Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade are some names many people think of when talking about the most clutch players in the NBA. Now that two of those players are retired and one is out of his prime, it’s time to crown a new top five. Many people have different definitions of clutch. My definition of a clutch player is the person you would pass the ball to for the game-winning shot.
Steph Curry has one of the quickest releases in the NBA. It helps that he can finesse the ball between defenders to create space. If you need a 3 to win the game, just pass the ball to Steph because he is 48 percent from the field in his career. Did I mention he can make a shot anywhere behind the arc? He has made so many game-winning 3-pointers, it is hard to point one out.
With Kevin Durant’s 7-foot wingspan, he can shoot off over anybody, and it also helps that he is 38 percent behind the arc. His best clutch moment was Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals, where he took over in the final two minutes to give the Warriors a 118-113 victory. His most memorable game-winner was opening night against the Mavs in 2011, when he knocked down a 3 as time expired. Durant can thank Dirk Nowitzki for his signature fadeaway that he uses to get his shot down.
No. 5 LeBron James
Although LeBron is the best player in the world, I would not put him as No. 1. Let us not forget it was Ray Allen’s 3-pointer that tied Game 6 of the NBA Finals in 2013. James does make up for his jump shooting with his size. Who can forget the time he drove to the basket to score the game-winning field goal in overtime against the Pacers in 2013? He is also clutch on the defensive end, as you can flash back to his iconic chase-down block in the 2016 Finals. When he does make a game-winning shot, you can’t wait to see his famous stomp celebration.
No. 4 Damian Lillard
When people think of Damian Lillard being clutch, they often automatically remember his game-winning 3-pointer against the Rockets in 2014, but he has had many clutch shots in his career. Like Curry, he has one of the quickest releases in the NBA. He can pop a shot off with the defenders not even expecting it. Lillard can win any game, as he is 43 percent from the field and 37 percent behind the arc for his career. Just know if the game is on the line with two minutes left, it’s “Dame Time.”
No. 3 Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard might be the quietest player in the league, but he is also the deadliest in the clutch. As the second-best player in the league, he is known for his prowess on both sides of the ball. He can hit a go-ahead 3 on one end and have a chase-down block on James Harden on the other end. One of the most clutch performances in NBA history came from Kawhi Leonard in the 2017 NBA Playoffs, where he scored the final 16 points for the Spurs to force overtime against the Grizzlies. In overtime, he scored eight points, and the Spurs came up short.
No. 2 Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving has the best handles in the NBA. If you’re down by two and need the game-tying points, pass the ball to Irving, and he’ll cross over his defender to get the layup. If you need a 3-pointer, Irving can use his handles to take advantage of a pick-and-roll and get a shot off. A nice example of this is Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, where Irving crossed Curry and got a 3-pointer off in his face to clinch Cleveland’s first title.
No. 1 James Harden
James Harden is the most exciting player to watch in the clutch because of his ball handling and the energy he brings on the court. The Beard shot 40 percent in the clutch in the last five seasons. Harden’s most memorable clutch moment is when he debuted his iconic pot-stirring celebration when he hit a step-back jumper to seal the game against the Nets in 2015. Did I mention that was on a sprained ankle?