NBA | May 05, 2023

Top 5 buzzer beaters in NBA history

By Harry Bazley

Michael jordan buzzer beater

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is known for its exciting and intense moments, and one of the most thrilling moments in any basketball game is a buzzer-beater.

A buzzer-beater is a shot that is made just before the game clock runs out, usually with only a few seconds or less remaining on the clock. These shots make headlines and go viral amongst NBA fans all over the world. A game-winning buzzer beater is the truly the holy grail of the basketball world.

Let's take a look at the top 5 buzzer-beaters in NBA history.

Honorable Mention: Derek Fisher's "0.4 Shot" (Lakers vs. Spurs, 2004)

With so many famous buzzer beaters out there, it's tough to narrow them down to just five. So, before we dive into the official top 5, here's our honorable mention.

In Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals, the Lakers and Spurs were tied at 73 with just 0.4 seconds remaining on the clock. The Lakers inbounded the ball to Derek Fisher, who instantly fired up a shot from beyond the arc.

The ball swished through the net as the buzzer sounded, giving the Lakers a 76-73 victory. The game winner was so named because of the amount of time left on the clock when Fisher released the ball.

5. Ray Allen's "Miracle Shot" (Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs, 2013)

In Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat were down by three points with just seconds remaining. LeBron James missed a three-point attempt, but Chris Bosh grabbed the rebound and kicked the ball out to Ray Allen, who was standing beyond the arc.

Allen took a step back and hit a game-tying three-pointer with just 5.2 seconds left on the clock, sending the game into overtime. The Heat went on to win the game and the series in seven games.

4. Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers vs Phoenix Suns, 2006)

Now, what's a basketball list without Kobe Bryant...

Bryant, one of the most talented and dominant players in NBA history, certainly hit his fair share of buzzer beaters throughout his career. But perhaps his most memorable shot came in Game 4 of the 2006 Western Conference first round against the Phoenix Suns.

With just 0.7 seconds left on the clock and the Lakers down by two points, Bryant received the inbound pass, turned, and hit a fadeaway jumper over two defenders to send the game into overtime. The Lakers went on to win the game 99-93.

3. Damian Lillard's "Series Winner" (Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, 2019)

In Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Playoffs, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder were tied at 115 with just seconds remaining. Damian Lillard took the ball and calmly dribbled up the court, stopping well beyond the arc.

With time running out, Lillard launched a shot that swished through the net as the buzzer sounded, giving the Blazers a 118-115 victory and winning the series in five games. Lillard's gaming winning shot instantly became an iconic moment in NBA history.

2. Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 2019)

This shot has it all - the stakes, the difficulty and the theatrics. If not for Michael Jordan being Michael Jordan, this would easily be in our number 1 spot.

The shot bounced off the rim four times before falling to give the Raptors the 92-90 win in Game 7 and the first winning buzzer-beater in a Game 7 in NBA history. The victory took Toronto to the finals, where Leonard was named Finals MVP after leading the Raptors to their first championship win in franchise history.

1. Michael Jordan's "The Shot" (Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 1989)

Michael Jordan's "The Shot" from 1989 is considered one of the most iconic moments in league history from the greatest NBA player of all time.

It happened during the fifth and deciding game of the first round playoff series between the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers on May 7, 1989. With just a few seconds left in the game, the score was tied at 99-99. The Bulls had possession of the ball, and Jordan received a pass from teammate Brad Sellers. He then drove towards the free-throw line, jumped, and made a shot over Cleveland's Craig Ehlo, which went in at the buzzer, giving the Bulls a 101-99 victory and advancing them to the next round of the playoffs.

The shot itself was impressive, but what made it even more memorable was the way Jordan celebrated afterward. The image of him hanging in the air, arm outstretched, has become one of the most famous photos in sports history.