Basketball games are fantastic to watch because they are so end-to-end. In the tightest games, every point matters. The best scores happen in the most dramatic of circumstances. Today we’re going to take a look at some of the great game-winning shots in NBA history. This is when the best players stand up and show their ability to handle pressure in the clutch.
Many of these are buzzer-beaters because these are usually the most dramatic scores. However, there are a few scores on this list that were simply too good to leave off despite occurring with a little bit more time left. Maybe their impact was significant or it could be that they were just from a crazy distance. Check out the list below via Sportscasting and the ICT Zone.
30. Kevin Durant vs. Dallas Mavericks (2011)
The Oklahoma City Thunder definitely miss Durant. One of their greatest-ever players, he delivered when it counted for the franchise. A case in point was in 2011 when they played the Mavericks during the regular season. Dallas led 102-101 with barely two seconds left to play. It looked like a single point would be enough for the Mavericks to secure a win.
But of course, this is basketball and a one-point lead is never enough. Thabo Sefolosha got past Dirk Nowitzki and passed the ball to the waiting Durant. He duly obliged with one of the great scores of his Oklahoma era. Durant’s accuracy was lethal because he didn’t even dribble closer to the ring. It was instinctual. He knew where the basket was and then the Thunder won the game.
There were just four-tenths of a second left in the game when Fisher stunned the Spurs in 2004. This was a period where San Antonio began to consistently emerge as one of the best teams in the league. However, the Lakers stopped them in their tracks in Game Five of the Western Conference semifinals. They had an answer for everything the Spurs threw at them and enough firepower to get them over the line.
This matchup was incredibly dramatic. Tim Duncan put the Spurs ahead with 0.9 seconds left to play. But Fisher responded immediately 0.5 seconds later with one of the quickest shots ever seen. With the likes of Shaq, Kobe Bryant, and Kobe Bryant on his team, Fisher was an unlikely hero. In the end, this was his day and he celebrated accordingly. However, they didn’t win the Championship that year.
The Chicago Bulls were in a state of flux in 1994 without Michael Jordan. After MJ left the NBA behind for the first time, they relied heavily upon Scottie Pippen. There were also other players who provided key moments during this year and many of them went unsung. Kukoc is one of the most overlooked Bulls from this era, but his contribution in their postseason run was essential.
Phil Jackson withdrew Pippen against the Knicks in Game Three of the semifinals. This infuriated Pippen because Jackson put the rookie Kukoc on in his place. However, all was forgiven when Kukoc scored a buzzer-beater at the death. Jackson designed a special play to ensure Kukoc got off some shots before the end of the game. It worked and the Bulls won the game.
While the Chicago Bulls dominated the nineties, other teams also enjoyed success too. The Houston Rockets won back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995. However, they owed their success in no small part to the contribution of Elie, an unsung hero. They played the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals and fell behind in the series. But it wasn’t over yet.
The Rockets dragged themselves back into the series after they fell 3-1 behind. It came down to the final game, and that’s when Elie delivered a franchise-defining moment. As the clock was just about hit zero, he scored from the corner. Then, after one of the most important shots in Houston history, he blew a kiss to the fans. This score sent them on their way to successive titles.
Stephen Curry is a genius. However, he’s not the best defensive talent on the Warriors’ roster. Irving took full advantage of this in 2016. With less than a minute left, Golden State and the Cleveland Cavaliers were tied. The game was heading for overtime until Irving popped up with an elite three-pointer. This was one of his greatest moments in the clutch and a highlight-reel score.
He knew there were 53 seconds left to play, so he took his time and calmly sized up the distance. Curry guarded him but Irving was not worried. He floated the ball over his opponent’s head and it dropped in the most satisfying manner. It was a beautiful moment for Irving and his franchise. Meanwhile, Irving got his hands on an NBA Championship ring during his time in Cleveland. He maintains heroic status there.
25. Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. New York Knicks (2017)
This was one of those shots that sum a player up. Giannis didn’t have an elite body of work behind him before this 2017 game against the Knicks. However, he was on his way to a first All-Star appearance and the NBA Most Improved Player Award. It was this kind of swaggering run that sealed his destiny as a future superstar. The Greek hero demonstrated instinct and pure skill against his hapless opponents.
There’s nothing quite like a buzzer-beater to create a buzz about an athlete. Giannis came up with the goods here and he stole the game for the Bucks. Milwaukee fans rejoiced as he bullied his way forward and used his inherent gifts to win the game. A truly brilliant player, this was a game that showed exactly what he was capable of. He hasn’t slowed down since.
Westbrook had a poor reputation as an inaccurate shooter but somehow pulled off this outrageous score in 2017. It’s definitely one of the best shots of his career and it came against the Nuggets. He scored the 42nd triple-double of his career, a record-breaking achievement at the time. Meanwhile, it was also a game-winner. This was the cherry on top of a fantastic individual display.
The Nuggets led 105-103 with the seconds ticking down. He launched a 35-yard scorcher that won the game for the Thunder. This was his MVP-winning season and he also made the All-NBA first team for his efforts. Unfortunately, that was about as good as it got for Oklahoma because they never progressed as a franchise. But it wasn’t for his lack of effort.
For a little while, it seemed like Waiters was the next big thing. Unfortunately, that proved not to the case as he was a one-hit-wonder. However, he had some great moments for the Miami Heat, most notably in 2017. He was especially good in one game against the Warriors as he played out of his skin with some great shots. This season effectively earned him contracts with other franchises like the Lakers later in his career.
Waiters wasn’t an All-Star and didn’t win a championship ring with the Heats but this was a great game. He scored 33 points against Golden State, including six three-pointers. Meanwhile, he achieved the game-winning score with a jump shot over Klay Thompson. While his display gave the Heat false hope, it was also breathtaking on the day.
22. Stephen Curry vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (2016)
This list isn’t all about buzzer-beaters. Curry was exceptional in 2016 against the Thunder. He delivered an unbelievable game-winning score with under a minute left to play. It was a thrilling regular-season game as star players on both teams were exceptional. In the end, the Golden State Warriors had just a little bit too much for Oklahoma. But it was an incredible game.
Curry broke a record as he scored a ridiculous 12 three-pointers. Almost all of his shots found their mark like a sniper in Stalingrad. His last score was the most dramatic because it was the game-winner. There were just 0.6 seconds left on the clock when he let loose with the final blow. Curry released the ball from 38 feet to seal victory for Golden State and end the game in style.
Nobody expects much from the Washington Wizards. In 2015, they made the playoffs and faced the Atlanta Hawks. However, things quickly turned against them after John Wall broke his hand in the first game of the series. This wasn’t what any of the Wizards wanted because he was such a key performer for the team. Luckily, the veteran Pierce rose to the occasion and reminded the world of his talents.
At 37 years of age, Pierce was past his prime. He also hadn’t done much in the series before game three. Atlanta snatched the second game and it looked like they would take the third too. But Pierce had other ideas and rewound the years with a fantastic display in the clutch. Bradley Beal passed to Pierce and he unleashed one of the best shots in Washington history to steal the game.
In 2014, Lillard was the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year. However, the young All-Star still had to prove that he was good enough to lead a team. He did so in style against the Rockets with one of the best shots of his career. The Portland point guard demonstrated elite efficiency in the postseason, even if his team wasn’t good enough to win it. However, he didn’t let his team down.
He converted almost 50 percent of his three-point shots against the Rockets. This was a scorching statistic and instantly made him one of the Blazers’ favorite players. Meanwhile, he also scored an excellent game-winning three-pointer to seal the series for Portland. Lillard’s presence meant Portland always had a chance in every game.
