NBA Playoffs 2010: The Myth That is Killer Instinct

May 26th, 2010 by Ashwath Krishna Leave a reply »

Killer instinct.

It’s a phrase beloved by the sports media.

“Player X may be more talented, but Player Y has that killer instinct which makes him a better player.”

But what exactly is a killer instinct?

It certainly doesn’t preclude murder. Otherwise, Kobe Bryant would be a wanted man for many homicides.

(Please insert your favorite Kobe/rape trial joke here).

I like to think of it as being in the same category as “upside,” “heart,” and “intangibles"—fancy terms that can’t be measured. Therefore, they have to mean something and be talked about to death by the talking heads on ESPN, Fox Sports, TNT, etc.

Many claim having a killer instinct precludes clutchness. I’m not sold on this one. Karl Malone had it, and no one in their right mind would consider him clutch. Similar with Kevin Garnett. While Robert Horry, on the other hand, was ultra-clutch, I wouldn’t s ...

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