NBA, The NBA's 30 Best Go-To Players / Oct 29, 2009 / 9:00 am

The NBA’s 30 best go-to players (#1: Kobe Bryant)

Kobe Bryant

Who do you want your offense to run through with everything on the line? Counting down 30th to 1st (one per team), I’ve ranked the League’s go-to guys…

*** *** ***

#1: KOBE BRYANT, L.A. Lakers

Grown-man fear is a complicated thing. It’s not a pure phobia, nor the fear one experiences through startled shock, nor is it a fear that cripples, like that of failure or open spaces.

Grown-man fear is a healthy fear, a rational and smart fear. Born out of respect, it grows bigger and stronger when fueled by mythology or previous experience. It’s the feeling you’d have if a mafia-looking cat asked you to sit in the front seat, or if you felt handcuffs on your wrists in a foreign country.

No active basketball player inspires grown-man fear quite like Kobe Bryant. Defenders assigned to guard him feel it, as well as teammates who don’t do their jobs. Then on another level, you have Kobe’s NBA peers who sometimes seem fearful of even mentioning anyone but Kobe when asked to identify the League’s best overall player or its most dangerous clutch performer. I’ve personally asked those questions, and seen several players spit out “Kobe” as if it’s reflex. And from some of them I caught a sense that although they didn’t truly believe that answer, that’s what they were sticking to. Anything else could create a reason for Kobe to single them out for a 50-point statement game or a one-time baptism on the wrong end of a highlight.

Look at Kobe’s recent run with Team USA. Playing with the game’s elite go-to players, from Dwyane Wade to LeBron James to Carmelo Anthony, Kobe wasn’t just the first option in crunch time — he was unquestionably the first option in crunch time. Had Coach K drawn up a play for a cold-shooting Kobe in a crucial situation, the likelihood of one of his teammates steeping in to say, “Nah, Coach, I’M taking this shot!” was unnaturally low.

Going by the numbers, though, there are other players who could hold this No. 1 spot. While Kobe did lead the NBA in “clutch time” scoring last season with 56.7 points per 48 minutes, his 45 percent field-goal shooting in the clutch was well below LeBron, Carmelo and Vince Carter, among others. Wade and Danny Granger were more prolific fourth-quarter scorers, while Chris Paul and Brandon Roy shot significantly higher percentages in the fourth. Kobe’s clutch time and fourth-quarter assist numbers were relatively low considering he is the Lakers’ primary playmaker, and according to 82games.com, Kobe has made only 25 percent of his game-winning shot opportunities over the last six years; Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzki and Allen Iverson trump him in either their number of game-winners, or have hit a higher percentage of their daggers. Kobe has gone head-to-head with Paul Pierce, Chauncey Billups, Steve Nash and Tim Duncan on the NBA’s biggest postseason stages, and lost. Sometimes decisively.

But then every time I ask, “Who do I least want to see coming out of the other huddle when my team needs a defensive stop?” … Kobe is always the first answer.

Do you have to believe the media machine that has decided Kobe’s “will to win” is greater than anyone else’s? That he’s so much more competitive than everyone else? That his refusal to lose somehow has an impact on every other player on the court? No. But do you remember that Nike commercial a few years ago where the skinny kid on a dirt road somewhere is listing any and everyone that he’d beat in a race?

“Anybody, anywhere, any time. Put ‘em next to me, you say ‘Go,’ I’ll race ‘em. And I’ll beat ‘em.”

The kid’s name was Myzel Robinson, but his swagger was definitively Kobe Bryant. And maybe he doesn’t always win. Maybe he doesn’t always make the shot or make the right decision. But if you’re on the other side, you’ve always got that grown-man fear that he will, and it nags at you more in Kobe’s case than in the case of anyone else playing this game.

That’s the story.

