- Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- LeBron James was dismissive Wednesday about a poll in this week's ESPN the Magazine where 26 of his NBA peers said they wouldn't want him taking the final shot in a game where Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were also on the floor.
"Players in our league said that? All right," James said after the Miami Heat went through a workout in New York City before their exhibition game Thursday in Brooklyn.
"I really don't care what 30 guys in our league say about me taking the last shot. I've got a few game winners in my career. I don't let teams hang around too much for the last shot. I don't think the definition of clutch is who takes the last shot. There are guys who come through for their teams in different circumstances."
James received decidedly mixed reviews from the players, all of whom were granted anonymity, in the poll conducted for the magazine's NBA preview issue.
Asked which player they wanted to take the last shot with the clock winding down and a game on the line, 88 percent of the players picked Jordan, with Bryant getting the other 12 percent.
The question cuts to the heart of something that's irked James in recent years. He's fought a perception that he is not a clutch player, especially in the wake of poor showings in his first two appearances in the NBA Finals.
In last season's playoffs, James made a game winner to win Game 1 of the Eastern conference finals against the Indiana Pacers. Then in the definitive Game 7 of the Finals, a game in which he scored 37 points, James made perhaps the biggest clutch shot of his life when he made a 19-foot jumper with 27 seconds to play and the Heat up just two points on the San Antonio Spurs.
"That was a big shot but people forget about it because I made it," James said. "And I got the steal on the way down on the next play, too."
According to ESPN Stats & Information, James actually is a better shooter from the field than Bryant on game-tying or go-ahead field goals in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime of postseason games. He checks in at 41.2 percent (7-for-17), while Bryant is at 25 percent (7-for-28). Jordan rules that stat, though, at 50 percent (9-for-18).
Still, it seems that despite winning the past two Finals MVP Awards, James has a way to go to earn respect among some peers.
"I'd want the ball in LeBron's hands at the end of the game, but I'd want him to pass to Kobe or Jordan for the last shot," an Eastern Conference guard told ESPN the Magazine. "And don't forget, LeBron is not a great free throw shooter, either."
James will be the first to point out that he's far from perfect in pressure situations. He also said he would probably rank teammate Ray Allen, who hit a huge clutch 3-pointer in Game 6 of last June's Finals to rescue the Heat's season, as one of the top choices in the league in taking a final shot. But no matter the perception, he said he always wants to be put in that position.
"I want the ball in my hands, I'm going to make the play that's best for our team," James said. "I'm not always going to succeed obviously. I had a few turnovers in Game 6 (of the Finals) and I had a few turnovers in Game 2 (on the conference finals) against Indiana but I want it in my hands."
LeBron James was dismissive Wednesday about a poll in this week’s ESPN the Magazine where 26 of his NBA peers said they wouldn’t want him taking the final shot in a game where Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were also on the floor.