Yesterday, my fellow blogger and leader of the Kobe Hateration club, The NBA Realist, took on the notion that rumors of Kobe being clutch in the playoffs were nothing but complete mythology. I think he’s been reading too much Henry Abbott (who by the way, may be the 2nd person outside of Raja Bell to have built his career off Kobe bashing). I could not disagree more.
C.A. Clark wrote a nicely put together article following Abbott detailing why stats can sometimes be misleading. I’ll follow his effort with some real evidence as to why.
So, the common numbers other Chasing23 readers are floating around is that Kobe Bryant clutch stats show a 6/22 result in playoff game-winning situations. I decided to take a closer look at this and really evaluate a breakdown of the misses. Here we go:
1. 1996 Playoffs, Lakers vs. Jazz Game 5 – Bryant misses a game tying shot with 4 seconds left.
Kobe as an 18-year old rookie that for some reason was taking the shot with Van Exel, Jones, and Shaq on the team. Huh? The fact that they let him shoot it in this situation is an indication of the coldblooded-ness most people see in him now.
2. 1999 Playoffs, Spurs vs. Lakers Game 2 – Bryant misses a game tying shot at the end of regulation
Kobe misses a desperation 3 to tie the game. Kobe had 28-8-4 to make it close. Shaq has 16 points.
3. 2001 Playoffs, Lakers vs. 76ers Game 1 – Bryant misses a game winning shot with 20 seconds left.
Kobe had an admittedly bad game, scoring 15 points. This came off of 11 consecutive playoff wins where he averaged 32ppg. (and perhaps the greatest run by one team in NBA playoff history)
4. 2002 Playoffs, Lakers vs. Kings Game 5 – Bryant misses a game winning shot with 12 seconds left
Kobe scores 30 and carries Lakers with Shaq fouled out.
5. 2002 Playoffs, Lakers vs. Kings Game 7 – Bryant misses game winning shot with 8 seconds left and game winning tip.
Kobe has a huge game in one of the biggest games in Laker history going for 30-10-7. Lakers win and move on to the NBA finals.
6. 2003 Playoffs, Lakers vs. Twolves Game 3 – Bryan misses the game winning shot with 13 seconds and 2 seconds left.
What Kobe Hater forgets to mention here is that Bryant scored 5 points in the last 22 seconds to tie the game and force overtime. Oh — and he happened to put up a 30-7-6 line. Verrrry unclutch.
7. 2003 Playoffs, Lakers vs. Spurs Game 1 – Bryant misses game winning shot with 13 seconds left.
Bryant had a line of 37-4-2 in this game including 13 points in the 4th quarter (and 8 in the last 4 minutes). He also hit a 3-pointer with 1 minute left which pulled the Lakers within striking distance in the first place.
8. 2004 Playoffs, Lakers vs. Rockets Game 1 – Bryant misses a game winning shot with 17 seconds left.
It was a sloppy game all around. Still in the last 4 minutes, Kobe led the Lakers in scoring. This “game winning shot” was a desperation 3 with time running out. The Lakers still won the game.
9. 2004 Playoffs, Lakers vs. Rockets Game 4 – Bryant misses the game winning shot with 3 seconds left.
Let’s conveniently leave out the part where in OT, Kobe scores 6 points including a 3-point play to put the Lakers up for good. Lakers win the game.
10. 2006 Playoffs, Lakers vs. Suns Game 6 – Bryant misses a game winning shot with 6 seconds left.
This is the most misleading of them all. Kobe went off for 50-8-5 with a JV squad featuring Smush Parker and Kwame Brown in the starting lineup. He also scored 12 of the Lakers’ 13 points in OT while shooting an incredible 57% from the field. If not for a lucky bounce out to Tim Thomas, this would have been one of the great games of Kobe’s career.
11. 2009 Playoffs, Lakers vs. Jazz Game 3 – Bryant misses a game winning shot with 2 seconds left.
Another misleading stat. In the last minute of this game, Kobe orchestrated the offense, notching a layup and 2 assists. The shot he missed was a desperation 3-point try once the Lakers got the ball back with 2 seconds left.
12. 1999 Playoffs, Lakers vs. Magic Game 2 – Bryant has his game winning shot blocked with 8 seconds left.
Another strong game by Kobe, 29-8-4. The Lakers still went on to win this game and wrest control of the finals for good from the Magic.
13. 2010 Playoffs, Lakers vs. Thunder Game 6 – Bryant misses game winning shot with 0.5 seconds left.
Kobe goes off for 32-7-3 in this clincher against the Thunder. Scores the only other bucket for the Lakers in the last 2 minutes besides Gasol’s game winner. Lakers win.
14. 2010 Playoffs, Lakers vs. Suns Game 5 – Bryant misses a game winning shot with 3 seconds left.
Kobe has another monster game, almost going for a triple double, 30-11-9 with 4 blocks. In the 4th he goes for 7-3-2, accounting for 13 of the Lakers 23 points. The shot he missed was another desperation 3 attempt when the Lakers inbounded the ball with 2 seconds left. Lakers go on to win the game.
So in the games where Kobe missed a game tying or game winning shot, Kobe’s teams went 5-7. Overall, Kobe’s teams in these situations went 10-7, a 59% winning percentage. Not bad for 21 games that you went into the last 20 seconds either trailing or tied. Even more amazing, in the last 11 games that Kobe has had a game winning or tying opportunity in the playoffs, the Lakers have won 9 of them. Still believe it’s all luck? At the end of day, when you define clutchness, shouldn’t your ultimate metric for success be wins and losses? Kobe Bryant clutch stats show in these instances, the Black Mamba definitively wins more than he loses.
Even in the losses though, Kobe is great. In 9 of the 12 games where he “missed” the game decider, Kobe had 28 points or more and effectively carried his team. In a few instances, he was off the charts and put his team in a position they wouldn’t have been close to except for his heroics (see: 2006 Game 6 vs. Suns, 2003 Game 1 vs. Spurs, 2003 Game vs. Timberwolves). In a few others, Kobe has 3 or less seconds to have the ball inbounded to him and heave up a desperation three – a nearly impossible situation.
In summary — the 6/22 stat being championed around the Internet by MJ lovers, er, objective stats geeks is bunk. Looking at the games above, it is clear that Kobe’s ability to deliver in high pressure situations allowed his team to win at a very high rate, and his 5 rings only serve to reinforce that message.