Special thanks to Rick Reilly for his mention on ESPN.com.
I know my vote: Kyra Sedgewick……… It’s gotta be.
How else can we possibly justify being subjected to those insufferable “The Closer” promos these past 10 years that somehow always reared their ugly head during the most important and climactically filled moments of TNT NBA Playoff games? Nothing against Kyra, or her show, but it always baffled me as to why TNT would spend 80% of their annual marketing budget targeting a predominantly male audience with a show whose primary appeal was a 50-year old female detective with gargantuan horizontal lips……If only CBS had thought of this during Game 7 of the 1988 NBA Finals, I’m sure that the ratings for Angela Lansbury’s “Murder She Wrote” would have shot through the roof.
Ok, I digress.
The ongoing question continues that continues to resurface whenever the Miami Heat play a close game is whether LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, should be the closer. And after watching both of them struggle during game winning/game tying shot situations since they joined forces in 2010, the question that we probably should have been asking ourselves is why isn’t Mario Chalmers the closer?
Wade and Lebron have since improved their clutch and crunchtime success rate during the regular season, but still have a tendency to go through their bouts of the ‘your turn, my turn’ during critical moments of the game, which can sometimes cause both the Heat, as well as their opponents, to remain off balance – a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it.
So LeBron James vs. Dwyane Wade: Who should be the heat’s closer? Well, if history is any indicator, the better closer is, and always has been, LeBron James. In fact, it’s not even close.
Our team had an opportunity to conduct an analysis of every 4th quarter playoff game that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have played since they entered the league in 2003. Whether it is the NBA’s Standard Game Winning/Game Tying Shot Metric (shot attempts with the intent to win or tie in the final 24 seconds of a game during which a player’s team is either tied or trails by three or fewer points) or the 5 in 5 Crunch Time Metric (5 minutes left and no team up by more than 5 points), Lebron James has been statistically superior to Dwyane Wade during the closing minutes of playoff games:
|Playoff Game Winning/Game Tying Shots||5/12 (41.7%)||2/6 (33.3%)|
|5 in 5 Crunch Time Stat (5 min left, no team up by more than 5). Updated through 7/1/2011||Lebron James||Dwyane Wade|
|FG%||46.1% (70/152)||39.6% (40/101)|
The facts show that Lebron James not only has a better shooting percentage during GW/GT shots (41.7 vs. 33.3), but has also made 3 more total in his career.
More significantly however, Lebron has been substantially better during the last 5 minutes of close playoff games while Wade has struggled. Lebron has made nearly twice as many crunchtime baskets, shot 6.5% higher in FG, nearly 10% higher in EFG, and over 9% higher in TS.
Keep in mind, that ’Closer’ and ‘Crunch Time’ can be defined in many ways, and the Game Winning/Game Tying Shot Metric, as well as the 5 in 5 metric, are only two indicators. However, drastic variability in clutch stats outside of these 2 metrics are rare, and the fact that the disparity is so striking, should not be ignored: LeBron James has simply been more consistently clutch in closing situations, despite his poor performance during the 2011 NBA Finals.
So why is Dwyane Wade perceived to be the more clutch player?
The answer is simple: The NBA Finals. Wade’s remarkable 2006 NBA Finals performance has had an extended shelf life in the minds of NBA fans while his 2011 performance helped to further cement him as a “big game” player, despite the fact that the Heat lost. As such, no one can doubt that Wade has historically brought his ‘A’ game at the highest stage. For this, we cannot completely deny him of his reputation. However, outside of the 2006 Playoffs and 2011 NBA Finals, Wade has actually been abysmal and is 20/62 (32.3%) in Crunch Time situations. In sum, Wade has had to take a tremendous number of shots in order to get his points during key moments of a ball game. Consistently clutch in the Finals? Yes. Consistently clutch throughout the Playoffs? Not according to the stats.
So where do Heat fans go from here? I have no idea. But I do know this much: Lebron James vs. Dwyane Wade = Emotional Arbitrage. Have at it Heat fans. Only good times to come.