Remember all those hours and words spent debating whether LeBron James was clutch? The idea that LeBron -- a four-time league MVP who as a 23-year-old scored 25 straight points in a conference finals game against the Detroit Pistons -- couldn't perform in big moments was always asinine. But for myriad reasons, ones which we won't waste time going into here, Is LeBron clutch? was a divisive NBA topic for numerous years.
Sunday's Cavaliers-Bulls game should have finally put that conversation to rest. By now you've seen the play. LeBron receives the inbounds pass deep in the left corner with 1.5 seconds remaining and the game tied at 84. As he fades to his left he effortlessly rises up over the outstretched arms of Bulls guard Jimmy Butler and drains the jump shot as the buzzer sounds. The basket gave the Cavaliers an 86-84 win and allowed them to even their second-round series with the Chicago at two.
This was the third time in his career that James hit a game-winning shot at the buzzer during a postseason game, according to ESPN Stats & Info. That's the same number that Michael Jordan hit in his career. LeBron has also now made four go-ahead shots in the "final seconds" of playoffs games, per ESPN Stats & Info. Over the past 15 years no one has hit more.
In the playoffs LeBron has now taken 10 potential go-ahead shots in the final five seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime. He's connected on six of them, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst. Jordan was 5-of-11 in such situations during his career.
And let's not leave Kobe Bryant out of this conversation either. LeBron is now 8-of-19 on potential game-tying or go-ahead shots taken in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime during postseason games, per ESPN's Aloki Pattani. Bryant has hit less (7) despite taking more (28). There's also this:
And if you expand to the final minute of playoff Q4/OT, Lebron is 13/27 and Kobe is 10/37 on game-tying/go-ahead field goals.— shrill (@theshrillest) May 10, 2015
LeBron's first playoff buzzer-beater was in Game 2 of the 2009 conference finals against the Orlando Magic. Cleveland fell to Orlando in six games. But LeBron did all he could. He averaged 38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 8.0 assists and shot 49 percent from the field while playing 44.3 minutes per game.
LeBron's next buzzer-beater came when he was in Miami, during Game 1 of the 2013 conference finals against the Indiana Pacers. The Heat eventually knocked off the Pacers in seven games and went on to beat the Spurs in the Finals to capture their second straight NBA championship. In Game 7 of that series LeBron scored 37 points, tying the record for most points scored in the seventh game of the NBA Finals.
LeBron has now played 166 total playoff games. In total he's averaging 27.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists while shooting 48 percent from the field. Jordan played in 179 playoff games and averaged 33.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists and shot 49 percent from the field.
LeBron's postseason Player Efficiency Rating is 27.4; Jordan's was 28.6.
When LeBron's been on the floor during the playoffs his teams have scored 115 points per 100 possessions and surrendered just 101, per Basketball Reference. For Jordan those numbers were 118 and 104.
As for Kobe, he's played in 220 playoff games. His averages are 25.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He's connected on 45 percent of his postseason shots. His postseason Player Efficiency Rating is 22.4. His offensive rating is 110 and his defensive rating is 106.
LeBron James may not be the greatest player of all time and he's certainly not infallible. One thing he has proven himself to be, though, is one of the best clutch performers the NBA has ever seen. Sunday's shot wasn't an aberration. It was just the latest chapter in the yet-to-be completed book.