It seems pretty dumb to say LeBron James isn't clutch. Even if you're the type of person who believes some players are "clutch" and others aren't -- most who research this say that judging a player based on whether they hit individual shots is random as heck -- James has been, kinda, well, great in clutch situations.
In the playoffs, he's now 10-for-21 on go-ahead or game-tying shots in the last 30 seconds of regulation or overtime. That's almost 50 percent, typically on difficult shots where the entire defense is expecting him to try and score. For comparison, Kobe Bryant, who everyone believes is a clutch performer, is 7-for-27, which is significantly worse. James has hit 16 game-winning shots in his 12-year career. Twelve years after Michael Jordan had been drafted, he had made 19.
And yet, saying LeBron James isn't clutch is the hill Skip Bayless has chosen to get extremely rich on. In spite of evidence to the contrary, he continues to harp on his belief that James is so fickle that late-game situations intimidate him.
We searched Twitter to find Bayless' spur-of-the-moment reaction to every James game-winner since Bayless started tweeting. Most would shut up in the face of obvious evidence disproving their point. Bayless does not. Each LeBron game-winner is another opportunity for Skip Bayless to stake his claim to being The Guy Who Thinks LeBron James Is Bad.
March 6, 2013, vs. Orlando Magic
LeBron -- who by the way, was the reigning MVP and Finals MVP at this point -- hit a game-winning layup to extend the Heat's winning streak to 16:
Bayless made sure to note that the Magic were a very bad team and that James is normally too cowardly to drive to the basket.
LeBron finally does the right thing on late shot! TAKES IT TO THE BASKET vs. bad team w/ half its guys fouled out. Laid it in lefty for win.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 7, 2013
Also loved it LeBron defied the MJ blueprint for defending him. For once when he drove left did NOT pull up for a jumper. Way to go, King.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 7, 2013
You'll see the beginning of a theme here -- Bayless implies the reason LeBron James normally doesn't drive is because he's scared to shoot FTs.
Love it @KingJames wasn't afraid to shoot the tying/winning free throws if he'd been fouled on late layup. Wasn't fouled. Wasn't afraid.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 7, 2013
Of course, by complimenting James for not being afraid here, he's implying that James is almost always afraid.
May 22, 2013, vs. Indiana Pacers
During the game, the first of the Eastern Conference Finals, Skip criticized LeBron's ability to hit clutch free throws:
Big-time clutch shooting by Paul George. Doubt LeBron could've made all three of those.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 23, 2013
Then LeBron did this:
Skip's immediate reaction was to point out how simple a basket it was, and that LeBron has missed long jumpers at the buzzer in the past:
That was EASY. Especially without Hibbert. Beat the heck out of LeBron clanking another walk-off jumper. Way to go, MVP.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 23, 2013
And Bayless pointed out that James might have missed clutch FTs if fouled:
Remember, LeBron had to have the guts to shoot the free throws, if fouled. Used to fear that. Sam Young should've fouled him. Just watched.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 23, 2013
November 23, 2013, vs. Golden State Warriors
LeBron did this:
Skip's first move was to point out that this was only LeBron's second regular season game-winner with under a second on the clock (it was actually his fourth:)
I'm going to give LeBron second reg-season walk-off of his 11-year 4-MVP career - though last night's came with .1 sec left. Both at GSt!— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) February 13, 2014
And he snidely said that *THIS TIME* he wouldn't criticize LeBron for failing to drive, again bringing up his belief that James is scared to shoot free throws.
This time I won't criticize LeBron for opting not to drive, get fouled, have to make 2 FTs to tie w/ no time left. Stepped back for 3, swish— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) February 13, 2014
March 24, 2014 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
LeBron drove to the hoop for this game-winner:
LeBron drove, so Bayless couldn't dog LeBron for not driving. Instead, he focused on his demeanor during the game.
LeBron started hotdogging too early, high-fiving fans, Portland roared back, LeBron made game-winning drive, Bosh block saved it.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 25, 2014
The next day, Bayless accused James of "running out of gas" and said he wasn't motivated.
Weird: In the 11 games since 61, LeBron has averaged taking only 3 shots in 4th quarters. Took 12 in 1st q last nite. Running out of gas?— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 25, 2014
I'm convinced Heat aren't that motivated right now because Pacers posing less and less of a threat.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 25, 2014
May 10, 2015, vs. Chicago Bulls
Ins pointed out all of James' mistakes, misses, and blunders, as well as the "dozens" of buzzer-beaters James had missed at other points in his career. (He'd missed 11, but who's counting. Not Skip, I guess.)
YESSSSSSS! HE FINALLY MADE A THREE AND A BUZZER BEATER. HUGE SHOT MADE UP FOR ALL THE MISSES AND BLUNDERS.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 10, 2015
As LeBron just said, he had made mistake after mistake after mistake. Made up for 'em all with one series-turning shot.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 10, 2015
That buzzer-beater didn't make up for the dozens he has missed in his career, but it sure helped.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 10, 2015
As Stephen A recently admitted, shooting late shots or FTs not LeBron's strength. That's why THAT ONE so impressive.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 10, 2015
As always, Bayless pointed out LeBron is scared to shoot late free throws, but this time, it came with a twist -- Bayless implies that the lack of time remaining forced James to not even thinking about driving, which somehow made him better at shooting, or something.
That shot made for LeBron. Had no time to consider driving and having to shoot FTs like at Houston. HAD to shoot his worst shot, a 3. BOOM.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) May 10, 2015
History has been filled with doomsday cults. History has not been filled with doomsdays. Everybody who has predicted the end of the world, to date, has been wrong.
But something funny happens to people in doomsday cults. When the day they thought the world would end comes and goes, they don't give up and go home. Instead, they double down. The seminal social psychology study "When Prophecy Fails" investigates how doomsday cults often become more fervent when they're proven wrong. They take their obviously wrong beliefs, tweak them and forge on.
Skip Bayless is much like these doomsday cults. I have a prediction about the future: Sometimes, LeBron James will hit late shots. Sometimes he will miss them. Bayless has decided only one of these potential outcomes fits his world view, and he twists logic into weird pretzels when James is successful.
Because nobody can hit 100 percent of their late shots, Skip Bayless' broken clock will often be right about LeBron James. But instead of listening to him when he's happiest, remember his hilariously snide, joyless pivots in the moments when he's wrongest.
SB Nation presents: Simple rules for playing against LeBron