Western Bulldogs

AFL 2017 Round 05 - Western Bulldogs v Brisbane

Cornes: Western Bulldogs star Bontempelli is THE clutch performer of the AFL

At the start of the NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers were second favourite to win the NBA title, marginally behind reigning champion Golden State Warriors.

A month out from the playoffs, the Cavs' season has been a disaster. They have slipped to the sixth worst record in the competition and have been rocked by player in fighting and off-court controversy.

After a brutal loss on Tuesday at the hands of usual easy beats the Orlando Magic, a fire was fuelled that threatened to burn the organisation to the ground, and the Cleveland Cavaliers desperately needed a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday.

With scores locked away at the end of regulation, the game was sent to overtime.

Someone needed to stand up and the stage was set for one of the greatest athletes of our generation, LeBron James.

Moments after James blocked Jimmy Butler's potential game-winning shot with 1.3 seconds left, he caught a long pass from Jeff Green, created some space by shrugging off his opponent near the foul line and sank his fade-away shot to end Cleveland's eight-game losing streak, live on national television.

The man they call the King finished with 37 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds, and delivered Cleveland a much-needed 140-138 victory.

American sports fans have an obsession with the athletes who rise to the occasion and single handily drag their team over the line.

From Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in basketball to Tom Brady and Joe Montana in the NFL.

And it’s not just Americans who marvel at such performances.

Australians are in awe of Cathy Freeman’s performance at the 2000 Olympics. With the hopes of the nation resting on her shoulders, she sprinted in the 400m to claim the most famous victory. The relief was written all over her face as she broke the finish line.

In the same sport, Sally Pearson seems to have ice running through her veins as she runs flat out jumping over obstacles, clearly aware that one stumble can ruin four years of hard work.

These athletes are worshiped for what they do with only seconds left ticking on the game clock.

Sporting history is littered with examples, and our game of AFL is no different.

Two-time Crows premiership coach, and the usually highly strung Malcolm Blight, says he could relax in the coaches box whenever Mark Ricciuto had possession of the ball in a big game, as nine times out of 10 his possessions hurt the opposition, Blight recalls.

Geelong fans loved nothing more than seeing the long sleeved number three from the Cats drifting forward late in a game, usually to mark strongly and kick truly to seal a famous victory in front of 80,000 at the MCG.

Jimmy Bartel thrived in big moments.

Port fans still feel sick when the man who has played the second most finals in the history of the game, Shaun Burgoyne, continually stands up in when it looks like the Hawks are done.

The only consolation for Power fans was last season seeing Robbie Gray win a clearance from a Paddy Ryder behind-the-head hit out, run to 50 and sink the Saints with only seconds left on the clock. That’s clutch.

In the 80’s it was the likes of Brereton and Lockett, and the 90’s were dominated by King Carey, Gary Ablett, Darren Jarman and teammate Andrew McLeod, who won two Norm Smith medals on the biggest stage of all.

For me, with only 42 days until the season opener, the one player who I want with the ball in their hands, when the game is on the line is the Bont. For me, Marcus Bontempelli, is right now the best clutch performer in the competition.

Originally published by Kane Cornes on SEN.com.au