To say that the NBA is enjoying a renaissance of clutch shooters would be a little reactive. The state of the NBA fluctuates pretty wildly. It goes from being a league of fastbreaks and dunks, like an All Star Game, to a league of defense and fundamentals, like a New Year’s party at Tim Duncan’s house. The league does change, and themes do appear, but they don’t happen overnight. So to take the fantastic play of Stephen Curry (who has actually been doing this for a couple years) and Monta Ellis (who hasn’t) over the past week and extrapolate the state of the league from it is pretty reckless.
But it doesn’t hurt to start the conversation about the NBA’s most clutch shooters of all time.
There’s a few guys on this list because they’re great shooters, and there’s a few guys on this list because they were just great at everything. Kerr falls in the former camp, but his sharpshooting from beyond the arch was about as good as it got for both the Spurs and the Bulls. He one four straight titles with those guys, and a couple of those titles can be traced directly to shots he made in the playoffs. Most notably, the four 3’s he nailed against the Mavericks to cap a 42-15 run to win the Western Conference Finals in 2003.
9. Steve Kerr
Haha. Something of a surprise here. Maybe Vince doesn’t make it without the inclusion of the fall away turnaround three against the Spurs in the playoffs last year. But that shot forgave a lot of sins, as did his time in Dallas to wash away some of the dirt that had collected on him. Vince always should have been better, but he was able to step up in huge ways that made the critics quiet, if only for a short time. This video predates his time in Dallas, but that just makes the argument stronger.
8. Vince Carter
Larry Bird has a legacy for a lot of things, and his ability to make a shot is up there, but time has eroded his legacy a little bit in that regard, but we’re still considering him in the top 10 of all time, so you can save your sob stories. It wasn’t that the guy had a killer jump shot (though he did). It’s that he LOVED the opportunity to step up. He loved playing his rivals as much as he hated the rivals themselves. He didn’t have the natural talent that many other players had, but he had a gear that most didn’t, and that gear sank a lot of shots in the playoffs.
7. Larry Bird
Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t been his old self in recent years, but that doesn’t negate what he did during that time. More than any other player in the league at the time, Dirk became the face of the franchise. He wasn’t doing it by himself, but he was the last guy with the ball in the playoffs. Even with Nash. Even with Finley. Even with Jason Terry and Stackhouse , Dirk was the guy that took the shot, and those shots got the Mavericks into deep playoff runs time and time again.
6. Dirk Nowitzki
You have to take a flyer on Stephen Curry for a list like this. Sure, he hasn’t had the chance to play in many high stakes games, but to Curry’s credit, his amazing shooting, clutch and otherwise, is getting the Warriors further and further every year. To see a young player WANT the ball like Curry does is a telling sign, and there’s little doubt that the best pure shooter since Reggie Miller will go down in history as one of the best clutch shooters of all time.
5. Stephen Curry
Let’s not Recent Kobe taint the legacy of Earlier Kobe. While Kobe never quite made it to the pedestal that Jordan occupied, he was one of those guys that was completely capable of dismantling your team at the flick of a switch. And with his competitive spirit, he was dying to flick that switch. Kobe could kill you on the drive, but mid-range twos were what seem to be the most deadly weapon in his arsenal. No player would make you bite your lip more in the 2000’s as they launched a last-second shot.
4. Kobe Bryant
Big Shot Rob’s biggest legacy over the course of his 16 years was his ability to hit the clutch shot. The big man had an uncanny ability early in his career with Houston to not only make the big shots, but to actually get the ball when the game was down to the wire. From there, he developed a reputation for being THE GUY who got the ball in the last seconds. And if he didn’t, he was likely double teamed to free someone else up. There wasn’t a championship team between 1993-2003 that didn’t have either Steve Kerr or Robert Horry on the squad. How nuts is that?
3. Robert Horry
Reggie Miller never won a title. But he sure did make life hard in the late rounds of the playoffs for those who did. Before Stephen Curry, before Ray Allen, there was Reggie Miller, who a sort of Reggie Jackson when it came to the NBA postseason. The guy lived for those games against the Knicks and Bulls, and he could close a gap of 10 points in less than a minute, seemingly all by himself. This video is one of my favorite NBA highlights of all time.
2. Reggie Miller
Yeah, we put Jordan at #1 on this list. I don’t think we’ll get too much blowback for that. It almost seems trite to explain why. Because he’s Michael Jordan, and he was the most dominant athlete in any sport in the 20th century. You got the feeling when he woke up in the morning, he just thought about hitting those shots later that night. And with so many playoff appearances, we were treated to seeing him in the drivers seats so many times that this list isn’t even a contest. But it’s still fun to see how these guys stack up, even if it’s Jordan in a walk.
1. Michael Jordan
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