5 Best Buzzer-Beaters in the NBA History

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.

 

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Did we miss other equally-thrilling buzzer-beater? Let us know.

Player Feature: Kawhi Leonard

Full Name: Kawhi Anthony Leonard 

Birthdate: June 29, 1991

Birthplace: Los Angeles, California 

Current team: Los Angeles Clippers

Position: Small forward

Years active: 2011 – present

Key statistics

  • Known for his ball-hawking skills
  • A physical marvel with 6’7” height and 7’3” wingspan
  • Has won both Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year
  • With six straight 30-point performance games
  • Won the semifinals against Philadelphia 76ers with a 4.2-second buzzer-beater
  • Scored 732 points and became the 3rd best scoring NBA player in history

Kawhi Leonard earned his moniker the “Claw” (or “Klaw” to denote the first letter of his name) because of his ball-hawking skills.

Sports Illustrated lauded Leonard’s strong work ethics as well as “physical marvel” with his 6’7” height and 7’3” wingspan. All the more, he knows how to use this to his advantage for defensive and rebounding purposes. Screening and eluding him on the court would be difficult.

One weakness of Leonard, however, was his weak offensive capabilities during his first few seasons with San Antonio Spurs. Another concern was his shooting skills, especially outside. And which he addressed by training off-season with his former San Diego State University’s strength and conditioning coach, Randy Shelton.

Anything he knows about basketball he was able to demonstrate throughout his seven-season stint with the Spurs. In 2014, he brought an NBA championship and named the Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP). He was technically the third youngest NBA player to win the said award; Magic Johnson held the first two positions. 

Leonard was also the 2014-2015 season’s Defensive Player of the Year. He was the third player to win both Finals MVP and this title, next to Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

In the next three seasons, he set new records including back-to-back Defensive of the Year award, six straight 30-point performance games, Player of the Week for the fourth time, All-NBA First Team inclusion for two years straight, All-Defensive Team First Team award for three consecutive seasons, and career-high points game after game.

The 2017-2018 season was a controversial year for Leonard’s career. He only played 27 games due to a series of injuries (right quadriceps and left shoulder). Leonard was ruled out to pursue a right quadriceps tendinopathy rehabilitation procedure. 

The Spurs medical staff, on the other hand, gave him clearance to play. Leonard sought a second opinion, and the fallout among his management, teammates and him ensued. A players-only meeting was held in March, his teammates entreating him to start playing for the team. Leonard chose not to play any more game during the season.

In 2018-2019, Leonard was traded as per his request and became the key player of the Toronto Raptors. He led the team to its first-ever NBA championship with a 4.2-second buzzer-beater show–the first in NBA history. The small forward was also named the Finals MVP.

During the playoffs, he scored 732 points and became the third best-scoring player throughout NBA history. 

To date, Leonard has played 467 games with an average 30.8 minutes per game and 17.7 points per game. About 111 of these games were playoffs.

On July 20, 2019, he signed with Los Angeles Clippers. 

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