Top 10 NBA Buzzer Beaters
by Josh Nagel - 11/28/2007
There are some games that you remember like a significant event in your life; a game with such a memorable outcome that you remember where you were when you saw it. Those memories are stirred when you see the game replayed on ESPN Classic or watch old highlights that are shown when a team or player reaches a milestone.
When it comes to pro basketball, there are a few shots that fall into this category … epic NBA buzzer beaters that remind you why the game is fun to watch and somehow wipe away the monotony of a regular and postseason that probably drag on far too long each year.
That said, here are the 10 Top NBA buzzer beaters of all time from one fan's perspective:
10. David Lee, New York Knicks, 2006. This one deserves mention because it took place with just .1 seconds on the clock, believed to be the only game-winning buzzer beater of its kind in NBA history. In overtime against Charlotte, Lee leaped over two defenders to take an inbounds pass from half court and tap into the hoop in one motion, giving New York the overtime win.
9. Alonzo Mourning, Charlotte Hornets, 1993. Zo's step-back 20-foot buzzer beater marked the start of an era for a young Charlotte team led by Mourning and Larry Johnson and the end of one for the Boston Celtics. It was the team's first trip to the playoffs and the Hornets won the series from the Celtics, who haven't been the same since.
8. Gar Heard, Phoenix Suns, 1976. This shot is often considered the greatest NBA buzzer beater in history, but it ranks a little lower on this list because, while great, it sent a game into triple overtime as opposed to winning it. Even so, Heard's turnaround 22-footer with one second left at the Boston Garden left the crowd stunned, but the Celtics went on to win 128-126 in three OTs.
7. Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers, 1970s. For the same reason as Heard's basket, West's historic shot tied a game that the Lakers eventually lost, though his running half-court heave would be a game-winning three-pointer in today's game. Still, West's 60-foot heave as time expired is one of the greatest ever.
6. Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers, 1998. With 2.3 seconds left in an Eastern Conference final game against the Bulls, Miller curled around a screen in the corner and took an inbounds pass from Derrick McKey. With Michael Jordan chasing to get a hand up, Miller deftly swished a three-pointer in the type of clutch moment that defined his career.
5. Eddie Johnson, Houston Rockets, 1997. In a wild Western Conference series against the Jazz, Johnson hit a 25-footer with two Jazz defenders in his face to give the Rockets a win in Game 4.
4. John Stockton, Utah Jazz, 1997. From the same series mentioned at No. 5, Stockton sent the Jazz into the NBA Finals when he broke free behind a Karl Malone screen, took an inbounds pass and swished an open three-pointer as time expired.
3. Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers, 2004. With .4 seconds left on the clock, the minimum time requirement for a "catch-and-shoot," Fisher took an inbounds pass and buried a rainbow, fadeaway 22-footer with Manu Ginobli in his face. This came after Tim Duncan appeared to have won it for the Spurs with a fallback 22-footer over Shaq on the previous play. The win gave the Lakers control of the series and allowed them to eventually reach another NBA Finals, where they lost to the Pistons.
2. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, 1989. If you're a sports fan, this image is one of the most seared into your memory from the generation of His Airness. Who could forget Jordan's double-clutch, 19-footer over a desperately outstretched Craig Ehlo, the erstwhile Cleveland guard who actually was one of Jordan's best defenders for a good portion of his career. But Jordan got the best of him when it mattered most. Jordan's triumphant fist pumping over a dejected Ehlo is one of the NBA's all-time moments.
1. Robert Horry, Los Angeles Lakers, 2002. The 21st century equivalent to Jordan's shot, "Big Shot Rob" cemented his historic playoff legacy with this buzzer-beater that allowed the Lakers to stay in the series against rival Sacramento and win their third straight NBA title. Without, they would have been down 3-1 in the Western Conference finals and likely saw their championship run end a year early. But trailing by two in the waning seconds, Kobe Bryant drove the lane and put up a wild shot over defender Doug Christie that clanked off the rim. Shaquille O'Neal short-armed a putback attempt, and Sacramento's Vlade Divac swatted the ball out to the top of the key. Horry calmly scooped up the ball and launched a three-pointer that hit all net as the buzzer sounded, forever etching his imprint in NBA lore.