Kobe vs Lebron: Last 10 seconds clutch stats

Imadogg October 25, 2011 15


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 82games.com’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: 1/4 (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.


  1. LamarMatic October 25, 2011 at 1:57 am - Reply

    I admire the way you’re willing to go through so many play-by-plays. This isn’t the first time you’ve done something like that as well. Props!

  2. Imadogg October 25, 2011 at 2:35 am - Reply

    Thanks a lot man, I really appreciate it. Takes forever and I got nothing better to do with my life when I’m not at work..

    Someone can feel free to put this up for discussion in the forums, should cause some good flamefests.

  3. Mr. Irrelevant October 25, 2011 at 3:55 am - Reply

    Wait, I thought you were ghost?

  4. Imadogg October 25, 2011 at 4:03 am - Reply

    Off the forums, I even wrote that I’ll check up on the main page remember. Keep up the good work to both of you

  5. b.king October 25, 2011 at 7:01 am - Reply

    Hey nice research, but u gotta check Melo’s last 8 seconds stats. he will burn every player in the league, by FAR!

  6. Spydaballsz October 25, 2011 at 9:15 am - Reply

    I like to think that LeBrown puts in his 50/25/25 per game stats early on so that his team doesn’t need him in clutch time.

  7. Mr. Irrelevant October 25, 2011 at 9:57 am - Reply

    When you said check up on the main page I thought you just meant literally check up on the main page, see what’s happening, and then continue on.

  8. Imadogg October 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Me too but I decided to do this research so I posted, U MAD?????

  9. Batyr October 26, 2011 at 1:54 am - Reply

    Great analysis! Thanks for the work to define the ‘clutchness’.

  10. Phamous October 26, 2011 at 11:42 am - Reply

    Would be more accurate to compare their first 8 years, not LeBron’s first 8 years and Kobe’s best 8 years. Good job though.

  11. Ryan October 27, 2011 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    im not trying to hate but i mean you did compare kobes career when he was with shaq and was already way more developed than to lebron remember the detroit game kobe has never done anything like that in any clutch situation or did what lebron did in the playoffs this past year lol but thats tight that you went through all this props

  12. rob January 21, 2012 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    Great start finding surprisingly lebrons much better than kobe in playoffs http://chasing23.com/kobe-bryant-vs-lebron-james-game-winning-shots/

  13. Eric March 1, 2012 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    I am impressed with the detail on this study. I noticed that there is one game missing. It was a playoff game when Lebron was with the Cavs and he scored the final 25pts of the game including the 4th period and OT to give the cavs the win. I believe that would be clutch.

  14. Justin May 17, 2012 at 8:45 am - Reply

    What are the numbers for LeBron in the final 10 seconds of PLAYOFF GAMES? Since 07 Kobe Bryant is 0-7 in game tying or go ahead shots for the Lakers his teammates in the same timeframe are 4-7

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