What Does It Mean to Clutch in Basketball’s Greatest Moments?


They are the moments that are dreamed of when you are in an empty playground in childhood. An imaginary game hour is reduced. A couple of dribbles are taken. A game-winning shot is initiated.

“Trash. Playing with my brothers in the backyard,” said Arike Ogunbowale, guardian of the Dallas Wings. “There is always a countdown for everything.”

“Just wandering around the house in the Little Tikes circle,” said former Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs. “You always practice, you mess up, you pretend to be in those moments.”

For most, the fantasy ends here. In high-level basketball, few people know the emotions, pressure, and risks of attempting a decisive shot when the bell approaches zero and everything is at stake – winning a casual game, advancing in a college tournament, winning a final against the pros, even clinching a championship.

As the NBA finals between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks loomed, each team was equipped with players capable of critical strikes at the end of close games, including Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton.

Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton provided arguably the most memorable moment of these playoffs with his game-winning alley-oop. dunk Against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

These moments of grasping come in magical, different forms. Sometimes they come from star players. Other times, roleplayers are ready to shine in the moment. Some are well-rehearsed games after a timeout, or, in the case of Suggs, long-distance moves in the chaos before UCLA put its defenses in the Final Four of this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

The unifying is that they are always at the peak of the tension of a game.

“Whether it was me, a member of my team, or someone from UCLA, I think that was the only way this game ended,” Suggs said. “We shoot half-court players before every game and I didn’t have the best track record, to be honest. I hit normal. I didn’t want to do anything extra, something out of the ordinary.

“you see with video, I put it in good form. I removed my form and gave it a shot. In situations like these, that’s really all you can do.”

Too many moments to list, but consider Robert Horry Damian Lillard vs. Sacramento Kings Houston rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, Michael Jordan suspended in mid-air above Craig Ehlo, or Teresa Air Spoon In the 1999 WNBA final.

Ogunbowale has been a multiple game winner during a college career at Notre Dame. He said he knew the emotions he felt as he watched Suggs jump onto the scorer’s table after his shot against UCLA.

“I just saw it on his face, excitement,” Ogunbowale said. “This is a situation that people only dream of. His shot was great. Players like him – I don’t care how many there are, how long it is – that’s how a great player gets the ball in their hands. My percentage is always 80 percent, 85 percent in these kinds of games, because that’s competitiveness, the will to win. It’s hard for them to miss when they know they have to make the shot.”

Not always. To score a match-winning or clutch kick, a player must be willing to live with the shortcomings.

“It’s probably Game 7 that will always bother me,” said Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs after the 2013 NBA finals when he missed a game-changing shot and a field goal against Miami. Temperature.

Despite all his incredible moments, Stephen Curry missed a potential 3-pointer in the final seconds of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA finals that would cement Golden State’s best team standings.

“Jordan, Kobe, some greats, the people with the most game wins, they’ve missed more than they’ve won,” said Jordan Poole, who shot Golden State’s winning shot against the New Orleans Pelicans this season. “But a lot of people don’t talk about what they missed. And when you’re in that moment and it comes down to that wire, you tell yourself that there are other things in the game that get you to this point, that determines whether you win or lose. The final game may or may not be enforced.”

Oftentimes, the joy came only after disappointment.

San Antonio rebounded to win the finals in a rematch with Miami a year after Duncan missed shots. Golden State won championships in 2017 and 2018.

“What happened last year has definitely helped our driving,” Duncan said in 2014.

And Bryce Drew, perhaps best known for his 23-yard win over #13 Valparaiso defeating #4 Mississippi in the first round of the 1998 NCAA men’s tournament, remembers that season mostly with a failed game. regular season.

“We couldn’t complete the pass to even get to the last shot,” said Drew, now the Grand Canyon’s men’s basketball coach. “After that game, we changed the staff and put a smaller guy to be the setter who was faster and could get there quicker.”

Similarly, Alana Beard vividly remembered that when she was young, she missed a potential match-winning chance from the right corner of the court.

He had rehearsed the shot a thousand times when he played for the Los Angeles Sparks in the 2016 WNBA finals against the Minnesota Lynx. “Corner 3 became my theme because of a shot I missed in high school,” Beard said. “I mean, it blew my mind that it went into a complete loop at that moment.”

Circle 1. Closed at the end of the game. Beard went into the corner as guard Chelsea Gray touched the ball. He watched Candace Parker walk away from the ball to give Gray room to work, Nneka Ogwumike slammed into a screen that would send her to a pick-and-roll, and Kristi Toliver lost her balance.

Beard braced himself for defender Maya Moore to double down on Parker.

“You see everybody sucking,” Beard said. It looked like Gray had nowhere to go, and Ogwumike couldn’t roll over.

“And Chelsea Gray did what she always did, and it was to do the right game of basketball that was a kick for me, someone who was unexpected to take that final shot,” Beard said.

Him shot Just before time ran out, the Sparks defeated defending champion Lynx 78-76. Sparks won all-five series and championships in five games.

Poole has yet to make it to the NBA finals, but he’s learning the art of dramatic shooting.

While Poole was at university in 2018, 3 pointer bell He pushed Michigan to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in Houston. In May, Poole laid a layup against the Pelicans and sealed the win with free throws.

“These are the things you work on, the shots that feel most comfortable,” Poole said. “And these are the ones I never felt pressured. You’re trying to catch a beat in the second quarter. You’re trying to catch a clue. You want to go back to the game, finish a run. In terms of normal basketball situation, you may feel a little more pressure, but at the end of the game I don’t feel it at all.”

That’s how Ogunbowale felt. Back-to-back winners during Notre Dame’s 2018 championship chase closed a run that made history.

In the Final Four against Connecticut, Ogunbowale felt empowered when his coach, Muffet McGraw, suggested he make a play, pass, or shoot in time to examine the defense. “When I got the ball, it was like 10 eyes looking straight at me and I had to do something,” he said.

Him shot Just inside the 3-pointer, Notre Dame took the win in overtime. Followed by an unstable, loud arc championship kick against the State of Mississippi.

“That’s the whole point of doing sports,” Ogunbowale said. “If you want to be the champion in the last game of the season and win with your team that way, it’s a feeling that cannot be compared or described.”

Beard left football in 2020. Like many, he watches games in the hopes that the players will play at the most important time.

“I don’t want to speak for every fan, but it’s a bit of a disappointment when the shot doesn’t come in,” Beard said. “But that’s what makes principal photography so much more exciting. Because athletes are under a lot of pressure to make real-time decisions. It is a natural movement that you feel as an athlete. You love to see moments. You like to see big shots.”


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