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Thursday, April 4, 2002
Updated: April 5, 12:20 PM ET
Readers' List: Clutch performers

Page 2 staff

After Page 2 ranked its 10 best clutch players or teams in sports history, we asked you to submit your suggestions. Our readers came through with more than 450 e-mails about those who impressively came through under great pressure.

Check out the readers' list below and then vote in the poll at right to crown the biggest clutch artist of all-time.

Joe Montana
Joe Montana's signature clutch plays defined cool.
1. Joe Montana (52 letters)
Only one player actually had a nickname in tribute to his clutchness: "Joe Cool" (also sometimes known as "The Comeback Kid") defined grace under pressure in sports.

Whether it was a 92-yard drive in the final three minutes against the Bengals in Super Bowl XXII, throwing "The Catch," ripping off three touchdowns in the last few minutes against the Eagles, or beating Houston in the Cotton Bowl on his final college game at Notre Dame, Montana always delivered.

"Montana Magic" turned a joke franchise into a dynasty.
Noah Seferian
Alexandria, Va.

Super Bowl XXIII. Bengals 16, 49ers 13, 3 minutes to go, San Francisco ball on their own 8. Did anyone outside of Cincinnati doubt Joe Montana? Not for one second. And when John Taylor caught that 10-yard strike with 34 seconds to go, it was like we had already seen it before. I guess we did ... in the 1979 Cotton Bowl.
Matthew J. Talley
Portland, Ore.

Anybody cool enough to notice John Candy in the stands during the waning minutes of the Super Bowl in which your team is trailing and driving deserves to be called "clutch."
Brad Dore
Fremont, Calif.

2. Michael Jordan (46 letters)
A clutch player is one who you would give the ball to in a game-breaking situation. There is no one in the free world whom I would rather give the ball to than Michael Jordan (during his days with the Bulls, of course). He should be called "Mr Clutch," if he didn't already have so many nicknames.
Josh Scharlemann
Buffalo, Minn.

Gotta go with MJ on this one. He is insanely accurate when it comes to the clutch. Some people can't remember the last time their favorite athlete had a game-winning anything. I can't remember the last time Michael Jordan missed a game-winning shot.
Charlie Robinson
Slinger, Wis.

No debate can derail him as the ultimate clutch performer. Catchphrases you have never heard: "If I could be like Magic." "I wanna be, I wanna be, I wanna be like Jeff Gordon." "Like Rivera, if I could be like Mariano Rivera." Just doesn't have the same ring to it.
Eddie Alonzo
Alexandria, Va.

Larry Bird
Larry Bird was money.
3. Larry Bird (44 votes)
When the game was on the line, Bird delivered, period. Even in one of his last regular-season games of his career, Bird scored seven points in the final 22 seconds to send the game into overtime, where the Celtics went on to win. Bird's line? Something like 49 points, 17 boards and 12 or so assists, not to mention a steal at the end.

His back was almost too sore for him to stand, yet he delivered because the game was crucial to his team's placement in the upcoming playoffs, not to mention a Sunday afternoon statement on national television.

Then there was the Bird vs. Dominique game four years earlier, when Bird guaranteed victory after a loss in Game 6, and delivered in the fourth quarter of Game 7 on 9-for-10 shooting. 'Nique was unstoppable, but Bird was the money.

Countless times, Bird delivered when it had to be done. Only Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan come close, and when I think about Magic Johnson (who you placed higher than Bird), I cannot help but remember the two missed free throws with seconds remaining in that crucial game in 1984 Finals, followed up by Bird backing Magic down and sinking the shot in his face as the game ended there at the Forum, thus squaring the series at two games apiece, a series that the Celtics went on to win -- thanks in part to Magic's choke and Bird's heroics. ...
Gann Brewer
Memphis, Tenn.

Anyone can (and has) hit a last-second shot. But to be down by one, other team with the ball, five seconds to go and still win ... that's something special.

4. John Elway (32 letters)
I was born in 1978, so for what amounted to almost my whole life John Elway was the quarterback of the Broncos. Yes, the Broncos went through some ups and downs and, yes, we did lose three Super Bowls under his charge (with teams that had no business being there except for one reason). That said, the man single-handedly turned a small-market hick town into a professional sports oasis between Chicago and Los Angeles, and he did it by finding a way to win against all odds.