*** *** ***

2. Dwyane Wade
3. Paul Pierce
4. LeBron James
5. Tim Duncan
6. Dirk Nowitzki
7. Brandon Roy
8. Carmelo Anthony
9. Chris Paul
10. Deron Williams
11. Vince Carter
12. Joe Johnson
13. Danny Granger
14. Steve Nash
15. Kevin Durant
16. Gilbert Arenas
17. Derrick Rose
18. Chris Bosh
19. Andre Iguodala
20. Tracy McGrady
21. Baron Davis
22. Michael Redd
23. Devin Harris
24. Kevin Martin
25. Al Jefferson
26. O.J. Mayo
27. Stephen Jackson
28. Nate Robinson
29. Boris Diaw
30. Rip Hamilton

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  • JStyle

    Kobe is NOT clutch, hitting game winners means you are clutch, making the right read, the right pass, etc. Kobe has only one things on his mind and that’s shoot at the end game even though he’s tripled team and then looks surprised when the shot clangs off the rim. Don’t believe the “Clutch” label. Extremely skilled, extremely talended, but not “clutch”. Ask James Posey, lol.

  • control

    Can’t argue with this one. It was obvious Kobe would be here after reading the first paragraph of #30.

    Kobe, when he’s locked in, will just murder a team. He DOES have his off days though…but Kobe nut buddies will never acknowledge that, ever.

  • ToAn

    somewhere in the dark THE MACHINE is reading this and prepares to overtake Kobe as the No. 1 option…you wait

  • easygoing

    1st thats right its the BLACK MAMBA at #1

  • Josh Tha roc

    Wow. I thought A.Morrison was a lock here.

  • Krayzie

    Personal confidence doesnt mean shit compared to numbers. If Kobe has hit only 25% of his game winners but thinks he can hit all of them or beat anybody at anytime, doesnt make it true! Dime, thats bullshit reasoning, get off his cock! Gimme DWade anyday!

  • karizmatic

    Good write up. But as you said and a lot of people know the stats don’t back Kobe up. It’s a lot of hype and it doesn’t hurt that everyone wants him to be Jordan and puts that image on him. Four rings don’t hurt either. We all knew number one would be Kobe, but he probably really isn’t number one, it’ll be interesting what Kobe’s reaction is the first time someone decides to actually say it. Paul Pierce has already gone head up with him and won….decisively.

  • ejay

    its not sun yue? the magic johnson of china? damnn

  • j

    chauncy should have been on this list somewhere…

  • Roman

    karizmatic says: There is no hype surrounding Kobe- You need to focus on Lehype- that’s where the hype is. King of what- losing!!!!!!!!!!

  • bdk23


  • Citizen B

    When he didnt have any help, he couldn’t even make the playoffs…..Not like D.Wade.

  • Rizwan

    @ Citizen B

    The west was crazy difficult to get into the postseason with. Example, last year my Suns missed the playoffs but would have been 5th seed. So to say he didnt make the playoffs is true but also kinda of a moot point. the list is about the quality of a player when his team needs him and no one can deny Kobe or anyone else on this list performs when needed. Kobe is just been doing it for that much longer and with more success.

  • A.R.

    @ Citizen B

    Please he missed the playoffs one time and he was hurt sorta like hmmm…D.Wade! Not to mention Wade has FAR more help than Kobe did 05-07. Gimme a old beat down J.Oneal over Kwame Clown any day!

  • Rizwan

    thats 5th seed in the east.

  • Rizwan

    @ karizmatic

    If Kobe was on his game and PP is on his game, you’re telling me you or anyone else would take PP?

  • kevin

    If Lebroom is King, then KOBE is Emperor,Ceasar or some shit like that which is better than being a King.

  • http://bt.davka.info/ SparkyJay23

    well when thay were both on their games LA got blown the fuck out and fuckin quit on the court….

    But perception meant Kobe was always gonna be no1 on this list

  • Ian

    i like the comments so some reasoning from normal fans not the normal nut huggers. hes number 1 why not? but clutch well im on the style and krazyie.

  • http://www.petsocietyhelp.com Pet Society Help

    This has been a hard week for me, just found out Dan Dickau and Rod Benson got cut.

