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Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Ability to Control a Game Down the Stretch is More Significant than Simply Making Buzzer Beating Shots

Kobe Bryant has frequently demonstrated his remarkable ability to make game-winning shots from all angles against any type of defense. Media members, "stat gurus" and fans love to argue about whether or not Bryant's barrage of such shots proves that he is the league's best clutch player but that debate has never interested me very much because--as I wrote in a March 7, 2010 article--"Even though game-winning shots are very exciting, it is much more important to be a clutch player than to simply hit clutch shots; it is more impressive and significant to be able to control an entire game--or at least large stretches of a game--than to hit one shot at the end, even if that one shot provides the final margin of victory."

Hall of Fame Coach Dr. Jack Ramsay agrees with me about this. In an interview with Jim Durham, Ramsay declares, "I rate him (Kobe Bryant) as the best finisher of all-time, not just for the one last shot--for which Michael Jordan was understandably famous and well-recognized--but he'll make consecutive shots. He will make the shots that bring you back into a game and then will continue to knock down shots until the game is won. I have never seen anybody like Kobe Bryant in that regard."

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:09 AM



At Thursday, September 23, 2010 1:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


i think bird jordan magic was better finishers than kobe was. it depends what he talking makeing clutch baskets, game winning shots finishing at the rim it depends. the most clutch player was mike than i respect jack but people tend to get caught up in the momment its going good for kobe right now so people are forgetting other greats.

At Thursday, September 23, 2010 5:01:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Dr. Jack explained exactly what he meant. All you have to do is read the quote and/or listen to the soundbite. Kobe Bryant not only makes buzzer beaters but he takes over games for extended periods of time down the stretch.

I hardly think that someone whose ties to the NBA date back several decades is getting "caught up in the momment (sic)." He is merely making exactly the same point that I have independently been saying about Bryant (and clutch play in general) for quite some time: taking over a game is more important than just making a buzzer beater and Bryant has a rare ability to take over games because he has no skill set weaknesses.

At Thursday, September 23, 2010 10:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


i see what he says i dont agree perse he is the greatest player ever takeing over a game down the stretch but he is great and always has been. its hard to judge greatest ever anything really unless they all play at once or you seen every player i respect jack opion he might be right he know more about basketball than me but i dont know if he best ever at takeing over a game.

At Thursday, September 23, 2010 11:28:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree that it is difficult to select the greatest ever in a given category. What I find most significant about what Dr. Jack said is that he defines clutch ability not by game-winning shots but rather by taking over a game for an extended period.

At Sunday, September 26, 2010 3:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think people have selective memories when it comes to guys who make buzzer beaters to win a game. You can have a horrible game down the stretch of the 4th qtr but if you make a buzzer beater for the win all your mistakes are forgotten. Take Kobe for instance since he's the subject of this article. His buzzer beater against the Heat on national television last year overshadowed him airballing a shot over Dwyane Wade and also airballing a layup in the final couple of minutes. He also compounded that with a turnover during that stage of the game. Derek Fisher hits a tough 3 pointer to bring the Lakers back to within 1 point. Wade misses a free throw which sets up Kobe's game winner off the glass. After Kobe hit the shot everyone has amnesia of what came before and Kobe is "clutch" even though he was anything but prior to that shot. Kobe has had many games where he's done that.


At Monday, September 27, 2010 3:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


We agree that buzzer beaters are somewhat overrated but I am puzzled by your statement that Kobe has had "many games" during which he did not produce in the clutch. The truth is that the Lakers had many games--particularly last season--in which the bench squandered leads that Kobe and the first stringers built and Kobe had to save the day in the fourth quarter not just with buzzer beaters but by taking over for extended periods of time down the stretch.

At Monday, September 27, 2010 11:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think Rod's point is that Kobe took little to no flack for a poor shooting game down the stretch, because he made the spectacular shot over Wade.

I don't think that he's had "many," games like that, however. At least not more than any other superstar level player.

One of Phil Jackson's old Michael Jordan anecdotes deals with "The Shot," against Cleveland. He hit the game winner which pushed the Bulls to the next round, sure. But Phil also mentions that in the game before, MJ had free throws to ice the game, and he choked at the line.

Basically, nobody is perfect, even the greatest to ever play. One of my favorite posts of yours, David, was one which pointed out that sentiment has resulted in many people glossing over the fact that not all of Michael Jordan's games were spectacular individual performances.

Now, Jordan is absolutely amazing. I recently watched the highlights of some of his games against the Miami Heat in the 92 playoffs...the man's offensive awareness is incredible. He cut through the Miami defense like a freaking SURGEON.

At Monday, September 27, 2010 4:59:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I just don't agree that Kobe deserved much "flack" for his performance versus Miami. Not only did he hit the game-winning shot, he scored a game-high 33 points on 12-25 field goal shooting (Wade scored 26 points on 7-21 field goal shooting) and he had seven rebounds--just one fewer than Gasol and Bynum--as the Lakers won the battle of the boards 43-33.

Nor do I agree that Kobe has had "many" games in which he played poorly but then hit a game-winning shot.

I think that the post you are referring to is Placing Kobe Bryant's Career in Historical Context--an article that should be required reading for guys like Mike Wilbon, Bill Simmons and other so-called "experts" who love to make fallacious, historically inaccurate comparisons between Bryant and various retired NBA greats.

At Tuesday, September 28, 2010 1:55:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Actually, I agree that it is difficult to select the greatest ever in a given category. i think bird jordan magic was better finishers than kobe was.


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