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Peers don't want LeBron taking mythical last shot, LeBron shrugs

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

A lot of debate has happened over whether or not LeBron James is a guy you would want taking clutch shots if the game, your life or all of humanity was on the line. Guys like Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and others are people you're supposed to want to pick to take that shot in today's NBA. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Robert Horry and Reggie Miller are historic figures that are supposed to be the selection for the mythical clutch shot.

LeBron is dismissed by a lot of fans as an option for that shot because he doesn't have as many memorable game-winners as some of the other options. Despite being the best player in the NBA, James can't seem to get that honor. Apparently, he can't even get it from his peers in the NBA. According to ESPN, 26 anonymous players were polled on whether they would want LeBron, Jordan or Kobe taking the final shot of a game. Nobody picked LeBron in this situation.

While almost one-quarter of the 26 players who participated in an ESPN The Magazine poll think LeBron James will finish as the best NBA player ever, none of them would want him taking the last shot if Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were also on the floor.

James received decidedly mixed reviews from the players, all of whom were granted anonymity, in the poll conducted for the magazine's NBA preview issue.

Asked which player they wanted to take the last shot with the clock winding down and a game on the line, 88 percent of the players picked Jordan, with Bryant getting the other 12 percent.

"That's like ranking the shortest giant," an Eastern Conference guard said. "I'd want the ball in LeBron's hands at the end of the game, but I'd want him to pass to Kobe or Jordan for the last shot. And don't forget, LeBron is not a great free throw shooter, either."

There was one vote for Mario Chalmers, but Mario Chalmers declined comment on whether or not he participated in the poll (this may or may not be something I just made up).

Should LeBron be offended that his fellow NBAers wouldn't select him if the options were Jordan, Kobe and LeBron? Possibly. It's kind of hard to argue with the overwhelming majority of the players selecting Jordan, who is the greatest competitor in NBA history, the greatest player in NBA history and one of the greatest clutch performers sports has ever seen. The other 12 percent selecting Kobe isn't that surprising either because he's regularly at the top of player polls for final shot duties.

As for LeBron, he may be the best player in the league but it doesn't mean he has to be the top choice to end a close game. In fact, he apparently doesn't really care what the results of this poll are and would rather put games away earlier than leave it up to chance/clutch shots. From ESPN.com:

"Players in our league said that? All right," James said after the Miami Heat went through a workout in New York City before their exhibition game Thursday in Brooklyn.

"I really don't care what 30 guys in our league say about me taking the last shot. I've got a few game winners in my career. I don't let teams hang around too much for the last shot. I don't think the definition of clutch is who takes the last shot. There are guys who come through for their teams in different circumstances."

He has a point about not letting teams hang around. He has been pretty good at putting his opponents away a few minutes before a last-minute shot needs to enter the conversation. He has also become a much better clutch shooter over the past couple years and has always been a willing playmaker at the end of games. He even hit the title-clinching jumper at the end of Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.

James has had plenty of moments proving he's capable of knocking down that shot. However, it doesn't mean you would select him over Michael Jordan or even Kobe Bryant for that matter.

It's fine for LeBron to be annoyed or insulted by this. It's also fine for the anonymous players to vote this way, as well. What's maybe more fascinating is that possibly six of those guys picked LeBron to end up as the best player of all time. That's probably the honor LeBron James would rather have when it's all said and done.

 
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