Midday Musing: Kobe isn’t clutch. Who cares?

Posted on July 13, 2011 by


Kobe's not clutch?

Henry Abbott is one of my favorite NBA writers. Part of his claim to fame is his research on the crazy belief that Kobe isn’t clutch. This got started earlier this season when he made the point

He followed this up recently with

The number Abbott listed back in January was 36 makes out of 115 shots for both playoffs and regular season. Kobe managed to tack on another clutch miss in a startling loss to the Mavericks. Let’s ask our friends at Basketball-Reference for a little context.
  • Kobe Bryant has taken 21370 shots in the regular season and 4198 shots in the postseason.
  • His clutch shots taken in the post season comprise less than 1% of his total playoff shots.
  • His clutch shots taken in the regular season comprise less than 0.5% of his total regular season shots.
  • In the regular season Kobe has averaged a TS% of 0.556
  • In the post season Kobe has averaged a TS% of 0.542

In short Kobe is actually a pretty decent shooter (I didn’t say great and don’t even try and compare him to Michael) and he some times misses shots with 24 seconds left and the game on the line. That said, games a) with 24 seconds left, b) the game on the line,  and c) Kobe taking a shot are rare. Kobe Byrant has amassed more blocks in the playoffs than clutch shots taken in both the regular season and the playoffs! When trying to analyze how good a player is why would we focus on something that accounts for less than 1% of one part of their job?

A final note is Abbott uses a very thin line to describe clutch – 24 seconds left and a game tying or winning shot taken. 82 Games defines clutch stats as:

  • In the fourth quarter or overtime and the game within five points.

In the last four years the top player in terms of clutch minutes has never gone over 250 minutes of clutch time play. Barring his rookie season, Kobe has never played less than 2,000 minutes a season (adjusting the 1999 to an 82 game length). If Kobe somehow had the top clutch minutes every season it would have accounted for only 1.25% of his play time.

Players being clutch or not clutch is a very popular theme. In fact to be a winner or MVP candidate many writers will claim clutch is needed. The problem, though, is even when analyzing players that always take the shot when the game is on the line, such as Kobe, it turns out these shots make up very little of what the players do. Even Michael Jordan, who was a killer in the playoffs, only managed to muster up 18 clutch shots in 179 playoff games and almost 7,500 minutes of postseason play. Kobe may not be clutch, but he is a very good player.  And it turns out you don’t really need to be clutch to be a good player.

The Lakers have overcome Kobe's glaring weaknesses.


(Editor Arturo Note- I have to respectfully disagree . Seriously, now I need another shower)