For more than a decade, the correct answer to that question was Kobe Bryant. Like Derek Jeter in baseball, Bryant had simply come through too often in the clutch to deny that he had a knack for that sort of thing. As Bryant closes in on his 35th birthday, though, does he still belong atop the list of the elite?
A new generation of stars has risen up to challenge Bryant’s stature, and while the Lakers guard may no longer be the best player in the NBA, he still holds some claim to being the game’s top closer. Now that LeBron James has gotten the championship monkey off his back and Kevin Durant has made it to his first NBA Finals, Bryant has at least two challengers to his title.
It takes more than just being a supremely talented player to be a great closer, though. Some of the NBA’s best players are not the best closers — and some of the best closers would not make the usual list of the best players.