There he is, with the ball in his hands. The Miami Heat lead the Chicago Bulls, 83-81, with just 11.4 seconds remaining on the clock. LeBron James stands at the free throw line after drawing a whistle against Luol Deng. The two-time NBA MVP has two shots coming his way. If the 75% career free throw shooter hits both freebies then the Bulls would need an LJ-esque four-point play just to force overtime. If he drains both then the Heat very likely celebrate shortly thereafter, pulling even closer to the Bulls for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
James shoots the first free throw. The effort is off target and the ball bounces back toward him off the back iron. The second attempt is true. But the three-point deficit is small enough for Bulls reserve guard C.J. Watson to close with one shot. Tie game. Free basketball. Overtime.
Soon enough #PlayersMoreClutchThanLeBron is climbing up the list of trending terms on Twitter. Perhaps speaking to the ages of the early adopters of this hashtag, the initial responses include a surprising number of references to the 1996 movie Space Jam.
After notching 30 points in regulation, James would be held scoreless in the extra session while the two other members of Miami's Big 3 would only muster one point each. The Bulls overran the Heat in OT with a 12-2 flurry to take the win.
"It's one of the first feelings that I've had in the regular season this year," James told reporters at his locker after the game.
Despite the fact that LBJ is assembling one of the most impressive statistical seasons in basketball history, he can't seem to shake his reputation for wilting in the key moments. Even after dominating his superstar peers late in the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, James managed to make himself the goat by frittering away the game's most important possession with an errant pass. Last night agains the Bulls, it had been James' teammate Dwyane Wade who had been dominating down stretch, scoring 10 straight Miami points during the fourth quarter. Of James' 30 points scored, just 4 occurred in the last four minutes of the final 7:30 of regulation. He was scoreless in overtime.
According to the stats assembled by 82games.com, there are 16 players in the NBA (through 4/1/2012) who are more prolific clutch scorers than James. Interestingly, James' free-throw percentage drops to 68% in late-and-close situations this season. While there may not be any player as gifted and skilled as LeBron, there certainly seems to be several ballers considered more clutch. Of course, the Twitterverse also seems to think that several cartoon characters are also more clutch...
Here are some of the funniest #PlayersMoreClutchThanLeBron tweets: