Top 15 all-time NBA playoff buzzer-beaters

The criteria is rather simple, the shot has to mean something. So, team success has a huge bearing on the rankings. We’ll give more weight to shots that directly, or indirectly, propelled a team to the NBA championship, for example. Whether a shot vaulted a “david” past a “goliath”, embarrassed and utterly demorilized an opponent, or turned a mere all-star into a legend, we’re looking for the greatest NBA playoff buzzer beaters of the last 25 years. So, while Jerry West’s 1970 miracle, near full-court shot against the Boston Celtics was impressive, to maintain some level of sanity we’re limiting this particular list to the Bird and Magic era, and beyond.

Before we get into the shots, a little observation on the shotmakers. You’ll notice, a few things run common among these unique players, their flawless execution, their healthy disregard for defensive pressure and a heart the size of the grand canyon – you’ll see names like Jordan, Bird, Magic and Miller. So, without further adieu, the top 15 NBA playoff buzzer beaters of the last 25 years.

15. 2006 Eastern Conference Finals (ECF) – Cavaliers vs. Pistons: Tied at 107, LeBron James drove it from the top of the key for a go-ahead layup that sent his Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. But, it was what transpired prior to that shot that cemented LeBron’s place on this list. Our jaw was on the floor, watching one of the greatest single performances in NBA history, against one of the stingiest defensive teams of this current era. Our eyes were registering what was happening, but our mind almost couldn’t believe it. Watch the clip.

14. 1998 ECF – Pacers vs. Bulls: The only player, other than the immortal Michael Jordan, who is found twice on our list, Reggie Miller was probably the best clutch shooter of all-time. In this one, the Pacers are down by 1 with seconds to go in Game 6, and Miller shakes Jordan to knock down the game winner. The Pacers, unfortunately, would lose the series in 7 games. Watch the clip.

13. 1997 WCF – Rockets vs. Jazz: Eddie Johnson’s 3-pointer beat the Utah Jazz in Game 4 of the WCF, but the Jazz went on to win the series in 6 games. The real significance of this game winner, however, is in the fact that Johnson’s shot was followed by one of the most exciting and indelibly memorable celebrations in recent NBA history. Most NBA fans won’t soon forget the image of Johnson running the length of the court, both arms in the air, smiling from ear to ear, with his teammates in hot pursuit. Simply classic. Watch the game winner.

12. 1989 First Round – Cavaliers vs. Bulls: Although Craig Ehlo, we’re sure, has been trying to erase it from his memory, fans won’t soon forget “The Shot” Michael Jordan hit over Ehlo, and of course the ensuing celebration that saw Ehlo’s knees buckle in disbelief as he fell to the ground. But, interestingly enough, Ehlo had just hit his own clutch layup that put the Cavs ahead in the game, capping one of the best playoff performances of his career. We all remember the shot, but check out this video to watch the interesting events that preceeded it.

11. 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals – Pacers vs. Knicks: If “TheShot” is a defining moment in Michael Jordan’s career, then the 8 points that Reggie Miller scored during 8.9 seconds in the final moments of Game 1 of the ECS against the Knicks is the moment that immortalized Miller in NBA lore. There is no doubt, Miller was easily the best clutch shooter of our time. Watch the video for proof.

10. 1999 WCF – Spurs vs. Blazers: Despite serious issues with his Kidney, which later required a transplant, Sean Elliott tiptoed along the sidelines, barely keeping his heel from touching the white out-of-bounds line, and calmly drained a three-pointer over the outstreached arms of the Blazers Rasheed Wallace. The loss seemed to completely demoralize the Blazers, while propelling the Spurs to the first championship in franchise history. Watch Elliott’s historic game winner.

9. 1995 WCS – Rockets vs. Suns: Mario Elie’s “kiss of death”, following his 3-point buzzer-beater that sank the Suns, was aimed at Phoenix center Joe Klien. Elie later admitted that the gesture was a spur of the moment reaction, but it became a signature image representing the “clutch city” Houston Rockets teams. The Rockets would of course go on to sweep the Shaq and Penny led Magic in the Finals. Watch Elie in action.

8. 1997 WCF – Jazz vs. Rockets: John Stockton’s 25 foot game winner is the shot that sent the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals for the first time in the team’s history. In somewhat tragic manner of course, the prolific duo of Stockton and Malone lost to Jordan’s Bulls in the NBA Finals, and never did win a championship in their careers. Watch the clip here.

7. 1987 ECF – Celtics vs. Pistons: “Now there’s a steal by Bird! Underneath to DJ! He lays it up and in!” is one of the most immortal calls in the history of the league. As a result of the play, the Celtics won the game and the series, and the old Boston Garden went bonkers! The Celtics though would lose in the NBA finals to the Lakers, because of another buzzer beater detailed later in our countdown. Watch the exciting clip.

6. 1986 WCF – Rockets vs. Lakers: This was the playoffs when a young Michael Jordan dropped 63 on the Boston Celtics. While that accomplishment launched a legend, Ralph Sampson’s tip-in at the buzzer in Game 5 of the WCF sent the Rockets to the NBA finals. Who could forget the image of Lakers guard Michael Cooper grabbing his head, falling on his back and laying on the floor in disbelief for what seemed like an eternity? Watch the clip of Sampson’s heroics.

5. 2002 WCF – Lakers vs. Kings: “Big shot” Rob makes the countdown with his fortuidous buzzer-beater that sank the Kings in Game 7 no less and propelled the Lakers to their third straight NBA championship. What makes this shot even more significant is that the Kings teams haven’t been the same since this demorilizing loss. Watch Vlade Divacs knock it out to the 3-point line and Horry calmly nail the jumper.

4. 1999 First Round – Knicks vs. Heat: The 1999 NBA Playoffs was one of the most memorable ones, but perhaps the defining moment of that incredible playoff season was Alan Houston’s game winner against the New York Knicks. The Knicks came in as the underdog number 8 seed and found themselves tied at 2 games a piece with the heavily favored Heat, but Houston’s shot not only won the first-round series, but it also propelled the Knicks all the way to the NBA Finals. They lost in the final series to the Spurs, but Houston’s shot will forever be etched in our memories. Watch Houston’s leaner against the Heat and check out Alonzo Mourning’s reaction.

3. 2004 WCF – Lakers vs. Spurs: We’ll always remember the unbelievable fadeaway jumper from Derek Fisher with a mere .4 seconds left on the clock, but people tend to forget that Fisher’s shot was preceeded by what at the time seemed like a fall-away game-winner from Tim Duncan that could have signaled the end of the Lakers championship run. Fisher’s shot is easily the most difficult and most amazing game winner on the list, and easily could have been #1 had the Lakers not gone on to lose the NBA finals to the Pistons. Watch Fisher’s miracle game winner and Duncan's shot that preceeded it.

2. 1987 NBA Finals – Lakers vs. Celtics: The top 2 spots are reserved for the two biggest game winning shots within the last 25 years that were made on the grand stage of the NBA Finals. Magic Johnson’s so-called running “junior sky-hook” can make a solid claim to the #1 spot, if not for one variable, which we’ll discuss in a second. But Magic’s shot during a pivotal Game 4, in and of itself, was one of the greatest in NBA history and propelled the “showtime” Lakers to their back-to-back championships of the late 80s. Watch Magic take on the legendary “Celtics trio” and guide home the game winner.

1. 1998 NBA Finals – Bulls vs. Jazz: We try to block Jordan’s twilight years in Washington from our memory, and try to remember the greatest player of all-time taking this shot, rising over a helpless Bryon Russell, wrist cocked and pointed towards the basket, and holding his follow-through as if to say "don't tug on Superman's cape, please". Jordan’s jumper in Game 6 of the NBA Finals is significant because it cemented the second Bulls 3-peat, but it is nearly as important as Jordan’s last shot in a Bull’s uniform. The moment, the shot, it was all simply poetic and no other moment in the past 25 seasons of the NBA can match it. Watch the clip and feel the goosebumps.


In The News: September 27, 2007

McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton is on the cusp of making motosports history, but he literally and figuratively has miles to go before he can become the first rookie driver ever to win the Formula One driver’s championship. Earlier in the season, the incredibly talented driver sat on top of the world, a whopping 14 points ahead of rival teammate Fernando Alonso for the driver’s points lead. But now, having finished behind Alonso in five of the last six races, and with only 3 races to the end of the season, Hamilton finds himself up by a mere 2 points, 97-95.

To make matters more dicey, the relationship between Hamilton and Alonso, and Alonso and Team McLaren is severely strained. Alonso, for one, is essentially driving for himself, as it seems possible that this may be his final season with McLaren, after he snitched on the team costing them a whopping $100 million, as part of the now infamous “spygate” scandal. McLaren team Boss Ron Dennis and Alonso apparently aren’t speaking any longer, with Dennis recently calling Alonso a “remarkable recluse”.

Formula One makes its stop at the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.

Kevin McHale looking to wash his hands of past sins

If you’re going to strip a team of superstar talent like Kevin Garnett, you might as well take the rest of the proverbial fat off the bones and try to unload the remaining veteran players and their bloated salaries. It seems that’s exactly the plan for embattled Minnesota Timberwolves GM Kevin McHale. According to reports, McHale is trying his darndest to trade veteran players like Ricky Davis, Trenton Hassell and Juwan Howard, and truly start from scratch with a young core of Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Corey Brewer and Randy Foye. According to the Miami Herald, the T’Wolves may have found a suitor for the services of Ricky Davis in Pat Riley and the Miami Heat.

The Redskins have issues at Wide Receiver

While one team tries to go young, another, in a different sport, is for whatever reason going increasingly old. The Washington Redskins, whose key off-season free agent signing was nine year veteran London Fletcher, is apparently close to signing 37-year old wide receiver Keenan McCardell. There are rumblings out of FedEx field that the groin injury that stud receiver Santana Moss suffered this past weekend is a bit more serious than the team and snake-oil salesman coach Joe Gibbs is letting on publicly, thus the signing of McCardell.

It’s on again, it’s off again. The Shawn Marion trade saga contines

The Arizona Republic, which as would be expected is doing an excellent job staying on top of the Shawn Marion situation in Phoenix, reports that given all of the extranuating circumstances a trade seems unlikely. Marion said he would report to camp and realistically he is still bound to the Suns by the 2 years remaining on his contract, so any potential trade offer would have to be significant for the Suns to make the move. We’re not sure there are any truly mind-blowing, signifcant offers out there for the Suns, at least not at this moment.

An impressive sports streak comes to an end

One of the most impressive streaks in recent sports history is over. The US Women’s Soccer Team, which had previously won an amazing 51 straight matches, lost in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup to competing powerhouse Brazil by a score of 4-0.

Warrior’s coach Nelson to make rebounding a priority, or is he?

In an interview with the Associated Press, Golden State Warrior’s coach Don Nelson is rather candid in his assesment of the young, surprisingly overachieving team. Nelson, like the rest of the NBA world, is skeptical about whether the Warriors can replicate the success of last season, when they knocked out the Western Conference powerhouse Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. More specifically, Nelson is concerned about the teams lack of height and strength on the boards. Interestingly enough though, Nelson goes on to say that at least early in the season he anticipates playing 6’ 5” rookie shooting guard Marco Belinelli a lot more than 6’ 10” rookie power forward Brandon Wright. What were you saying about rebounding need again? That Nellie, he’s such a wild and crazy guy.


Shawn Marion asks for a trade; May be headed to the Lakers

The Shawn Marion trade rumors have been percolating all summer, but today things came to a boil as the aptly nicknamed “Matrix” flatly asked for a trade out of Phoenix. Marion told the Arizona Republic that he is “tired of hearing” his name in trade rumors and that “it’s time to move on.” It’s the same old song and dance that’s become the MO for disgruntled superstars in the NBA. Marion, who has been unsuccessfully seeking a contract extension at a whopping $20 million per season from the Suns, feels that he has been disrespected and that the organization lied to him, blah, blah, blah. Marion said that he would report to training camp and take part in all mandatory training camp and pre-season activities, but for a team positioned for a serious run at the championship trophy this soap-opera could become a major distraction.

Perhaps to quell the issue before it becomes a full-blown national emergency, it seems that Phoenix is considering some trade scenarios. According to reports, some of which may be wishful thinking than actual intelligence, Marion has been mentioned in trades involving both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz. The key players going to Phoenix as part of these trades would be Lamar Odom from the Lakers, or the disgruntled Andrei Kirilenko from the Jazz. Marion, for his part, would welcome a chance to play with his good buddy Kobe Bryant in LA.

"You have a great organization, great ownership there with the Lakers. I don't see no problems with playing there," Marion told the Sportingnews.com today.
For Utah the trade makes some sense, as they’d be ridding themselves of a head-ache and getting a perennial All-Star in return. But, we’re not sure if Marion, who nixed a trade to Boston earlier this summer (before the Cs traded for Garnett straight up), would welcome a trade to the land of dinosaurs and Mormons. Marion, among other things, is unhappy with being the third option behind Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire on a loaded Phoenix squad, so we’re not sure if he’ll appreciate being the third option behind Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer in Utah.

As for the Lakers, given his comments we’re sure Marion would welcome the trade, but swapping small forward Odom with small forward Marion amounts to a horizontal move for Kobe’s crusaders. The Lakers would be wise to target a back-to-the-basket big man, like Jermaine O’neal for example, that can pass the ball out of the paint, and thrive within the triangle offense. Marion really only excels in the fast-break game, a concept which is almost alien to the current Lakers squad and their coach Phil Jackson.

Then there is the root issue of Marion’s demands for a contract extension with a yearly salary of $20 million-plus. The “Matrix” may be a solid player, but he must be living in an alternate reality if he thinks his game is worth that money – that’s Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant money. What advantage do the Lakers get by trading a small forward that fits somewhat within the triangle for one that will stick out like a sore thumb, and paying the new guy $7 million more per season?

The Sportingnews.com reports that the chances of the Lakers deal happening is about “50-50”. But, if the deal does go through, the chances of the Lakers suddenly becoming a championship contender with Shawn Marion on the roster, and Lamar Odom not, is probably 0 percent.


2008: The summer of all-stars

With Kobe Bryant going bi-polar, Tim Donaghy likely going away to jail for a long time and Kevin Garnett going “green”, the summer of 2007 was certainly eventful in the world of the NBA. But, if you thought the happenings of this summer were exciting or newsworthy, you might need to take a seat before reading the names of high-profile NBA players who could potentially become free agents when summer 2008 rolls around. The list reads like a who’s who of NBA all-stars, with Mr. points-per-minute Gilbert Arenas leading the pack.

Granted, some of the players listed below will likely re-sign with their respective teams (see Tim Duncan) and some, like Marion and O’Neal may be traded during the 2007 season, but all of the following players carry the dreaded ETO moniker next to their names. ETO, or early termination option, allows a player to opt out of the remaining years of his contract, meaning if they so chose each of these stars could become unrestricted free agents during the summer of 2008.

Point Guards: Allen Iverson, Baron Davis, Stephon Marbury, Gilbert Arenas
Shooting Guards: Corey Maggette
Small Forwards: Ron Artest, Antawn Jamison
Power Forwards: Elton Brand, Shawn Marion, Tim Duncan
Centers: Jermaine O’Neal

Other unrestricted free agents next summer include:

Sam Cassell, Kwame Brown, Maurice Evans, Stromile Swift, Jason Williams, Ricky Davis, Juwan Howard, Bruce Bowen

Oh, in case you were wondering, the self-labeled "Black Mamba" can’t opt out of his contract until the end of the 2008-2009 season. So, he’s stuck with the Lakers, whether he likes it or not, for at least 2 more seasons.


The benching of Rex Grossman is long overdue

After yet another horrific performance yesterday, where he threw no less than 3 interceptions, bringing his season total to a whopping 6 interceptions in only 3 games, Rex Grossman, the incumbent quarterback of the Chicago Bears sounded like a broken record.

"Turnovers were the issue,'' Grossman said during the post-game press conference. "You just can't have that. We have to fix that. We have to be able to make plays and still hold onto the football. We're just gonna come to practice, have a team meeting, work out, realize we're a good football team and fix our problems.''
Bears fans have heard enough of this tune.

Time and again on Sunday night the Bears brick-wall defense made plays, turnovers and key stops, which Rex Grossman and the offense promptly squandered. Interceptions on defense turned into 3-and-out punts on offense. Over and over, and over again, Rex Grossman was unable to take advantage of good field position. This is of course a familiar scene for Bears fans – games like Sunday night, where turnovers essentially gave the game away to the Dallas Cowboys, have happened all too frequently during the dreadful tenure of Rex Grossman at the helm.

How much longer can the Chicago Bears defensive players put up with this ineptitude before they lose all patience and stop playing? Judging from the booing in Soldier Field, Bears fans have already given up and have had enough of Grossman’s uselessness. Most realize that backup quarterback Brian Griese may not be the answer, but they’re absolutely, 100 percent sure that Grossman doesn’t even know the question.

GM Jerry Angelo and Bears management share the blame

It’s not as though the Bears haven’t had the chances to fix this quarterback issue. Every summer for the last three seasons Bears management has had ample opportunity, if they were so inclined, to shore up the quarterback position with a veteran presence, or look to the future with a stud rookie. But, despite the unbelievably apparent shortcomings at the QB position, they paid no mind to free agents like Drew Bress, Matt Shaub, Jeff Garcia and Matt Hasselbeck, as, one after another, they found homes in places other than Soldier Field. This so called “commitment” to Grossman, in the face of repeated futility, is absolutely inexcusable.

Take a look at some of the free-agent quarterbacks that have been available over the last 3 summers:

2007: Matt Shaub, David Carr, Jeff Garcia, Joey Harrington
2006: Drew Brees, Jon Kitna (Bears signed Brian Griese)
2005: Matt Hasselbeck, Drew Bress, Jeff Garcia

Or some rookie quarterbacks that the Bears have passed up in the draft over the past 3 seasons:

2007: Kevin Kolb, Drew Stanton
2006: Travaris Jackson, DJ Shockley
2005: Jason Campbell, Aaron Rogers, Derek Anderson (Bears picked Kyle Orton in the 4th round)

Bears fans can only imagine Shaub, Hasselbeck or Bress as their quarterback? Any one of those guys could easily make the Bears favorites in the relatively weak NFC, and give them a legitimate shot at taking out their AFC opponent in the Super Bowl. Any one of those quarterbacks could make the efforts of one of the toughest defenses in recent memory worthwhile.

As it stands though, the Chicago Bears are a pathetic 1-2, with the 1 win coming against the Kansas City Chiefs, one of the worst teams in the league this season. Every single player on the Bears defense, who give their blood and sweat every week in shutting down their opponents, deserve better. Players on the offensive side of the ball, talented players like Bernard Berrian, Mushin Muhammad, Olin Kreutz and Devin Hester deserve better.
"It's on my shoulders to take care of the football,'' Grossman said yesterday. "I have to start making plays, do what I do best. You have to get back to basics, make sure you see where you're throwing it. Football is mental. We're all talented players."

Yes Rex, the Bears are a talented team, but please don’t include yourself in that conversation.