19. Metta Sandiford-Artest vs. Phoenix Suns (2010)
Yes, Ron Artest has another name. No, he is no longer Metta World Peace. Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about one of the best shots of his career. Known primarily for his defensive qualities, Artest was also excellent in the clutch. The former Lakers star was an eccentric individual but there is no doubting his ability when he was on form. This moment against the Suns says it all.
It was game seven of the 2010 Finals and the series was in the balance. Phoenix thought that they were going to snatch an unlikely victory but Artest broke their hearts. He scored an unexpected three-pointer after Kobe Bryant spilled the ball in the dying moments of the match. Bryant won his fifth NBA Championship ring after this and the hearts of fans. But Artest won the game for his team.
‘King James’ makes numerous appearances on this list. The NBA icon has produced game-winning shots for all of his franchises. This one for the Cavaliers came in their 2009 playoff campaign. Game two of the series turned into a straight shootout between James and Dwight Howard. It was breathtaking television as the two stars went toe-to-toe. But only one man could win.
Orlando won the first game by a single point but LeBron pulled back the second. It looked like the Magic were going to run away with the series but James refused to die without a fight. His buzzer-beating three-pointer kept the series alive. Ultimately, the Magic were victorious over six games but LeBron gave the Cavs a moment of joy. The smile on his face said it all as he was delighted.
This game should have meant nothing but it turned into a barnburner. This was mostly due to Wade’s skill. It was March and this game had little relevance for the Bulls or the Heat. Soon this became an all-out gunfight between the two teams. Wade dropped 48 points and 12 assists on a career night for the franchise.
It was one of those nights where all of Wade’s shots appeared to find their mark. Furthermore, with the game tied 127 apiece, Wade popped won it for Miami. A three-time NBA Champion, Wade is a hero in Florida. Meanwhile, he was also a 13-time All-Star. This moment was iconic as Wade ran around the court and jumped on the scorer’s table.
Definitely the best moment of Kerr’s career, this was a great moment for one of the Bulls’ supporting cast. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen received most of the credit for Chicago’s success in the 1990s. However, they relied on a host of other players. These included Kerr, who was integral to MJ’s final title wins. He scored the game-winner in 1997 against the Jazz.
Kerr deserved this chance of glory. He was a lethal marksman and produced unbelievable shots as a lesser-heralded member of the cast. Jordan made the decision to offload the ball to Kerr and allow him to seal the win. The Jazz was ready for Jordan to score and left Kerr in space. He duly obliged and sent Chicago into ecstasy. Later, he joked he was happy to bail Jordan out.
We’re not entirely sure what the city of Toronto did to James. Whatever it was, it must have been bad because he responded with a vengeance. The Raptors began to feature regularly in the postseason from the middle of the 2010s. But James was always in their way. 2018 was no different as he produced some game-changing moments to crush their hopes of that elusive win.
The Raptors didn’t understand what had just happened. In short, LeBron lazily ran through their defense. Then he scored with one of those shots that just looked effortless. It was devastating for the Raptors but it sent Cleveland into raptures. They sensed their destiny wasn’t far away on the road to the city’s dream of a major title. James played a massive role in that.
14. Damian Lillard vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (2019)
Paul George called this a ‘bad shot,’ but Lillard didn’t care. His sour grapes were understandable considering the manner in which the Blazers snatched victory from the Thunder’s outstretched arms. Lillard has a reputation as a player who is strong in the clutch. He lived up to this in 2019 with a last-ditch score over George that crushed his rival’s spirit. It was well-deserved.
There were doubts over Lillard after his 2018 postseason showing or lack thereof. He was anonymous in the series against the Pelicans but was a man reborn the following year. Every elite player has one bad year where things don’t go their way. However, the postseason is the worst time to lose momentum because every single game matters. In the end, Lillard showed his qualities.
The Lakers won the NBA Championship in 2020 but suffered injuries and poor form the following season. In the final game of the regular season, it looked like they were going to miss the playoffs. They needed to beat the Golden State Warriors but the game was slipping away. However, they also had arguably the best player in the history of the sport on the court.
