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.