A closer look at Kobe’s clutch

The Lakers questionable moves and Kobe’s possible injury woes this season had some of us looking into the Lakers fate. While I was in the midst of doing research for that I decided to take a closer look at a common theme for Kobe fans: Kobe is clutch and wins when it matters. Henry Abbott has written about how this is not true several times. A while back I even wrote why this doesn’t matter.

However, I decided to use Youtube to actually apply the eye test to some of Kobe’s greatness and look over every “clutch” (final 24 seconds of the game) game winning/game tying shot in Kobe’s playoff career. For perspective Kobe has taken 26 “clutch” shots in his playoff career and connected on a grand total of 7 of them. It gets worse.

The Youtube test for Kobe’s playoff clutchness

2000 Game winner in game 2 against Phoenix – Takes a terrible game winning shot in a series that’s decided in 5 games.

Verdict: Kobe clutch! (or lucky, take your pick)

2002 Game winner in game 4 against San Antonio – Loses the ball. Derek Fisher recovers it and drives and Kobe’s game winner is a put back.

Verdict: I give this one to Derek Fisher. Also, ironically Kobe’s “clutch” comes via rebounding not shooting.

2004 Game advancing shot in game 5 against San Antonio  – Kobe makes a good shot off a screen from Karl Malone. The thing is Tim Duncan makes a “clutch” shot to put the Spurs up. Right after that with 0.4 seconds left Fisher makes the game winner.

Verdict: Kobe’s clutch is upstaged by both Tim Duncan and Derek Fisher. I say we only get one clutch player per game and Fisher wins it and Kobe comes in third.

2004 Game tying shot in game 2 against Detroit – Kobe makes a deep three to send the game to overtime. It may have come off a questionable no-call on a drive by Chauncey Billups.

Verdict: Kobe clutch! (with an assist from the refs)

2004 Game tying shot in game 4 against Phoenix – Kobe makes a game tying shot to take the game to overtime. However this comes off a Smush Parker steal and then a perfect feed from Devean George. So he was clutch but it came on the back of some other arguably more clutch play.

Verdict: I’ve got to give the clutch to Smush Parker here. That said. . . 

2004 Game winning shot in game 4 against Phoenix – Kobe akes a pull up jumper for the game winner.

Verdict: Kobe clutch!

2008 Game winning shot in game 5 against San Antonio – Kobe makes a nice pull up jumper for the game winner.

Verdict: Kobe clutch!

Kobe clutch in 2006 vs. Phoenix?

Of Kobe’s seven clutch makes in the playoffs two of them came in one game and I have to credit Smush Parker with more of the clutchness in that. In that same series it should also be noted that Kobe was on one of only eight teams to lose a 3-1 lead in a series and he missed a clutch shot in game 6. So while he did have one clutch game the whole series was very anti-clutch.

Kobe fails the eye test

On the whole Kobe really only earns three of his seven clutch honors fully. It’s hard to really consider that winning when it matters. If the Lakers decline this season people may attribute it to the lack of Kobe’s winning attitude. While losing Kobe will certainly hurt it should be noted his “win while it matters” atttitude may be overrated. In fact I’d wager losing Odom hurts a lot more.


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