With less than a minute left to play, James popped up with the decisive score. It proved to be one of the most significant Lakers’ shots of the season as they won 103-100. This was enough to see them through to the Western Conference postseason against a resurgent Phoenix Suns. An elite athlete like LeBron means that the Lakers always have the ability to win.
After their decade of glory, the Bulls endured almost two decades of pure, unadulterated misery. In Rose, they had a hometown star with superstar potential. However, injuries took their toll on one of the league’s most athletic players. For four seasons, he was unable to make a sustained impact on his franchise. But then, in 2015, he exploded into life for a game against LeBron James’ Cavaliers.
The Bulls took a 2-1 series lead after Rose hung with James every step of the way. He scored 30 points with seven assists and seven rebounds in a commanding display against the very best. Furthermore, he performed in the clutch too as he scored a game-winning three-pointer. The game was tied at 96 when Rose let loose.
On his day, Paul is one of the most clinical shooters in the league. At times he can be frustrating but produced one of the most iconic shots of his career in 2015. He was excellent for the L.A. Clippers against the defending champions and was lethal until the end. The series hung in the balance as Game Seven reached its conclusion. However, it looked like the Spurs had too much for San Antonio.
Paul suffered an ill-timed hamstring strain during the game but gritted his teeth to play through the pain. He popped up with a dramatic game-winning score to beat Tim Duncan’s men. His 27 points and six assists were integral to the Clippers’ victory on the night. Unfortunately, they missed their injured star desperately throughout the rest of the series as San Antonio won. But this night belonged to Paul.
Horry was one of the most devastating clutch players ever. He also has one of the most glorious records out there. The former Lakers star won a ridiculous seven NBA Championship rings with three different teams. ‘Big Shot Bob’ produced some insane last-ditch shots, but this one against the Kings was defining. The Lakers trailed Sacramento after frustrating Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
They were just moments away from extending their series lead to 3-1. But then Horry popped up with a glorious game-winning buzzer-beater to tie the series. From there the momentum swung in L.A’s direction. They went on and won the championship. If Horry didn’t produce at the buzzer, then it’s highly likely that Sacramento would have gone to their first NBA Finals.
The Black Mamba’s early ventures into the playoffs didn’t inspire confidence in his ability in the clutch. But he overcame that to become one of the biggest stars of his generation. Bryant’s presence on the court sent fear into the hearts of his opponents because he was so devastating. One of the most dramatic shots of his career came against the Suns in Game Four of a first-round series in 2006.
Phoenix led by a single point with just six seconds left of the game. It didn’t matter because Bryant produced a moment of individual brilliance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. He seized the ball and dribbled for five steps before he scored. Raja Bell and Boris Diaw scrambled desperately to defend him but failed. The Lakers won 99-98 because of Bryant’s persistence.
Sampson was responsible for the most gravity and physics-defying shot on this list. The Houston Rockets legend played against the Lakers in the 1986 Western Conference Finals. They won the series with a dominant 4-1 lead. Sampson put the finishing touch to their victory before they crashed out of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. That was a bridge too far, but at least he had this brilliant moment.
He tipped the ball over his head in the most distorted fashion over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Nobody expected him to pull it off and the Lakers believed that they had every angle covered. But somehow, Sampson twisted his body and shot with success. As a result, the Rockets won the game and the series. It ended 114-112 and Houston celebrated as one. A great moment.
The Utah Jazz was one of the biggest underachievers of the ’90s. With players like Karl Malone and Stockton, they had genuine quality in their ranks. But they were also unlucky to be playing during the same era as the Chicago Bulls dynasty. In 1997, the Jazz made the NBA Finals for the first time in their history. While they ultimately lost to the Bulls, there was drama in the semifinals.
Houston led against the Jazz with less than three seconds left after Charles Barkley put them ahead. But then, Stockton produced one of the most legendary moments in Utah folklore. One of the calmest scores on this list, his buzzer-beater secured the victory. Ultimately, it didn’t inspire them to their first Finals win, but the journey was special for their loyal fans.
