 5 minutes

Kobe (since 2001): 233 for 555 (41.9%)
LeBron (since 2004): 160 for 378 (42.3%)

Conclusion: Neither Kobe or LeBron shot a good percentage when the time is winding down (last 30 seconds or less), although Kobe has the edge. In the last two minutes and five minutes of a regular season game, LeBron has the edge over Kobe. Overall, I would give Kobe the slight edge here.

A Shot To Tie or Take the Lead (Playoffs)

Last 24 seconds

Kobe: 7 for 28 (25.0%)
LeBron: 7 for 17 (41.1%)

Last 30 seconds

Kobe: 7 for 28 (25.0%) (0-8 from the 2009 Playoffs to present day)
LeBron: 9 for 19 (47.30%)

Last 2 minutes

Kobe: 17 for 50 (34%) (0-8 in the last two playoffs; 2010 and 2011)
LeBron: 21 for 43 (48.8%)

Last 5 minutes

Kobe (since 2001): 30 for 88 (34.09%)
LeBron: (since 2006): 36 for 74 (48.6%)
A screenshot of Jordan vs LeBron vs Kobe in the clutch. The screenshot is an old one, however. Kobe’s and LeBron’s numbers have been updated.
Conclusion: In the last 24 seconds and 30 seconds of a postseason game, Kobe only shoots 25 percent, which is terrible. LeBron, however, is clearly "more clutch", shooting 41 percent in the last 24 seconds and 47 percent in the last 30 seconds of a game. This disparity between LeBron and Kobe continues as in the last two minutes and five minutes of a game LeBron shoots 14 percent higher than Kobe in both circumstances. Overall, LeBron is more "clutch" in a land-slide.


Game 7 of a Playoff Series

Kobe: 22.2 ppg on 38.9% FG with 8.0 rpg and 5.0 apg (6 games)
LeBron: 34.0 ppg* on 46.5% FG with 8.1 rpg 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 5.8 rpg and 3.5 apg (19 games)
LeBron: 31.5 ppg on 46% FG with 10.0 rpg and 6.5 apg (12 games)

LeBron is also clearly the better player when facing elimination. I have, however, 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, 6-24 shooting (0-6 from 3-PT range), 25% FG, 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 4 turnovers

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

LeBron clearly played better in his respective Finals series, scoring more points and scoring more efficiently from both the two and three-point range. While he fell short 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 mainstream 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?)!

What do I mean by "narrative"? The "narrative" is simply the story that’s put out there by mainstream media organizations such as ESPN. For example, after LeBron joined the Miami Heat, he missed eight straight clutch shots in the regular season (clutch was defined as fourth quarter or OT with under 10 seconds remaining).

Now, while the regular season is important, it’s obvious that the postseason and NBA Finals hold more weight than the regular season. Coincidently, Kobe has also missed his last eight clutch (same definition) shots. However, this time these shots weren’t in the regular season but in the postseason! 
LeBron’s eight straight misses in the regular season (and eventual make) after joining the Heat.
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 eight “clutch” (same definition) shots, but in the postseason.

1Kobe Bryant2001-02LAL414.2503000.2500.000
2Kobe Bryant2002-03LAL101.000101.0001.0000
3Kobe Bryant2003-04LAL212.5001111.0000.7500.000
4Kobe Bryant2005-06LAL223.6671000.6671.500
5Kobe Bryant2007-08LAL101.0001000.0000
6Kobe Bryant2008-09LAL202.000201.0001.0000
7Kobe Bryant2009-10LAL202.000201.0001.0000
8Kobe Bryant2010-11LAL101.000101.0001.0000
9Kobe Bryant2011-12LAL202.000202.0002.0000
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 Pau Gasol in the fourth quarter of the 2009 and 2010 NBA Finals
While many will point to Bryant’s slight edge over LeBron in the regular season, LeBron clearly out-performs Bryant in the postseason in all circumstances: last 24 seconds, 30 seconds, two minutes, five 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.

So, what do you think now? Who is more clutch?

This article was written by Greg Morrison. Follow him on Twitter here and read more of his work here


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