  • K Dizzle

    nobody else coulda or shoulda been in the 1 spot….
    right now

    When “81”‘s on his game, no player better, not Wade, not Lebron, not Melo, not Pierce
    To say anything else, is delusional

  • KB24
  • shake&bake

    He’s #1 for me because if I have to choose someone to have the ball in the last possesion, I’m picking Kobe over anyone in the league.

  • Duke

    This article makes every other NBA player out to be bitches. Seriously.

  • Gastro

    “His 45 percent field-goal shooting in the clutch was well BELOW LeBron, Carmelo and Vince Carter, among others.”

    “Kobe’s clutch time and fourth-quarter assist numbers were relatively LOW considering he is the Lakers’ primary playmaker, and according to 82games.com, Kobe has made ONLY 25 percent of his game-winning shot opportunities over the last six years”

    “Kobe has gone head-to-head with Paul Pierce, Chauncey Billups, Steve Nash and Tim Duncan on the NBA’s biggest postseason stages, and LOST. Sometimes decisively.”

    Stupidest explanation ever. How does the article defend the fact that he’s number one? Numbers don’t lie, 45% in the clutch is low. Kobe’s great, I’m not a Kobe-hater, but come on, he’s not even top 3 in the clutch.

  • douglas copeland

    and GOD said there will be haters…and ther were…Jstyle,Gastro yall are losers….dime you guys are loaded with back handed compliments for Kobe I hope he stalls you guys out on the next interview you try to chase him down…aint no love for greatness around here…fantastic rank a guy #1 and than pull out all the stats to support why other people should be ranked a head of him….yall are ridiculous and this type of journalism is why I’ve stop purchasing dime mag.

  • douglas copeland

    shake&bake exactly forget stats i’m going with whats know this cat embraces the big shot and he usually comes out on the better end.

  • Ian

    ” he usually comes out on the better end.”
    im not even going to bash today (im to tired and yes he deserves the 1 spot) but he comes out on the better end 1 out of 4 times man so i dont know why the la fans think hes a sure thing.

  • karizmatic

    @ Rizwan,

    If we’re talking a whole game I’d much rather have Kobe, or even if we’re talking last second shot. But with 5 minutes left in the fourth or something like that? I’d probably take Wade or Pierce. The key here is what is your measure of “clutch” I’m not hating on Kobe I think he’s the second best player in the league and if you want to call him the best I’m not going to fight you on that. But I will always point out he hasn’t been exactly the greatest performer when it comes to that last 5 minutes of the fourth quarter we’re talking about. His “greatest closer in the game title” is a bit of hype. I think Wade might actually be the greatest closer in the game.

  • douglas copeland

    karizmatic,ian yall cats are funny stop reading cliff notes(i.e stats)and start reading the book(watch the whole game)some things can’t be put into stats.Kobe has always “you swing big and sometimes you miss big” failure is a part of success.MJ knew this too. Pierce & D-Wade?please?if this were the case why does kobe win in this category every years when Sports Illustrated polls the league, not fans, NBA Coaches,GM’s and players vote and Kobe always receives over 90% of the votes…Ian and karizmatic do you know something that nba players and coaches don’t?…Ochocinco says”child please!”

  • Ian

    what u explained is one thing but game winners CAN be accounted for and he hits one of 4 and shoots 45% in clutch situations so that isnt usually coming out on the better end. you said stop reading stats?? man this is like sayin that a player that avgs 10ppg scores more because you think u saw him score more.

  • Ian

    btw im not sayin that a player that avgs 20ppg is better than one that avgs 10ppg cuz thats retarded but percentages say whos the more efficient scorer.

  • Ian

    btw u mentioned that the gms picked kobe as the most clutch remember those same gms picked lebron to start a team over kobe. what do you think of that one?

  • Ian

    but wait this is my fav pick on the gms part they said td is the best pf in the game but ranked him 3rd in the international players list after gasol and dirk who guess what are power forwards. isnt that retarded?

  • Blazermark

    Kobe plus bad officiating= strong force! Hard to beat kobe and his crew of refs!