There are closer buzzer-beaters on this list but few of them were as crucial as Leonard’s in 2019. After surprisingly landing in Toronto, the former Spurs star inspired them on a championship run. Their quest ended in glory as the Toronto roster got their hands on rings for the first time. Leonard played a massive role in their victory and was important in their semifinal against Philly.
In Game Seven of the series, the action was tied at 90 with five seconds left on the clock. Leonard had the 76ers’ Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid in his path but it didn’t matter. He produced one of the most stunning and dramatic shots of his career to win the game for the Raptors. The ball reverberated off of the ring an agonizing four times before it finally fell through the hoop.
Jordan’s final appearance for the Chicago Bulls was glorious. He produced one of the best shots of his career to seal his sixth and final NBA Championship. Some fans insist he committed an offensive foul on Byron Russell. However, most people don’t remember that and focus on his game-winning score. There wasn’t a better way for Jordan to depart Chicago for the Washington Wizards.
This was a pure cinematic sequence. With 5.2 seconds left to play, he rose like a superhero. Then he scored to win the game and the series for his beloved franchise. The final score at the Delta Center was 87-86 in favor of the Bulls. Meanwhile, Jordan added a cherry to his legacy as he reminded fans of his brilliance. To sum up, this was a glorious way to end his time in red.
In 2018, James returned to Cleveland and inspired them to that elusive championship. But the victory wasn’t a clean sweep. They had to slog and struggle on the road to glory and relied heavily on their star man. It was lucky that he was able to live up to the hype and pressure because he kept them moving forward. One display against the Indiana Pacers was key to their victory.
They met the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs with the series in the balance. The teams were tied 2-2 and level in their fifth game. Victor Oladipo blocked LeBron’s game-winning effort but King James wasn’t finished. He produced a stunning buzzer-beater to win the game. It was crucial because this series went all the way to the seventh game. In the end, ‘The King’s’ shots played a massive role.
Fisher produced one of the most clutch shots ever seen when the L.A. Lakers took on the Spurs in 2004. Tim Duncan’s men took the lead and it looked like they had stolen the game in the dying moments. But Fisher didn’t receive that memo. He took it upon himself to unleash one of the most important shots he ever scored. This one was truly magnificent and crucial.
With just 0.4 seconds on the clock, Fisher didn’t think. The Lakers trailed 73-72 when he fired off his buzzer-beater. Then, without hesitation, he sprinted off of the court in celebration. Fisher said that he didn’t want the Spurs to think that they had any doubt that it went in. The Lakers guard produced a sensational moment when it counted the most. That’s definitely a story to tell the grandkids.
One of the unluckiest players ever, McGrady had the potential to be a superstar. But injuries prevented him from achieving everything that he could have. While his teams maintained horrendous postseason records, McGrady was brilliant as an individual. One performance against the Spurs showed exactly what he was capable of.
The Rockets trailed 76-68 with less than a minute to go. Then, McGrady burst into life as he scored a ridiculous 13 points in the final minute to win the game for Houston. All of his shots found their target as he scored a buzzer-beater with just 1.7 seconds left on the clock. This was one of McGrady’s greatest ever performances. It’s almost sad in hindsight because he could have achieved much more.
Ironically, Jordan’s greatest buzzer-beater came before his title-winning exploits. In 1989, a young MJ made the playoffs against the Cavaliers. It was the fifth game of the first round in the Eastern Conference and the Bulls trailed by a single point. The clock was ticking down and the game was slipping away but Jordan stole the show. He showed his devastating potential with one glorious moment.
Jordan rose above Craig Ehlo and scored a phenomenal buzzer-beater. It was one of the most glorious shots of his career as helped the Bulls to a 101-100 win. It was dynamic and explosive from Jordan who was one of the most exciting prospects in the league. This was his coming-of-age moment and gave the Bulls some cheer. They didn’t win the championship that year but they knew the future was bright.