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Stuck in a Pickle: Kobe tops columnists' list of present day clutch athletes

G. Brady Selhorst: In today's sports, careers are defined by championships. Nothing is desired more than a person who can convert on a big play in the most crucial part of the season.

LeBron James will forever be criticized for it and Robert Horry made a career out of it; being clutch has nothing to do with how many points per game a player scores or how many yards he passes for in a season, instead, it only matters how one performs in the final seconds of a must-win situation.

Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Reggie Miller, Reggie Jackson and John Elway top a list of past performers that goes on-and-on. But, it is a different discussion when dealing with current players and who you would give the ball, puck, racquet, club or whatever to when the game is on the line.

So, Jay, who are your top-five clutch per­formers in the present sporting era?

Jay Garneau: Right now, you can't exclude Eli Manning from the list. He just won his second Super Bowl, leading his team down the stretch.

Playing in the shadow of big brother Pey­ton, Eli had a lot of pressure on him from his first day in the NFL. He's had doubters every step of the way, but has thrust himself into the elite group of NFL quarterbacks with his championships.

While certainly in the biggest slump of his career, Tiger Woods can't be denied as one of the most clutch athletes of our time. Tiger has won 14 majors in his career, not to mention 35 finishes in the top 10 of majors. He has struggled to regain his success after the well-documented personal troubles he has experienced, but that certainly doesn't change the fact that he's one of the most clutch of all time.

One player at the top of the list has to be Mariano Rivera. The Yankees closer has a career 0.70 ERA in the playoffs over 141 innings, equal to about two full seasons for a relief pitcher. He allowed just one run in 29.1 innings from 2006 through 2011, when he was already on the downside of his career, beginning at age 36. It's no coinci­dence that the Yankees ended their 18-year World Series drought in the second year of his career, or that he has won five titles in his career.

Kobe Bryant has proven he can win an NBA title with or without Shaq by his side. He has five rings to his name, including two without Shaq. The Lakers have made the playoffs every year but one during his 15-year career, and Bryant averages 25 points per game in the postseason. If I need one player to take a shot with the game on the line, I'll take Kobe.

Novak Djokovic would be my newest addition to this list. He is taking the tennis world by storm, winning four of the past five Grand Slams. He's beaten Rafael Nadal, he's beaten Roger Federer, and after being virtually unknown a few years ago, he's now the top tennis player in the world.

Brady, which of these do you agree with?

GBS: We, for a change, agree on some­thing!

Bryant tops my list because of his ability to close out a game. Rivera, for the same reason, needs to be included and Manning as well.

However, ask any defensive coordinator who they don't want to see in the fourth quarter and it will be Tom Brady. Although he just lost to Manning again on the biggest stage, his three Super Bowl rings still say something.

Ending my list is Boston Bruin goalie Tim Thomas for his 1.98 goals against average in last season's playoffs. His stellar play led to a Stanley Cup ceremony in Boston.

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