You may have heard the term “clutch” thrown around the sports world frequently. Some believe you are either born with it or become it, but what is it? Much like the nature versus nurture debate, there will never be an agreed upon answer. But one thing is for certain and that is Manu Ginobili has “it”.
Tuesday night at the Fedex Forum in Memphis, TN, Ginobili displayed his clutch gene with a game-winning layup. Now to the basic sports viewer, Ginobili’s stat line of nine points on 3-of-12 shooting wouldn’t seem like anything to talk about. But four of those nine points are the only reason the San Antonio Spurs walked away with a win last night. If you tuned into the horrific exhibition that the Spurs put on against the Memphis Grizzlies, then you know the Spurs did everything in their power to blow the lead. The Spurs committed five crucial turnovers in the last five minutes of regulation. There was no sign of clutch for the Spurs as they effortlessly gave up a 16-point lead. But through all the chaos, Ginobili showed the calm of a seasoned veteran.
With seconds left in regulation, Gregg Popovich drew up an ingenious play which consisted of misdirecting Grizzlies’ James Johnson to believe Giniobili would set a back screen for Tony Parker on the wing. Ginobili would instead back cut to the basket for the easy go-ahead bucket. After the Grizzlies sent the game into overtime on a Mike Conley layup, the clutch gene was on display once again. With time winding down, Ginobili made another layup which ended up being the game winning basket.
In the discussion of whether you are born clutch or learn to be clutch, one common thread seems to be obvious. No matter what has taken place up to a clutch moment, the player does not seem to be affected and remains confident enough in their ability to execute under pressure. All of this and more was present with Ginobili last night.