Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Tuesday, April 2, 2002
Updated: March 27, 10:59 AM ET
All-time clutch performers

Page 2 staff

Last week, Page 2 ran its list of all-time choke artists. This week, we are taking the opposite tack, and running our list of all-time clutch performers.

Michael Jordan
He probably won't make the Finals again, but Michael Jordan's been clutch for his new team.
Take a look at our list, then read how our readers ranked their list of the best clutch players or teams of all-time. Then be sure to vote in the poll to crown the all-time best clutch performer.

1. Michael Jordan
Who else? Unbeaten (6-0) in NBA Finals, including a steal and series-winning shot against Utah in final few seconds in 1998. Too many buzzer-beaters to count. And don't forget the NCAA title-winning shot against Georgetown in 1982 when he was just a freshman at North Carolina.

2. Joe Montana
Unbeaten (4-0) under the intense pressure of the Super Bowl spotlight, which gives him the slightest of edges over ...

3 John Elway
... master of the fourth-quarter comeback, most notably, "The Drive."

4. The Boston Celtics of Bill Russell and Red Auerbach
Won the NBA championship 11 times in 13 years. Need we say more?.

Mark Messier
Mark Messier defined clutch hockey in the 1980s and early '90s.
5. Jack Nicklaus
Played his best golf when it mattered most -- in the majors, of which he won a record 18.

6. Magic Johnson
Five NBA titles, though two stand out -- 1987, when he beat Boston in Game 4 with a last-second baby hook; and 1980, his rookie season, when he filled in for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center (no mean feat for a point guard) and scored 42 as the Lakers whipped Philadelphia 123-107 in Game 6.

7. Mark Messier
Messier led the Edmonton Oilers to their first Stanley Cup in 1984, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, and captained the Oilers to their fifth Cup (and only one without Wayne Gretzky) in 1990. But his reputation for clutch performance was cemented with the Rangers in the 1994 Eastern Conference finals. Down three games to two and facing the Devils on their home ice, the Captain followed up his guarantee for victory by scoring a hat trick in Game 6. The Blueshirts won the series in overtime in Game 7, and went on to beat the Canucks in seven games in the finals to end a 54-year curse.

8. Sandy Koufax
For six remarkable years, he totally dominated the game, winning three Cy Young Awards (during an era when they only gave out one for the best pitcher in the majors, not one for each league) and winning virtually every key game he pitched for the Dodgers ... this despite the fact the Dodgers were one of the worst-hitting teams in baseball during this period.

Larry Bird
Larry Bird came through on offense and defense for the Celtics.
9. Larry Bird
The "hick from French Lick" led the Celtics to three NBA titles in the '80s. Besides numerous buzzer-beaters, Bird's biggest clutch play was a steal of an Isiah Thomas inbounds pass in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. With the Detroit Pistons leading by one and five seconds from taking a 3-2 lead, Bird came out of nowhere, and then fed a cutting Dennis Johnson for the winning basket.

10. 1985 Villanova men's basketball team
Needed to play a near-perfect to beat mighty Georgetown in the NCAA finals ... and that's just what they did, shooting 78.6 percent for the game to pull off a shocking 66-64 upset.

Also receiving votes:
  • Tiger Woods
  • Mariano Rivera
  • Derek Jeter
  • Reggie Jackson
  • Terry Bradshaw
  • Maurice "The Rocket" Richard
  • UCLA men's basketball team under John Wooden
  • Jerry "Mr. Clutch" West