Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Ice Water Club: My Top 10 Most Clutch Athletes

When an athlete can perform well under pressure, raise his game in the most critical situations, is not afraid of the big moment, they say he has ice water in his veins. When you really think about it, this is probably the trait you would want most in an athlete.

Do you want him to be a good teammate? Sure.
Do you want him to put up killer stats night in and night out? Sure.
Do you want him to make others better? Sure.
Do you want him to show hustle? Sure.

Sure you want all of these things. But the thing is, there have many great players with all of these qualities. Revisit the above four questions: John Stockton had (1) Karl Malone had (2). Dan Marino had (3). Charles Barkley had (4). But none of these players had enough ice water to win a ring. I wouldn't mind if my guy lacked some of these qualities. Shit my guys (Kobe, Dhoni, Horry) do lack many of these qualities. but you know what, they are stone cold killers with ice water running down their veins.

How did I define an ice water player? Simple. Create a scenario where either your favorite team or the team that you bet your life savings on is playing against this player. It is the closing moments of the game and the game is still undecided with this players having the ball/being up to bat/making his move... How scared would you be? If the answer is you wouldn't be scared at all then the player with the ball is probably Lebron James. But if the answer is you would be shitting in your pants or about to throw up or you cant even watch...then that player probably deserves to be in the Ice Water club. 

So without further ado, I present to you my official Ice Water Club: The Top 10 Most Clutch Athletes. Let's count down.

Note: I am not a full-time sportswriter or analyst or former professional athlete so I don't follow every single sport nor do I do hours of research (I would love to but because of the whole being a pharmacist thing I am limited) so I can only select from sports and time periods I am somewhat familiar with.

 10. PR Representative - Derek Jeter
Why is Jetes the PR Representative of the Ice Water club? The guy is a public relations genius. He can bang the hottest supermodels and actresses, dump them and move on without being in the tabloids or having a negative public perception. And he can ask for a huge contract when he is out of his prime while making the Yankees look like the bad guys. Which is all of fine by me. I love Derek Jeter. Some people tend to forget how many BIG hits he had for the Yankees when winning all of those world series in the late 90s. Part of being an Ice Water player calls for raising your game. In non-pressure situations Derek Jeter is an average baseball player. In big time pressure at-bats? He is an all-time great and a hall of famer. He is getting old though and his game has dropped off considerably (including the amount of ice water in his veins) so that's why he is at 10.

9.  Events Coordinator - Joe Montana 
It is easy to understand why Joe Montana is the events coordinator. He is a quarterback. He needs to make sure everyone is on the same page and where they are supposed to be for all of the events/meetings/outings of the Ice Water club. But it may not be as easy to understand why he is all the way at number 9 on this list. Before all of you Niner fans call me a fat turd, please hear me out.

It has nothing to do with Joe Montana. He is the greatest quarterback of all time in my opinion. Clutchness however, is a completely different concept in football than in baseball and basketball. There are way too many variables and factors involved in a single football play for one particular player to matter as much as one particular player matters in a baseball at-bat or a basketball play. Think about it. Your lineman have to protect you. (This matters a lot and even elusive QBs require SOME kind of protection.) Your receivers must get open. Then your receivers must catch the ball. Then your receivers must hold on to the ball. In many clutch TDs it is the run after the catch that matters more than the throw. Factor in your defense (which the QB cannot control), coaching decisions, effectiveness of the running game, etc and there are just way too many variables for a single football player to affect a game single-handedly. (Compared to the other sports) Just look at the Superbowl. What was the difference in the clutchness of Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning? Wes Welker dropped the ball and Mario Manningham didn't. And in 2008, the David Tyree play was the difference. With that said, if Joe Montana is driving his team down the field in the closing moments of a close game against my team, I am shitting in my pants. And for that, he deserves a spot on this list. After all, he is the one that threw "The Catch"

8. Traveling Secretary - Ray Allen
Just look at this clip. I counted him going 16 for 17 in that video. He does that for hours and hours and hours every single day. He dreams about doing that in his sleep. Ray Allen probably gets a boner every time he thinks about shooting a 3. It is in the guy's blood. And he is one bad dude. In the two recent finals against the Celtics, as a Laker fan, I closed my eyes probably every single time Ray Allen shot a 3. All of my friends will recall how I turned into a pussy not being able to watch the final moments of game 7 in 2010. He hit almost EVERY SINGLE BIG SHOT in that epic series against the Bulls in 2010. Why is he the traveling secretary? Because it is probably a shitty job (dealing with hotels, booking rooms, etc) and he is a Celtic. 

7. Fund Raising Coordinator - Albert Pujols
When it comes to clutchness, Albert Pujols is the Ray Allen of baseball. The dude has come through for the Cardinals in almost EVERY SINGLE BIG AT-BAT. I am glad he is now playing in Southern California but sad that it is not for the Dodgers. He would be the perfect fit for that Dodger tradition. I am still surprised he pulled off that gazillion dollar ten year contract despite being past his prime. That is why he is the fund raising coordinator. At least until he gets caught with roids.

6. Special Officer - Muhammad Ali
He was before my time. Ill be honest. Most of what I know about Muhammad Ali (and boxing for that matter) comes from watching Will Smith in Ali. But even today, you cannot be a sports fan without hearing stories about Muhammad Ali's greatness. He had his flaws but the guy won almost every single BIG TIME and career defining match. The first Liston fight, the Thriller in Manilla, the Rumble in the Jungle, etc. But you know why he is clutch? Because the dude put the pressure on HIMSELF. He was the greatest trash talker of all time. All that smack he talked before the fights not only inspired a whole new music genre (rap) but it put the pressure on him to win even more. If you talk shit like Ali did you HAVE to bring your A game. If you don't you will be killed in every singe way both in and out of the ring. And more often that not, Ali brought his A game. And it also took balls to change his name. Especially when you have a baller name like Cassius Clay. (If my wife does not allow me to name my son Cassius Clay Patel, I will secretly call him that when she is not around.) I couldn't really find a job for the GOAT so he is a Special Officer (and not because he has Parkinson's-I didn't meant that kind of special.)