  • douglas copeland

    (blog#33)i think that’s true Ian Bron is younger they asked them if they had a choice now?Kobe is older…listen Ian what i’m saying is i’m always going to go with the opinion of guys who play and coach this game at the professional level.I’m never going to pick a fan’s opinion over these guys.Fans have voted Yao in to the all-star game since he was a rookie?There opinions are all heart no intelligence.

    Blazermark?are you serious?Kobe gets calls? I’ve been watching this game for 20 plus years and i’ve never seen a player of his magnitude so poorly officiated….by comparison are you saying this cat gets more calls than D.Wade & Bron?Two young buck whose resume can’t compare to Kobe’s at this juncture in his career. If you say yes I know you probably don’t watch basketball.D.Wade & Bron get the most love by officials Kobes not even on the list he gets beat up every game and might get 10 free-throws on a good night.

  • douglas copeland

    (blog#34)that is TD is the best power forward in the game Dirk & Pau aren’t close.

  • Ian

    what im always sayin is that u should pick one because u think hes the best not because some other guys (gms that usually suck ass i mean how guys have ruined teams?) pick one. im not tryin to persuade you to change your pick im just making my pick.

    now u see on the allstar game thing i dont mind that people vote for their favs. americans are the only ones that apparently have a problem with it but u guys dont understand the nba is almost allamerican so u guys are represented no matter what.so when some dude (horford) with some talent that comes from a country that has 3 nba players can make the allstar team u bet we are voting for him over guys like kg or howard in the east that prob deserve it more. so the yao pick i dont have a problem with it who they want to see besides its not like they are voting yi (its coming) into the starting 5. if u lived in canada you would prob vote for daniel negreanu over kobe for the sg spot.

  • Ian

    the td thing yeah most people would agree on that one but heres one example were the gms fucked up the voting they placed him 3rd on the international list under pau and dirk and 1st in the pf list over dirk and pau. the fuck is that?

  • Claw

    I’ve seen everything, Kobe doesn’t get calls, seriously? Maybe the reason he doesn’t get to the line more is because he takes jumpers instead of taking it to the hole like back in the day. That’s not a knock on Kobe that’s reality.

    His FG% is 25% in game winning shots, he doesn’t pass the ball, and has the lowest FG% in the fourth. If you don’t put a name to those stats there is no way he’s #1. Looking at stats I’d give it to Melo, shooting over 50% in game winning shots.

    Game is on the line and I got a guy that’ll make half of the shots or only a fourth I think I’m taking the 50% shooter. Just me, but Kobe is in LA LA Land, so maybe that equals it all out.

  • Blazermark

    (@ 36) You may be in serious need of glasses, or maybe just a huge laker homer. Kobe deserves many more fouls than he is given. He hacks at people all the time, and NO call most of the time… He gets a few to keep it looking on the level, but that hacker should foul out all the time the way he swipes at people’s arms. Kobe is one of stern’s boys. I think he is way over rated and always has been.

  • douglas copeland

    ian NBA players vote on this stuff too.

  • douglas copeland

    Kobe is one of stern’s boys?apparently you didn’t hear the david stern interview where he’s worshipping bron and completely disregaurding the guy who just won the ship.I noticed none of you answered the question, does Kobe get more calls than wade or bron because that would blow holes in your arguement.

  • chebs

    ***i’d reasonably and honestly have stephon marbury on this list before, drum roll please..BORIS DIAW ?!?!

  • Ian

    doug i was going back on a few of this polls and 3 years ago lebron was still the choice to build the team around and 4 seasons ago and back td was the best player (i remember u sayin no one ever considered td the best in the league even in his prime) now do you still agree with the gm polls?

    example this was just back in 06
    do you agree with them still?

    youll find the picks for best of the decade also and kobe came in 3rd.

    so you gotta take a side they get their picks right or dont they? me personally i dont mind a kobe 1 this year or last but before that id go with td and shaq as best players again thats just me.

  • LakeShow84


    And notice all the moves.. Post-ups, drives, turn and shoots, fadeaways, etc etc.. NASTY..

