Skip Bayless: LeBron Lacks Clutch Gene in Russell Moment

Lakers' lead crumbles in final quarter against Nuggets.

by Nouman Rasool
Skip Bayless: LeBron Lacks Clutch Gene in Russell Moment
© Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Paley Center for Media

In a stunning reversal at Tuesday night’s NBA matchup, the Los Angeles Lakers squandered a significant lead to lose 101-99 against the Denver Nuggets, despite a dominant performance for the first three quarters. Holding a commanding 20-point lead early in the third period and a 10-point advantage at the start of the fourth, the Lakers seemed poised for victory, only to see it slip through their fingers.

Fox Sports analyst Skip Bayless dissected the game on "Undisputed," pinpointing numerous tactical errors by the Lakers in the final quarter. Yet, he suggested that despite these missteps, the game could have been salvaged if LeBron James had delivered in the closing moments.

Bayless contends that James lacks the essential "clutch gene" necessary for such situations. Reflecting on historical NBA moments, Bayless compared the game's pivotal moment to Michael Jordan’s iconic final shot in the 1998 NBA Finals against Bryon Russell.

"I was there in the front row in Utah. It was beautiful…When KCP went flying, I immediately thought, this is a Bryon Russell moment. LeBron had the chance to seal the game, but unlike Jordan, he faltered," Bayless recounted.

LeBron's Critical Miss

In the critical moment with the game tied at 99 and seconds ticking down, James made a move causing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to stumble, mirroring the famous Jordan-Russell play. Despite being unguarded and having historically high three-point accuracy, LeBron missed the decisive shot.

"I’ve always said it," Bayless added, "LeBron simply doesn’t have what it takes to close out games. This was a game for closers, and while some might have made that shot, LeBron did not." On the other end of the court, the Nuggets showed their mettle.

After LeBron's miss, Michael Porter Jr. quickly passed to Jamal Murray. Denver’s coach, Mike Malone, opted against a timeout, allowing Murray to take and make a critical basket. Malone later explained his strategy, emphasizing the advantage of letting his players create plays spontaneously without allowing the Lakers to set up defensively.

This decision highlighted a stark contrast between the teams in clutch moments. While the Lakers faltered under pressure, the Nuggets leveraged their opportunities, leading to a thrilling victory. Whether the debate over LeBron’s clutch abilities will continue remains a topic for sports analysts and fans alike.

Lakers Nuggets