A buzzer-beater brings some of the most explosive wins. Buzzer-beaters are indeed heart-pounding.
Not created equal, a buzzer-beater can be a game-winning or series-clinching. The latter tends to be more exciting, though, because it changes the game from that point forward.
Here are the five buzzer-beaters to boot throughout the league’s history.
#5 Damian Lillard’s 2014 buzzer-beater (Portland Trail Blazers vs Houston Rockets)
Lillard had his first walk-off buzzer-beater in 2014. The shot was momentous for so many reasons. First, it was the Blazers’ first series win after 14 long years. The team was always eliminated in the first round ever since it appeared in the 1999-2000 NBA season Western Conference Finals.
Lillard’s winning shot came at 0.9 seconds left with Rockets leading the game by two points. He took the inbound and the chance, giving them the 3-2 lead.
#4 Ralph Sampson’s 1986 buzzer-beater (Houston Rockets vs Los Angeles Lakers)
Included in the list of the greatest playoff moments was Sampson’s one-second buzzer-beater. The 7’4” Sampson went against Hakeem Olajuwon but completed the shot nonetheless.
It was a miraculous inbound-toss shot on Game 5, allowing the Rockets to appear in its second NBA Finals in the 1985-86 season.
#3 Damian Lillard’s 2019 buzzer-beater (Portland Trail Blazers vs Oklahoma City Thunders)
It’s Lillard once again. This Blazer knows how to score points even from long-ranges. He shoots this buzzer-beater from the logo–about 37 feet away from the basket.
The finale shot clinched the series for the Blazers in just five games. It was one of their heated series with players clashing here and there. The scores were tied at 115 with less than seven seconds to finish the game.
#2 Kawhi Leonard’s 2019 buzzer-beater (Toronto Raptors vs Philadelphia 76ers)
This meeting took 18 years to happen once more. The Raptors could only imagine what would have happened if Vince Carter was able to shoot that last-second shot at the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2001.
Leonard sealed that what-could-have-been moment with his three-point jumper. He was no stranger to game-winning shots, but this one’s different. The fadeaway shot resulted in an airball; the ball bounced four times at the rim before it went inside. Even the seemingly calm Leonard let out a big scream afterwards.
Not only it brought the Raptors to the 2018-19 NBA Finals, but it was also the first buzzer-beater in a Game 7 throughout the history of the NBA. The Raptors won the Finals with Leonard as the Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP).
#1 Michael Jordan’s 1989 buzzer-beater (Chicago Bulls vs Cleveland Cavaliers)
The Bulls and the Cavs have faced one another in several playoffs, but this one’s epic because of Jordan’s buzzer-beater (later known as “The Shot”). A tied series at 2-2, the Cavs led the Game 5 by one point until Jordan’s jumper.
With only three seconds remaining at the shot clock, the ace player took a chance, and it went in. He went head to head against Craig Elho who tried to block the shot to no avail. Jordan had a goal celebration with one of the most iconic fist pumps in NBA history.