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NBA’s Most Iconic Buzzer-Beaters and Game-Winners

Dive into the heart-stopping world of NBA playoffs, where every second counts and legends are born.

And you know what’s more interesting?

This article isn’t just a rundown of memorable shots; it’s a courtside seat to the most jaw-dropping buzzer-beaters and game-winners in NBA history. Imagine experiencing those final, tense moments as the game’s fate hangs in the balance – and then, the exhilaration of a shot that changes everything.

These are not just baskets, they are the pinnacle of basketball drama. From Michael Jordan’s iconic leaps to LeBron James’ last-second heroics, each shot encapsulates the thrill, skill, and sheer willpower that define the legends of the game.

Whether you’re a seasoned basketball aficionado or a newcomer drawn to the thrill of the sport, these stories of precision under pressure will captivate and inspire you.

A Complete List of Legendary NBA Buzzer-Beaters & Game-Winners

1. Gar Heard vs. Celtics (1976)

Gar Heard vs. Celtics (1976)
Source: nba

A three-overtime classic, Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals between the Suns and Celtics packed a ton of drama and is regarded as one of the best NBA games ever played.

John Havlicek scored a leaning 15-footer with seconds remaining in the second extra period to give the Celtics a 111-110 lead and spark a court-storming celebration at the Boston Garden. But there was still one second on the clock.

The Suns called a timeout to move the ball to half-court despite giving up a technical free throw because of since-modified NBA rules. Phoenix had one shot once the court was cleared of spectators.

Gar Heard did not throw it away. He forced a third overtime with a turnaround 20-foot shot that struck nothing but nylon. 

One game later, Boston won the Finals, and the Suns lost the exciting triple overtime match.

Even though the Celtics went on to win the series and Game 5, that jumper will always be known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” 

2. “The Shot” by Michael Jordan, 1989 Eastern Conference First Round

'The Shot' by Michael Jordan 1989
Source: kikikickz

Though there are many memorable moments from Michael Jordan’s illustrious career, “The Shot” is still one of the most well-known.

The Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers faced off in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference First Round. With seconds remaining, Jordan made a game-winning jumper over Craig Ehlo to win the series.

This amazing buzzer-beater guaranteed the Bulls’ victory and marked Jordan’s emergence as a clutch player.

3. John Stockton vs. Rockets (1997)

John Stockton vs. Rockets (1997)
Source: sportingnews

With a buzzer-beater, John Stockton shocked the Rockets eleven years after Sampson’s shot secured Houston’s spot in the NBA Finals.

In Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, the Utah Jazz had 2.8 seconds to break a 100-100 tie, and the famous playmaker made a legendary shot.

After grabbing the inbounds ball and taking one dribble, Stockton stepped into a clean look as Rockets forward Charles Barkley scurried to contest the three-pointer.

The Jazz advanced to their first-ever NBA Finals after the buzzer-beater gave his club a 4-2 series win.

4. Robert Horry, Los Angeles Lakers, 2002

Robert Horry, Los Angeles Lakers, 2002
Source: sportskeeda

It took the Lakers two points. It was Kobe Bryant’s chance, but he missed. On his second opportunity, Shaquille O’Neal missed.

Vlade Divac of the Sacramento Kings knocked the ball out of the crowded paint area following the misses. Regretfully, it bounced straight to an unclothed Robert Horry.

Given that Horry is now known as “Big Shot Bob,” you can probably guess what transpired next.

Horry hit a three-pointer above Chris Webber, the standout player for the Kings, who could only watch as the ball burnt the net, leading to a 100-99 victory for the Lakers.

Instead of trailing 3-1 in the series going into Game 5, Los Angeles tied the score at two wins apiece. The Lakers finally won their third consecutive NBA championship after winning the Western Conference Finals in seven games.

5. Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers, 2004

Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers, 2004
Source: lakeshowlife

If Tim Duncan’s game-winning 22-foot fadeaway prayer over Shaquille O’Neal wasn’t jaw-dropping enough, Derek Fisher added even more spectacle during Game 5 of the Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs 2004 second-round matchup.

Duncan’s incredible jump shot gave the Spurs a 73-72 lead, but Fisher still found a way to win the game with just 0.4 seconds remaining on the clock.

In that tiny window, the Lakers guard decided it would be best to dash immediately off the field.

“I just wanted to get out of there and not allow them to think that we didn’t believe it went in,” Fisher stated.

6. Kobe Bryant, 2006 First Round, Game 4

Kobe Bryant, 2006 First Round, Game 4
Source: sportingnews

How can Kobe not make an appearance, right?

In Game 4 of a 2006 first-round series, the Lakers were down 98-97 to the Phoenix Suns with 6.1 seconds remaining in overtime. Bryant took five deliberate dribbles before Luke Walton swatted a jump ball in his direction, pulling up at the right elbow.

Boris Diaw and Raja Bell could not block the shot, and Kobe gave the Lakers a 99-98 victory.

Even though the Suns, ranked higher, managed to win three games in a row to take the series, this was one of Kobe’s most famous shots.

7. Damian Lillard’s Series-Clinching Shot (2014)

Damian Lillard’s Series-Clinching Shot (2014)
Source: blazersedge

Damian Lillard’s amazing series-clinching basket against the Houston Rockets in 2014 is a memorable shot in recent NBA history. 

Lillard defeated the well-favored Rockets in the series with a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer with just 0.9 seconds remaining. In addition to ensuring the Portland Trail Blazers’ second-round exit after a 14-year drought, this incredible game-winner cemented Damian Lillard’s standing as one of the league’s most reliable players.

Lillard has carried on his legacy, eliminating the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019 with yet another playoff buzzer-beater. 

Having already scored two game-winning baskets, Lillard is currently tied for third place in NBA history for the most buzzer-beaters made during playoffs, demonstrating his willingness to step up when the game is close.

8. Kawhi Leonard vs. 76ers (2019)

Kawhi Leonard vs. 76ers (2019)
Source: inquirer

This buzzer-beater meets all the requirements in terms of difficulty, stakes, and theatricality. Furthermore, the significance of Leonard’s game-winning kick for the participating teams has only increased in the past few years.

After Leonard earned his second NBA Finals MVP trophy, the Raptors went on to win their first title in team history. 

In contrast, the Sixers entered an offseason that would change the course of the team, and looking back, the series seemed like a big waste of time.

A few seconds (and a few bounces) may greatly impact the NBA Playoffs.

9. LeBron James – Seven buzzer-beaters

LeBron James - Seven buzzer-beaters
Source: stacker

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers is the second player on this list. In the early years of his career, the four-time NBA champion faced criticism for not having the “clutch gene.”

He had to play six seasons before James hit his first buzzer-beater in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James has made seven buzzer-beaters in his career; his most recent one occurred in May 2018 during the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA Playoff matchup with the Toronto Raptors.

He hasn’t scored a buzzer-beater for the Los Angeles Lakers yet.

A Look Back at the Greatest NBA Buzzer Beaters Ever

Greatest buzzer beaters
Source: bleacherreport

From well-known yet equally exciting moments like Jerry West and Ralph Samps to memorable shots by legendary players like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant

Game-winning buzzer-beaters have contributed to some of the most memorable moments in the NBA’s history. These amazing baskets leave a lasting impression on the teams and supporters who saw them, in addition to showcasing the talent, tenacity, and clutch performance of the players who made them.

Since these incredible moments serve as a constant reminder of the beauty and excitement that make the NBA such an enthralling spectacle, we can only hope to witness more of them in the future as basketball fans. 

Thus, keep in mind the illustrious buzzer-beaters we’ve covered here the next time you’re on the edge of your seat as the game clock is ticking down, and enjoy the rush of seeing history being made.

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