Kobe vs Lebron: Last 10 seconds clutch stats

If you follow the NBA more than casually and take a look at all sorts of stats, you know that many different analysts and websites define “clutch” stats (when the game is on the line) in many different ways. One of the most well-known is’s clutch defined as “4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points”. Another was used by ESPN’s Henry Abbott earlier this year, which is actually what this research is based upon. He used “trailing by one or two points, or tied, in the final 24 seconds” of a game. He then used his stats to “prove” that Kobe Bryant is not near the top in clutch, and that’s what inspired me to look at clutch stats of my own.

I don’t really like 82games’ definition.. I feel it puts way too much into a clutch. For example, if there’s 5 minutes left, with the Lakers up 5, and Kobe makes a shot.. that counts as him being 1-1 in the clutch. That’s much different than being down 2 with 4 seconds on the clock. I took a variation of the stat Abbott used and adjusted it a bit. I guess I’ll state it like he did: Field goal attempts when trailing by one, two, or three points, or tied, in the final 10 seconds of a game. I lowered 24 seconds to 10, which I think is a much better indicator of “last second” heroics. Yes, 10 is totally arbitrary, but so are most definitions of clutch (5 minutes, 2 minutes). And I included being 3 points down, which means it’s still a one possession game, and a 3 pointer can tie it (I counted only threes made to tie, didn’t count a 2 when down 3).

To get these stats, I went through ESPN’s play by plays, looked at close games and checked the field goals that fell into the “clutch”. I looked at only Kobe vs Lebron, for a few reasons. Obviously the biggest bball debates are between these two. There’s various clutch stats that say one or the other is better. Looking at play by plays takes forever, so I figured picking these two players was a good choice.. I will try to expand this study to other players if I ever feel like it. I saw that ESPN’s box scores go all the way back to the 2002-2003 season.. unfortunately though, many of the play by plays were missing from that season. Luckily for us, Lebron joined the league the next season, and all the play by plays from 03-04 until last season are there for our viewing. So these stats will be from 2003-2004 until 2010-2011 (8 seasons) for both Lebron and Kobe.

Enough talking, here are the findings.

Lebron James

03-04: 0/5 (0%)

04-05: 2/8 (25%)

05-06: 2/5 (40%)

06-07: 1/10 (10%)

07-08: 5/11 (45%)

08-09: ¼ (25%)

09-10: 1/8 (13%)

10-11: 1/7 (14%)

Total: 13/58 (22%)

Kobe Bryant

03-04: 3/10 (30%)

04-05: 2/7 (29%)

05-06: 2/11 (18%)

06-07: 2/11 (18%)

07-08: 1/3 (33%)

08-09: 2/6 (33%)

09-10: 7/11 (64%)

10-11: 2/5 (40%)

Total: 21/64 (33%)

So there are the results. Based on the stats, in the last 8 seasons, Kobe is shooting 33% on “last second shots”, whereas Lebron is shooting a lower 22%.

Some things to note before people start going crazy. I am a human who might make mistakes. I tried to look over things multiple times, but things happen. I do have a log of which games I got my stats from should anyone request if you want to look at play by plays yourself. These stats only go back to 03-04, which is unfair to Lebron for two reasons: 1. They span his entire career, and you wouldn’t expect a rookie to be the most clutch man on earth, and 2. They only span half of Kobe’s career, and we know that Kobe didn’t start off as a legend playing 40 minutes a game, known for his late game heroics.

Remember that these stats try to narrow down last second shots to tie or win the game. That is what this definition of clutch means. It does not prove anything unless you use this definition. Clutch can be assists or rebounds as well. Clutch can be making a shot when already up 2 points to seal a game. Clutch can be the entire 4th quarter, making shot after shot to go up 10 and demoralize the opposition.

But at least under this definition of clutch, during Lebron’s entire career… Kobe > Lebron in the clutch… enjoy.