The NBA playoffs have gifted us a myriad of unforgettable moments, yet nothing quite compares to the heart-stopping thrill of game-winning buzzer-beaters. These adrenaline-fueled shots, fired off in the dying seconds, frequently determine the fate of a playoff series and can propel a player into the annals of basketball history. Buckle up as we embark on a thrilling journey through the top 15 buzzer-beaters in NBA playoff history, revisiting the raw excitement and intense drama of these iconic moments.
Commencing with none other than Michael Jordan’s legendary “The Shot” (1989), this list takes off like a rocket. With precious seconds ticking away in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round, Jordan sank a game-winning jumper against the Cleveland Cavaliers, etching “The Shot” into NBA lore.
Flash forward to Derek Fisher’s 0.4-second miracle (2004): in the Western Conference Semifinals’ Game 5, Fisher snatched an inbound pass and executed a miraculous shot, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat for the Los Angeles Lakers against the San Antonio Spurs.
Fast-forwarding to Damian Lillard’s series-ending buzzer-beater (2019), Lillard propelled the Portland Trail Blazers to victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, ending the series in a blaze of glory with a jaw-dropping 37-foot game-winning three-pointer.
LeBron James’ game-winner against the Orlando Magic (2009) takes center stage next, showcasing the King’s clutch prowess with a buzzer-beating three-pointer that tied the Eastern Conference Finals’ Game 2.
Kawhi Leonard’s game 7 buzzer-beater (2019) followed suit, an edge-of-your-seat fadeaway jumper that ricocheted off the rim multiple times before sealing the deal, catapulting the Toronto Raptors into the Eastern Conference Finals.
John Stockton’s series-winning shot (1997) holds a special place in history, as his game-winning three-pointer in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets propelled the Utah Jazz to their inaugural NBA Finals appearance.
Ralph Sampson’s turnaround jumper (1986) defied the odds in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, propelling the Houston Rockets to an NBA Finals berth with a buzzer-beating victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Paul Pierce’s game-winner against the Atlanta Hawks (2015) showcased his legendary clutch factor, as he banked a fadeaway jumper that secured a Washington Wizards win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Reggie Miller’s game-winner against the Chicago Bulls (1998) leveled the playing field in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, sinking a last-second three-pointer that kept the Indiana Pacers’ hopes alive.
Joe Johnson’s buzzer-beater against the Los Angeles Clippers (2017) demonstrated his veteran poise, as he coolly sank a floater at the buzzer in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round.
Jeremy Lin’s game-winner against the Toronto Raptors (2012), though not a playoff game, deserves recognition as an unforgettable moment during the “Linsanity” era.
Devin Booker’s game-winner against the Los Angeles Clippers (2020) showcased his promising future, as his fadeaway jumper in the NBA bubble led the Phoenix Suns to a stunning victory against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Finally, we acknowledge Vince Carter’s near miss against the Philadelphia 76ers (2001). Although it wasn’t a made shot, Carter’s last-second attempt in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals left hearts pounding and warrants a mention for its sheer drama.
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These remarkable buzzer-beaters epitomize the most unforgettable moments in NBA playoff history, bestowing upon fans memories that will endure a lifetime. As the NBA playoffs persist in delivering breathtaking moments each year, we eagerly anticipate witnessing even more game-winning shots that will leave us speechless.