LeBron James dispelled the myth that he wasn’t clutch as he hit several game-winning shots for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season.
His incredible buzzer-beater in an overtime win over the Minnesota Timberwolves was voted as the best clutch shot of the year at the NBA Awards.
The King continued his late-game exploits by sinking both the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors with game winners in the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Lakers are hoping LeBron can keep delivering in the clutch in the purple and gold uniform this season.
For the first time since Kobe Bryant retired in 2016, they have a superstar to rely on in the closing stages of games.
Head coach Luke Walton has made it clear that he’ll be running plays for James and put the ball in his hands when it comes to crunch time.
“When you get to the end of a game, that is what max players make max money for, that is what they do,” Walton said, per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.
“I can comfortably say that LeBron will be our first option at the end of ballgames if it’s close.”
Lack of experience
According to ESPN Stats and Info, since Bryant’s retirement, the Lakers have recorded just one buzzer-beater – by D’Angelo Russell against the Timberwolves in 2017.
Per Youngmisuk, L.A. went 3-of-20 on game-tying or game-winning attempts last season in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime and 2-of-14 in the final five seconds.
Brandon Ingram hit the most notable shot as he sunk a game-winner against the Philadelphia 76ers on the road.
Walton allowed his young players such as Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma to have multiple opportunities to make plays in clutch moments last year.
But he’ll be happy to call on LeBron when he knows the team needs a basket.
“It will be very nice to have LeBron at the end of ballgames,” Walton said. “But it is good for Brandon and these guys to get these opportunities the past couple of years and taking big shots and making or missing.
“It is the old famous [Michael] Jordan question, right? All the shots he missed is what has made him so great and made him work harder.
“Now, we have one of the best closers in the game, but we also have guys who have been in that situation over the last couple of years.”
Having the best player in the world as your go-to man in the final seconds is certainly a nice luxury for the Lakers to have.