    My only arguement is this.. As much as you guys might disagree or think Kobe aint shit if the man hits a game winner or a dagger on ur team all you do is shake your head and say “fuckin Kobe”.. it aint “lucky shot’, “one in a million”, its “fucking Kobe”..

    i bet 90% of you hate because youve witnessed Kobe shit on ur team and try to remember when it happened.. what did you say??

    “Fucking Kobe”

  • LakeShow84

    Lol 1 more thing..

    have any of you thought about the fact that Kobe has been in the league for 12 years?? And hes been taking those shots since his career starteD??

    So if ive been in the league for 12 years and ive shot 180 game winners and made say 50..

    Wouldnt i be more clutch than the youngster whos taken only 30 but hit 14 even though his percentage is better??

    How can you say someone who has hit 13 game winners is clutcher than someone who has hit 50?? aint that about a bitch..

    Thats why some of your guys’s percentage games crack me up..

  • LakeShow84

    But all hail 82games.com!!

  • Ian

    here are all the surveys together

    they rather start a franchise with second year lebron over 25 year old kobe but not over td.
    last season was the first time kobe finished in the top 2 to start a franchise now u get the last shot one he always wins that one.

  • Ian

    no actually when he hits those i dont call it luck cuz hes a superstar now when fisher hits them is another thing.

    now on the time frame you are wrong 14 game winners is a large enough sample. this isnt 1 for 2 we are talking about.

    so if a baseball players hits 270 in the 9th u rather have him than a dude thats been playin half the time and bats 420? hell no.

    if iverson plays till hes 50 and breaks the jabbar record hes a better scorer than jabbar? hell no.

    percentages (in a sizeable sample are fine).

    would u rather have pujols or arod hit for your team with the game on the line? pujols right and he has half the stats arod has over his career. who would you want taking the game winning three kerr or ellis?? kerr right but who has made more? percentages man percentages.

  • Ian

    simpler im a better three point shooter than u because i take more shots? lake this is the type of bs your proving with your comments. hell even worse if kobe is taking those types of shots over his 12 year career and doesnt realize hes hitting for 25%.

  • Ian

    paranormal activity sucks sorry off topic

  • douglas copeland

    blog#46 exactly Lakeshow that’s really what the hate is about,Kobe crushing there childhood dreams time and time again.

  • Claw

    Lakeshow and Ian get awards for most posts in a row with no responses to them, nice.

    Kobe took 56 shot 25%, Vinsanity took 51 shot 31%, Lebron took 50 shot 34%, average for the league is 30%. Now Melo did take only 27 to hit 48%. Not like that is only a couple of tries. Stats are numbers, you can bitch about it all you like, but they are what they are.

    I bet Lakeshow you lose bank at the blackjack table, you probably take a hit with the dealer showing a 6.

  • Ian

    anything new to add to the conversation? didnt i already post that the sample size with the others was large enough? thank u professor.

    my first post was with doug and when that one was posted lakeshow posted his so i couldnt answer something before it was asked or can u?

  • dreams

    it’s all Kobe, all the haters can hate and cheer for LeHYPE james

  • UncheckedAggression

    Regardless of how you folks feel about whether Kobe is the most clutch or not, will you please stop acting like he just took down the championship on his own? This Lakers team is ridiculous.. and should have won by all accounts. Frankly, they should win this year as well. But we’ll see how it goes.

  • futurestar

    no question here.. everyone gasps for air when kobe has the ball with 3 seconds to go and the game is tied.

  • K Dizzle

    @ Lakeshow’s #47 post

    Great post

    Point blank

  • kowtz

    The only reason why Kobe has a 25% shooting on dagger’s is because he’s the only guy who warrants a triple team… not even dwade gets triple teamed…

  • Jacqueline Mitchell

    I guess people will always agree to disagree on Kobe Bryant.

  • LakeShow84

    @ The Claw..

    Whomp Whomp Whomp..

  • karizmatic

    Quite frankly I wasn’t making any of my statements based on state necessarily. I look at stats and I watch the game and when it comes down to it in the last five minutes of the fourth I would probably take D Wade. Kobe’s a great player but he’s not what people think he is. Just my opinion. As far as player of the decade? That is definitely either Shaq or Tim Duncan.