You don't realize what a comforting feeling it is to feel as though you've always got a chance to win, until you have to play with some average NFL QB. No one ever turned off a Broncos game or left Mile High Stadium early in the Elway era. He had athletic ability that put Montana and Marino to shame, and he got every ounce of victory out of it. His comebacks seem even more glorious, considering he didn't have Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Mark Duper or Mark Clayton -- he had guys such as Mark Jackson, Vance Johnson, Ricky Nattiel and Sammy Winder (how did these guys even get in the NFL?).

The icing on the cake, however, was the helicopter dive in Super Bowl XXXII. That still sends chills up my spine. His passion to win is on a par with only a guy like Jordan.

If the MVP truly went to the guy who was most valuable to his team's success, Elway would've won it 16 years in a row.
Seth Monahan
Denver, Colo.

Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller hits the big buckets when he has to.
5. Reggie Miller (27 letters)
How does Reggie Miller not even get a mention as one of the most clutch players of all-time? Besides being one of the best shooters ever, he hits the big buckets when he has to, every time. And he hits them when the other team knows absolutely who is getting the ball, and where he's going to shoot it from.

Pick a buzzer-beater; he perfected the buzzer-beater, and hit one when your No. 1 couldn't in Game 6 of the 1998 Eastern Conference finals. And, of course, there's always the six points in 18 seconds against the Knicks. Also, the man never misses a free throw when he's fouled down the stretch.

He's one of the best clutch performers of all-time. And hey, just ask him, he'll be glad to tell you all about it.
New York

OK. I know he flops and flails like a fish out of water when he plays. And yes, he might be the only NBA star whose sister is better than him. Regardless, Reggie Miller is a killer come "crunch" time.

Other than maybe Larry Bird, there is no one more dangerous behind the arc in crunch time than Mr. Reggie Miller. Just ask the Knicks (and Spike Lee).
Aaron Gray
Los Angeles

6. Christian Laettner (23 letters)
I can't believe you left off Christian Laettner's Duke career. While he hasn't been an NBA superstar, he is the most clutch player in college basketball history.

Examples: 24 points against Georgetown in the Elite Eight his freshman year. The game-winning buzzer-beater against UConn in the Elite Eight during his sophomore year. His junior year he hit two free throws at the end of the UNLV upset and had 28 points. His senior year, the Kentucky game and shot, plus his second half against Michigan in the title game after probably his worst half ever, was remarkable. Not to mention, he is the only player ever to start in four straight Final Fours!
Justin Herzog
Spring Lake Park, Minn.

7. (tie) Kirk Gibson (18 letters)
Not to list Kirk Gibson at the top can be understood. Not to mention him at all? Unforgivable. Kirk's pinch-hit homer in the 1988 Series is the poster for clutch performance.

Biggest stage in the sport, against the best team in the major leagues, with the most dominant closer of the day on the mound. And just to make the scene as cliché as possible, Gibson's hurting. He was about one knee ligament this side of rolling to the plate in a wheelchair.

Has anybody else ever won a whole World Series with one swing in the first game?
Mark L.
Tyronza, Ariz.

Let's remember Gibby going yard twice in Game 2 in '84 against the Padres, giving the Tigers their first title since '68, or the shot against the A's off one leg. With one at-bat, there is no one else in baseball I want swinging for me.

Patrick Roy
Patrick Roy picks up his record third Conn Smythe Trophy from commissioner Gary Bettman, left.
8. Patrick Roy (14 letters)
This one was probably the easiest player to decide. The Saint himself, Patrick Roy.

The 10 overtime victories in 1993 for Montreal speak volumes, not to mention his three Conn Smythe Trophies (more than anyone else in NHL history) and four Stanley Cups.

But he's not good in individual clutch games, you say? Well, all I can say to that is Game 4 of the 1996 Cup finals ... three overtimes, 67 saves, no goals. 'Nuff said.
David Heit
Englewood, Colo.

9. Joe Namath (nine letters)
Any person who could guarantee a win in a game of such caliber as the Super Bowl and back it up is clutch. But the fact he did it as an 18-point underdog to the immortal Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts -- and as members of the AFL with a lack of respect from the bigger NFL -- is beyond clutch.
Stephen Dahl
Dayton, Ohio

10. Tiger Woods (seven letters)
I know we don't like lauding youth, but Tiger Woods is -- hands down -- the most clutch athlete of all-time. The guy has more shots in his bag than anyone, and he knows exactly when to pull each one out.

He is the best in the world during normal tournaments and gets even better for the majors. When a major title is on the line, no one is as sure a thing as Tiger.
Michael Goldman