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NBA: Top 5 Buzzer Beaters of All Time

Sai Krishnan
Top 5 / Top 10
3.53K   //    15 Oct 2013, 21:07 IST

There’s nothing more exciting in the game of basketball than a buzzer-beater. Be it a normal high school game or an NBA finals Game 7, buzzer beaters simply get the blood pumping.

In this article, we take a look at the Top 5 Buzzer beaters of all time. I ranked them on their difficulty and the impact the shot had.

5. Gar Heard, the Greatest Game ever played (1976 NBA Finals, Game 5)

One of the best games to have ever been played, the game stretched into 3 Over Times. In the Second OT, John Havlicek gave the Celtics a one point lead with an incredible running shot with one second left on the clock. This shot in itself was so incredible that many couldn’t believe it fell. But what was to follow would steal the thunder from Havlicek’s shot.

The Suns called a technical, which meant it gave the Celtics another point, so now the Celtics led by 2 points. While this was a setback, it meant that the ball was moved to half-court. The orange was inbounded to Gar Heard who turned and fired from 20 feet. The ball drops in! One of the most incredible shots to have ever been made. Ultimately, it was for a losing cause, as the Celtics won it 128-126.

4. Derek Fisher’s 0.4 (2004 Western Conference semifinals, Game 5)

Derek Fisher isn’t exactly a player whom you would call a legend right? Well think again, after watching this shot.

An extremely low scoring game, the Lakers won it 74-73. Kobe Bryant scored a clutch shot with just 11 seconds remaining on the shot to put the Lakers ahead 72-71. With 2.1 seconds left on the clock, Tim Duncan made an impossible shot over Shaq. Derek Fisher responded with an improbable one.

With 0.4 seconds left on the clock, Gary Payton was trying to inbound the ball to either Shaq or Kobe but the Spurs played brilliant defense, making sure that neither of them got the ball. Then a series of improbable things happened. Ginobili, known for his off-ball defense, let Derek Fisher slip through. Payton, realising that neither Shaq nor Bryant will be able to receive the ball, lobbed it to Fisher.


Fisher turns, fades away and fires over Ginobili and he makes the game winner. Incredible? No, not just incredible. Improbable.

3. Big-Shot Robert Horry (2002 Western Conference finals, Game 4)

Yet another instant when Shaq and Kobe failed to produce and another team-mate picked up the slack.

The Kings are leading Game 4, 99-97. Kobe drives in from behind the arc and it typical fashion, decides to take the shot even though two defenders were hounding him. He misses the shot and Shaq grabs the offensive rebound. Despite taking off before other defenders, Shaq missed the follow-up and Vlade Divac batted the ball to the top of key.

Rob Horry picks up the ball and calmly fires the 3-pointer. He sinks the shot which enabled the Lakers to stay in competition for the title which in turn mean they completed their three peat. Talk about a Clutch Shot.

2. Vinnie Johnson’s title winner (1990 NBA Finals, Game 5)

The Bad Boys aka Detroit Pistons were up 3-1 against the Trail Blazers. The game was tied at 90 and Detroit held possession.

Detroit’s superstar point guard, Isiah Thomas winds the clock down from 20 seconds to 6. He gathers himself for his drive in to take the last second shot. Except that he doesn’t take it. He passes the ball to The Microwave, Vinnie Johnson.

Johnson drives back, makes some space for himself and fires an off balance jumper from 14 feet out. The shot falls, and Detroit won the title.

1. Jordan Hangs (1989 Eastern Conference first round, Game 5)

How many lists can Jordan possibly top? Anyways, here’s another one.

The Series was tied at two-apiece. The Cavaliers were up 100-99 with three seconds left on the clock. Winner takes the series. Couldn’t ask for a better stage for Jordan to “rise up” and deliver. And that’s EXACTLY what he did.

The ball was inbounded to Jordan (surprise, surprise) who frantically tried to free himself. When that didn’t happen, Jordan simply took off for the buzzer beater. Craig Ehlo somehow managed to stay on him, even after he took off. But what happened after that defied the laws of gravity.

Both Ehlo and Jordan took off at the same time, but Ehlo descended faster. Jordan hung in the air just long enough to get a clear view and sunk the shot which enabled the Bulls to move onto the NBA finals. This buzzer beater would become to become to be known as “The Shot”.