There’s nothing quite like a last-ditch score in basketball, that moment of watching to see if the ball will drop through the hoop or bounce away, and we have picked out five of the best buzzer-beaters in NBA history.
Before we get started on the selected shots, a notable mention must go to the Phoenix Suns’ Rex Chapman for his incredible throw in Game 4 of the 1997 Western Conference First Round against the Sonics.
Chapman caught an overthrown Jason Kidd pass and made a falling-out-of-bounds three-pointer with 1.9 seconds left to tie it at 107. The Suns went on to lost 122-115 in overtime, but that shot is still remembered to this day.
Gar Heard – 1976 NBA Finals
Game 5 of the 1976 Finals between the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns is referred to as “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and one of the biggest moments in NBA history happened during the enthralling contest.
Trailing 112-110 with two seconds on the clock, Boston had the ball off-court at halfway, seemingly in a desperate situation, only for Gar Heard to receive a pass and produce a sensational shot to tie the game and force a third overtime.
The Celtics would go on to win the game 128-126, before then clinching their 13th championship with an 87-80 victory in Game 6. Jo Jo White scored 15 points in Game 6, giving him 130 points in six matches, and was named the series MVP.
Michael Jordan – 1989 Eastern Conference First Round
There was no way this list couldn’t have Michael Jordan on it and his incredible buzzer-beater for the Chicago Bulls against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1989 remains, to this day, one of the best throws ever seen.
With just three seconds left in Game 5, Jordan took an inbound pass, sprinted to the free-throw line and hit was is described as ‘The Shot’ over Craig Ehlo as the buzzer sounded, securing a 101-100 win for the Bulls and a 3-2 series win.
Chicago defeated the New York Knicks 4-2 in the Conference Semi-finals before losing to Detroit Pistons, who would go on to lift the trophy, by that same scoreline in the Conference Finals.
Michael Jordan – 1997 NBA Finals
You didn’t think Jordan would only be featuring on this list once, right? The legend once again proved his credentials when landing the game-winning shot in the Bulls’ victory over Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the 1997 Finals.
With 7.5 seconds remaining, Jordan collected a pass, surveyed the area for a couple of seconds to wind down the clock, before then hitting a jumper over Bryon Russell at the buzzer to give Chicago an 84-82 victory.
The Bulls would go on to win the NBA Finals 4-2, retaining the trophy they won the previous year against the Seattle Supersonics.
Derek Fisher – 2004 Western Conference Semi-finals
Game 5 of the Western Conference Semi-finals in 2004 is remembered for an unbelievable ending between the San Antonio Spurs and the LA Lakers, with both teams making late scores.
San Antonio thought they had snatched victory when Tim Duncan made an 18-footer over Shaquille O’Neal to give the Spurs a 73-72 lead with just four tenths of a second left on the clock.
However, the Lakers had other ideas. With the late Kobe Bryant not available to receive a pass due to tight marking, the ball instead went to Derek Fisher, who proceeded to hit a 20-footer at the buzzer to win the game 74-73.
LA would go on to win the series 4-2, dispose of Minnesota in the Conference Finals, before then falling short in the NBA Finals when losing 4-1 to Detroit.
Kyle Lowry – 2016 Eastern Conference Semi-finals
Finishing off the list is Kyle Lowry’s incredible score for the Toronto Raptors against Miami Heat back in 2016. With just 3.3 seconds on the clock and the Raptors trailing 90-87, Lowry collected the ball close to his own basket before hitting a half-court shot at the buzzer, tieing the game at 90-90.
Toronto would eventually lose to the Heat 102-96 in OT, but that shot from the 35-year-old American was the highlight of the match.