Before we go too deep allow me to clarify I define as the “killer instinct”.
The killer instinct is when a player can single handedly take over a game, put his team on his back while getting them involved. A player who thrives when the game is on the line and wants to take that last second buzzer beater for all the glory.
Very few current NBA players possess this awe inspiring trait and to be fair Michael Jordan set the bar pretty damn high, so let's look at who does possess it first and then the superstars that don't.
Not surprisingly the first name that springs to mind is Kobe Bryant. He's as close as anyone has come to being “the next Jordan”, and he does a lot of the same things Jordan did. Kobe shoots the fadeaway, has an over-active tongue and can take a game over in a heartbeat. Let's also note that he is arguably the greatest closer in the NBA these days. To be completely fair, if you saw the game winning, fadeaway, heavy coverage 3 pointer Kobe hit over D.Wade it just proves my point.
Next on the list is someone that not a lot of people would put in this category as he is still fairly young, however he has already displayed the killer instinct trait on more than one occasion. Derrick Rose. If you watched the 4th quarter in which D.Rose completely took over this week against Houston, you'd agree. He had shown the killer instinct trait before, however nothing could prepare you for the phenomenal performance he willed his Bulls to. Derrick is still young, however it's clear that he is the leader of the Bulls, wants the ball in crunch time and is ready to step in to those gigantic shoes Michael Jordan left more than 10 years ago.
Boston is probably the most fortunate team in the NBA as they have three players all possessing the killer instinct. While he's been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons, Kevin Garnett has always wanted that elbow jumper when the game in on the line. He's probably past his his prime these days and couldn't take a game over quite the same as he used to be able to, he's still someone that can't be left alone when the clocks ticking. Paul Pierce is called The Truth for good reason. You may say Pierce's career is on it's downward spiral, I say he's still considered one of the best closers in the NBA and a guy that can get hot from anywhere on the floor. Last but certainly not least is Ray Allen. Ray Ray has made a career from being one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the game today. Watching Ray run off screens, trap his defender in the screens and then catch and shoot is the single best reason to watch Boston play. His stroke is truly a thing of beauty and even as a Bulls fan, I could sit and watch Ray knock down jumpers for hours. Ray is also another guy that seems to have ice in his veins when the clock is running out of tick and the result is in his hands.
The final killer and only guy that didn't have to “take his talents to South Beach” because he was already there, D.Wade. 'Flash' has shown time and time again why he is considered one of the best players in the NBA. His all around versatility means he is someone that can never be left alone, and even when he's double teamed he'll still find a way to score or get an open shot for a team mate. Who can forget the game winner he hit in Miami against my Bulls, climbing truimphantly upon the scorer's table to declare 'it was his house?" Who can forget the way he played in the NBA finals when his Heat got the ring and he got the MVP of the finals. Wade is the real deal and the success of the “Superfriends” in Miami, falls squarely on his shoulders.
Now let's talk about the guys that are right on the cusp of the killer instinct.
Mike Bibby, Rajon Rondo, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Derek Fisher, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Tony Parker and Deron Williams are all guys that I would hate to guard in crunch time however I don't believe they completely possess the killer instinct. They could all hit a game winner, however they don't have that demand the ball to take over the game mentality as much as the others.
Now the final couple of players that I feel are overrated in this category. Guys that fans love to see with the ball in the 4th quarter, however are nothing more than the tinman… No heart.
The Dallas Mavericks have gone deep in to the playoffs for a number of years, and a big reason for that is Dirk Nowitzki. A big man that can pass, shoot and post up as well as him is hard to find, however a player with less courage in crunch time is just as difficult a task. I am quite certain that when I say that the reason the Mavs don't have a ring, it's because Dirk doesn't have enough of the killer instinct to dominate the game when his team needs him to. Don't get me wrong, I'd take Dirk for my team in a second, however I'd also get someone that can close out a game since I know Dirk couldn't.
LeBron James. This is probably the most controversial name because he's taken games over before, I'm sure we all remember his performance against Detroit in the playoffs. How about against the Magic to win his then Cavaliers the game? That bank three pointe has been replayed ad nauseum. And with all that he doesn't possess the killer instinct? Correct! LeBron has also shown us time and time again that he simply doesn't want to be “the man” in the closing seconds. Passing off to team mates instead of taking the shot himself, quitting on his Cavaliers last year in the playoffs and removing his Cleveland jersey seconds after the buzzer, which should have been a sign he was leaving. Let's now take note that he's complaining about playing too many minutes in Miami. This isn't the killer instinct, he'd be lucky to kill an insect!