There is a common belief among basketball fans that LeBron James has turned into a clutch fourth quarter player this season. The numbers would seem to back up that belief. After all, his scoring, rebounding and usage numbers are all up in clutch situations. The NBA defines clutch stats by performance in the final five minutes of close games (score is within 5).
His 15 point fourth quarter game against the Sixers on April 3rd and his 17 point monster close-out effort against the Nets on April 16th support that. Yes, LeBron James is showing up in the fourth quarter and the "75 cents" jokes that our Bulls analyst Kendall Gill loves to make may not be accurate anymore.
However, when it comes to "game on the line" situations, that is, a possession in the final 30 seconds of a game in which the player's team is tied or trailing by 3 points or less, LeBron rarely takes the final shot.
Watch the closing possession for the Heat yesterday against the Knicks, Dwyane Wade takes the final shot and LeBron doesn't even touch the ball. Now, you can't base a belief off one play, but the Heat have had 18 shots this season (including the playoffs) in a "game on the line" situation. Of those 18 shots, LeBron has only taken three of them. Three.
For comparison, Kobe Bryant, who is widely considered the best active "clutch" player in the NBA has taken 15 of the Lakers' 22 shots with the game on the line. Kevin Durant has taken 20 of the Thunder's 26. LeBron just 3 of 18.
You can argue that he is meant to be a decoy, you can argue that he doesn't want the ball in that situation, you can argue that Wade is the better option, but the fact is that when the Heat need a winning shot, LeBron James is normally watching someone else take it. LeBron is not as "clutch" as people think he is.
I'd love to hear your theories on why this happens. Use our comment option at the bottom of the page or tweet me @CSNKevin.