It seems like a long time ago that the debate of whether or not LeBron James was a clutch player took place.
In fact, this was going on as recently as two years ago.
In an ESPN survey of NBA players in 2013, James received no votes when asked which player they would most want to shoot a potential game-winner. Bulls legend Michael Jordan received 88 percent of the vote, and Kobe Bryant received the other 12 percent.
ESPN’s Skip Bayless has also been responsible for keeping the “LeBron isn’t clutch” trope alive. He’s been its biggest proponent.
But we know that theory is ridiculous from both empirical and statistical evidence.
Here’s Sunday evening’s buzzer-beater one more time, just so it’s clear:
If you need more proof about James in the clutch, click here.
Now that that’s settled, we can get back to the real clutch argument at stake: Michael vs. LeBron.
ESPN trotted out a whole slew of stats on the subject Monday morning. James’ buzzer-beater Sunday was the third in his postseason career, which matches Jordan’s career.
In final 5 sec of 4th qrtr/OT in playoffs, LeBron James is 6-10 – made 1 more shot on 1 fewer att that Michael Jordan pic.twitter.com/5jgHZMYUV2— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 11, 2015
If we expand the situation for the final 24 seconds of games, though — still huge clutch moments — Jordan is decidedly superior.
In final 24 seconds of 4th qtr/OT in the most crucial postseason games, LeBron James is not like Mike pic.twitter.com/VdQN9lGzO9— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 11, 2015
When all is said and done, there is a legitimate argument to be made on James’ behalf as the most clutch player ever. It’s an opinion that can at least be entertained at this point.
Please don’t conflate that argument with Jordan’s status as the best player ever. James has a long way to go — four more championships, for starters — to reach that level.
Feel better now, Bulls fans?
Now let’s take a minute to look back at “The Shot,” one of Jordan’s most iconic moments, which happened almost 16 years to the day as Derrick Rose’s buzzer-beating heroics Friday.
For the record, Jordan definitely wins the post-buzzer-beater reaction comparison over LeBron without much debate.