The NBA's kings of crunch time

A look at which NBA players dominate the ball late in games

Originally Published: April 16, 2012
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider
Chris PaulHoward Smith/US PresswireGame-ending celebrations like this have become Chris Paul's forte.

As part of a national obsession with the construct of a basketball closer, we idolize players who take over games in crunch time and put their teams on their backs with the game on the line. This is the act of the basketball hero, saving the day one contested jumper at a time.

We want our superstars to display a flair for the dramatic. We want them to take that shot, even if it isn't the smart basketball play. We want them to be a basketball version of Mariano Rivera, taking the ball in close-and-late situations and delivering on the big stage.

Well, there's no such thing as a basketball version of Mariano Rivera. No star sits on the bench for three quarters and checks into the game in the final minutes to close the door. This is why the closer adaptation might be problematic for basketball, a sport that demands the best players to play in all four quarters.

Nonetheless, we praise our stars who try to be the idyllic Rivera and dominate the ball when "it matters most." Thanks to's new stats tool, we can see who uses his team's possessions the most during clutch situations.

So, who really takes over during crunch time?