  • Claw

    @Ian you brought up sample sizes of 14, not around 50 which is where the three I brought up are at and around Kobe’s number, big difference.

    @Lakeshow, no prize for most posts

    Don’t diss Lebron because he goes to the hoop, he’ll either make a high percentage shot and if I listen to all the hype he’ll always get the call.

    Why are three guys on Kobe? He doesn’t pass the rock! That’s why you don’t see others getting double and triple because they find the open man.

    MJ made Kerr and Paxson relivant in the playoffs, Kobe doesn’t do that.

  • KDizzle

    @ Claw

    here we go again with the hater drivel.

    Once again, let’s refresh:

    This past NBA Finals, Kobe comes down on the break in the clinchin game, flips a behind the back to Gasol for a dunk at crunchtime. Maybe you saw Kobe continuously kickin out to Ariza for open 3s and helpin dude get paid this summer. Let’s go back a game, Kobe in the post, Jameer doubles off DFish, Kobe kicks out, Jameer eats an elbow and Fish cashes in another championship 3.
    Please don’t post shit like “Jordan made Kerr and Paxson
    relevant. Kobe doesn’t do that” if you can’t even remember the Finals just 5 months ago

    That’s lovely that Lebron can get to the hoop whenever, but the fact that he’s not the basketball player skillwise that Kobe, Pierce, Wade and Melo are and the fact that his free throw shootin is suspect means he’s not feared at crunchtime like even “lesser players” like Chauncey, Manu or Dirk.

    “Kobe doesn’t pass the rock?”….Please go watch some Finals games

  • QazQami

    kobe s not clutch.. kobe forces most of his shots and passes.. i reconize he is ULTRA talented but he takes too many bad decisions to be CLUTCH !… like bronbron, DWade, CP3, or even TP can be.

    this list is just made for kobe lovers by kobe lovers .. but, i mean…



    good job OP u made my day ^^

  • RobertGingebreadman

    Are U Fucking Serious Tim Duncan,Bradon Roy,and Dirk Before Melo! Wowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!This is the Shitty List I’ve Ever Seen. Where Is Chauncey Billiups, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, BEN GORDON. I mean really the list couldn’t get any worser. Boris Diaw, Nate Robinson and Oj Mayo Shouldn’t even be on this list.

    But I would put Wade Over Kobe anyday In Clutch performances.And KOBE is not the best go-to player. He Should Be at least #5

  • Nathan

    Where is Ben Gordon on this list? Did you not watch the playoffs last year?

  • http://google Amp

    I agree with robert this is the shit list. I can’t belive this. Just because a player score 81 points. I’m not a hater. But king james or kobe. I’m going with king james 100 %. This guy can do it when he won’t 2 no matter who on him. But kobe. Watch when they meet up how kobe play when he’s face king james. That’s shows who 1 is. And the list leaves a lot of good player out. But that’s what who ever think.

  • http://google Amp

    Y’all can do better then that.

  • Dave

    Melo should have been higher. Maybe even number one. And I’m in no way a Nuggets fan.

    Also, no Turkoglu?

  • Delonte13

    I don’t even remember the last time Kobe hit a game-winner. And if it’s the playoffs you’re talking about, he’s only hit 2 in his entire career. #1 Clutch is an overstatement to say the least.

  • LAKEshowchamps2010

    gingerbread boy on post #67 starts out with some good points such as melo being rated too low and billups and ben gordon and ray allen being dissed for weaker clutch players like mayo, nate robinson and boris diaw (WTF?)
    but then he shows how hate turns people into just plain ignorant asholes.
    with this quote
    “But I would put Wade Over Kobe anyday In Clutch performances.And KOBE is not the best go-to player. He Should Be at least #5″

    you gingerbread boy

  • Joe

    Melo should be higher on the list, no way hes under Roy and now days who knows about Duncan’s clutch.

  • http://dimemag.com 40 Bars

    The people who doubt the list r wrong, THIS IS ABOUT THE BEST GO TO PLAYERS, Not the most clutch list, but i still dont know why diaw is here.