Sports | May 29, 2019 11:17 am

How Star NBA Players Handle Postseason Pressure

Part of handling the pressure is being able to accept it

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. (Steve Dykes/Getty)
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. (Steve Dykes/Getty)
Getty Images

How an NBA player performs in crunch time of a playoff game can go a long way in shaping the legacy they leave on the league.

Kyrie Irving, who won the Cleveland Cavaliers a championship when he drained a 3-pointer with 53 seconds left in Game of the 2016 NBA Finals, could never win another game again and he’ll always be remembered as a clutch player.

On the other hand, Nick Anderson, who averaged 14 points a game over the course of 13 seasons, is known for missing four free throws in the final seconds of a 1995 Finals game. Those misses eroded Anderson’s confidence and haunted them for the rest of his career.

So what’s the difference between Irving and Anderson? It may come down to mindset.

Irving considers himself to be one of the best players in the NBA and his belief in his own abilities doesn’t waver, no matter the situation.

“Pressure to me is just a word describing fear,” Irving told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.”And when you go through the process of figuring life out, how important basketball is to you, and you release that fear and the circumstances and environment it exists in, you learn to embrace pressure. I enjoy pressure. I look forward to it.”

Heat president Pat Riley, who coached Magic Johnson and the Lakers in the ’80s, said part of handling the pressure is just being able to accept consequences, good or bad.

“Truly great ones know there’s pressure, so they don’t consider consequences,” Riley said. “If they did, they’d cave all the time. “Great players know it’s OK to fail. They don’t succumb to the pressure, but sometimes they succumb to the narrative, especially today when it changes game to game, even quarter to quarter. It’s what I call ‘peripheral opponents.’ If you allow yourself to succumb to that tremendous stress and anxiety, it’s going to get in your head.”

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