5. Merchandise Coordinator - Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Here is a thought. Michael Jordan randomly walks into a Walmart in Charlotte. No bodyguards, no security. What happens? People start gathering. He signs some autographs. Takes some pictures. Then people go home. If MS Dhoni (the captain of the World Cup Champion Indian National Cricket team) walks into a random shop in India, what happens? If he shakes someone's hand, they don't wash it for a month. If he touches someone's hair, they don't cut it for years. People act like they met God. Imagine if the Lakers are down by 20 points in the 4th quarter of a finals game 7 against the Heat. Then Kobe scores 30 in the 4th and makes the game winning shot at the buzzer. Where would you rank that performance in terms of clutchness? That is what MS Dhoni did in cricket. With the top order of the batting lineup failing, MS Dhoni moved himself up the order to try and salvage the game against Sri Lanka, the most overall talented team in the 2011 World Cup. The Captain calmly kept the ship steady while taking singles and running swiftly between the wickets. After saving his wicket against the likes of Malinga and Muralidharan, MS Dhoni decided to win the match in the final moments of batting powerplay. The image of that final SIX that brought back the World Cup to Indian soil will be etched permanently into the hearts and minds of every single Indian cricket fan.

Since then, MS Dhoni has become a God to me. And since then I have watched many more cricket matches where MS Dhoni has done the same thing over and over again. The guy is so talented people question why he limits himself by placing himself in the bottom of the order. But the thing is, he has to do that in case the top order fails. And more often than not, the top order has failed. And more often than not, Dhoni has bailed them out time and time again. Not only that, but he does it with the most calmest of demeanor. The guy looks like he is sitting on a beach sipping on a pina-colada when he is batting with the game on the line. Plus, his Indian connections would be helpful in producing and selling Ice Water merchandise. That is why he is the Merchandise Coordinator.

4. Membership Coordinators - Magic/Bird
First of all, I could not separate these two. They were meant to be together in every single list created. So the top 10 actually includes 11. I lied. Sue me. From what I have seen, heard, and read about them, these two were as stone cold as they come. In the closing moments, not only would I be scared if I was against them, but I would be scared if I was playing with them as well. I would not want to mess up and piss them off. The list of clutch plays these two have is endless. And it is fitting that they are the Membership Coordinators because anyone wanting to be in the club would have to get their approval. 

3. Secretary - Kobe Bryant
I know all of you Laker haters will take this as me kissing Kobe's ass. Not true. I blame Kobe for many things (I will probably write a whole article about this at some point). But when it comes to the scared shitless test I talked about earlier, even the most "hatery" of haters will admit, they are scared shitless of Kobe in the final moments. Just look at the following plays: this shit is ridiculous.

2006 First round Game 4 vs. the Suns

2004 Kobe 2 buzzer beaters against Portland and the "Kobe stopper"

These are just two of the countless clutch plays Kobe has made in his career. And not all of them are shots. There have been passes (alley-oop to to Shaq vs. Portland), offensive rebounds (finals vs. Indiana), steals, and on-ball defense. Remember that crazy series of game winners Kobe hit in the regular season a couple years back? Now I know all of you stat geeks and/or Laker haters will say that Kobe has missed a lot more than he has made. But let me take you back to that first clip. Rewatch it. See how Devean George passes the ball to Kobe after the steal? He looks like he is passing off a grenade about to go off. He wants nothing to do with that ball. But he knows exactly who DOES want something to do with it...

2. Vice-President - Michael Jordan
Do I really need to explain why this guy is on this list? I mean c'mon! There is a whole group of great teams and players that could have gotten multiple rings had it not been for Michael Jordan. I call it the Screwed by Jordan Club. (future article? maybe.) The club includes Shaq and Penny's Magic, Reggie's Pacers, Ewing's Knicks, GP's Sonics, Barkley's Suns, and of course Stockton and Malone's Jazz. The only explanation I need to do regarding Michael Jordan is that why is he not number 1. You can find that out by reading the next section.

1. President - Robert Horry
Remember in the introduction I talked about the qualities you would want in an athlete? Robert Horry had none of them. He did not try all that hard in the regular season. He did not care to work on his game in the off time. He did not even care about the outcome of the game for the first three quarters. Believe me. I have seen Robert Horry play hundreds of times with the Lakers. He wasn't even that great of a team guy. Just ask Scott Skiles. Had it not for his extreme clutchness and the unusually high concentration of Ice Water in his veins, the guy would have been out of the league after four years.

Big Shot Rob has 7 championships with 3 different teams. That's 1 more than MJ with less than half the effort. He was talented but he didn't care. If he put the effort in, he could have been an all-star. But all Robert Horry cared about was making that one big shot. And he did. Time and time again. I was on to Robert Horry's clutchness before the whole Big Shot Rob craze. (Too bad I wasn't blogging back then) Because I had seen him take and make those shots in the regular season games. The guy was made by God to do one thing and one thing only: take and make big shots. This was probably the most happiest moment of my life. No lie.

Robert Horry deserves to be the president of the clutch club because that is ALL he was. He had nothing else but that. Wherever he went, he won. That is not a coincidence or a fluke. If I had an all-time NBA team, I would put him as the 12th man. Here is a closing thought for you. Would you rather have Karl Malone's career or Robert Horry's?

Horryyyyyyyyy for 3!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks for reading!
Your's truly,
The King of Nothing