Michael Jordan explains why players of today's NBA couldn't hit game-winning shots like him

Over the years, we've seen a wide array of great players grace NBA hardwood. To this day, new and promising talents continue to emerge, but it's safe to say none of them could ever do it like Michael Jordan, especially when it comes to closing out big games.

During his prime years in the league, Jordan raised the bar in hitting game-winning shots. As we've all witnessed, MJ seldom choked when the game was on the line. Some could say Jordan was born with unique clutch genes, but the man in question begged to disagree.

"Some guys in the league right now, their regular seasons are different than the playoffs," Jordan once explained via ESPN. "Why is that? Because it's a different kind of pressure. Those guys, when it gets stripped down, don't believe in themselves. They aren't sure they can hit the big shot, so they can't. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy."

"If you have doubt or concern about a shot, or feel the 'pressure' of that shot, it's because you haven't practiced it enough. The only way to relieve that pressure is to build your fundamentals, practice them over and over, so when game breaks down, you can handle anything that transpires," he added.

Clutch is built and there are no other shortcuts

Jordan once metaphorically said he had to miss "9,000 shots" to finally find success. Nowadays, people may view it as a cliché as it basically means practice makes perfect. But as it turned out, there was more to that famous Jordan quote than meets the eye.

Apparently, Jordan was well aware that not all people were convinced that he worked tirelessly to reach the pinnacle of his game. He knew he couldn't blame them, as only a few had witnessed his blood, sweat, and tears during practices. Most of them only saw the glare of his triumphs.

Nevertheless, MJ stuck to his basketball philosophy: there's no shortcut to greatness. According to the six-time NBA champion, non-stop practice leads a player to a realm where his body feels unexplainable "comfort." It's at that point where everything falls into place, including drilling the most difficult shots of the game.

"People didn't believe me when I told them I practiced harder than I played, but it was true," Jordan pointed out. "That's where my comfort zone was created. By the time the game came, all I had to do was react to what my body was already accustomed to doing."

One has to have unbreakable confidence too

Jordan further stressed that being clutch doesn't only require muscle memory. Yes, hard work and dedication are vital factors, but the best closers in the game know they can hit the last shot even before they shoot it. In simpler terms, a player has to have unbreakable confidence as well.

The best example MJ could remember was his missed game-winning shot in Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. With nine seconds left in the game clock, the Lakers were up 92-91. Jordan got the ball from the left wing off the inbound, crossed Sam Perkins, and pulled up for a jump shot. It went in and out.

Reflecting on the devastating defeat, MJ said his confidence played a pivotal role from that point forward. Had he succumbed to dejection, he may not have been able to help the Chicago Bulls win the next four straight games en route to their first NBA championship.

"Now, if you thought about it, that was a pretty big miss," Jordan said. "It was my first-ever game in the Finals. I could have folded. But I had no trouble bouncing back because I knew it was a good shot. I didn't rush it or short-arm it or anything. I just missed it."

"I believed every time out I was the best. And the more shots I hit, the more it reinforced that. So, when you miss -- because no matter how great you are, you will miss -- you don't waver, because you've built yourself a nice little cushion of confidence," he added. "Now, we've seen plenty of guys go the other way. They miss one shot and they can't seem to ever make one. That's the kind of negative reinforcement that ruins guys."

Foundation is essential

While Jordan emphasizes practice and confidence, he also acknowledges the importance of having the proper foundation. As per MJ, any player can work on their clutch game, but before that, one must ensure his fundamentals were honed correctly. And that is why playing college basketball is essential to the overall development of a player.

"When you go into these college programs, which was the best thing that happened to me, they are going to teach you all aspects of the game of basketball so you can apply that to your athletic skills and develop them," Jordan once said. "Once you leave college, you are a complete basketball player. Athletically, you are complete. And you know how to utilize that athleticism, and you know how to play the game within the team concept."