Damian Lillard’s epic buzzer-beating three-pointer from Friday night’s victory will forever be engrained in the minds of basketball fans. Now simply referred to as “The Shot” around Portland and across the NBA, Lillard’s clutch trey defeated the Houston Rockets in Game 6 and sent them on summer vacation. It has also inspired us to take a look back, reminiscing on the four best series-ending buzzer-beaters in league playoff history.
*** *** ***
4. 2014: Damian Lillard‘s three-pointer
If this wasn’t the first round, it would probably rank higher. (MJ‘s might be in the first round, but c’mon, that shot sparked the greatest legacy in league history.) Lillard save his young Blazers from a Game 7 on the road and did it in less than a second. My only question is how Houston allowed him to get so open?
Lillard is already probably the most clutch young player in the NBA today and in just his second year, who knows how high he can go? We could be in for a whole decade of “Damian Lillard game-winner” stories.
3. 1997: John Stockton’s three-pointer
Though John Stockton never won an NBA title, the Hall of Fame point guard certainly made big plays and knocked down legendary shots. In Game 6 of the 1997 Western Conference Finals between the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets, the score was knotted up at 100 with 2.8 seconds on the clock.
Stockton received the ball off an inbounds pass, took a step toward the three-point line and drained the shot over Charles Barkley, sending the Jazz to the Finals.
2. 1986: Ralph Sampson’s miraculous shot
The Lakers entered the 1986 Playoffs as the West’s No. 1 seed, looking to emerge as NBA champions for the second consecutive season. Yet it was the Houston Rockets who dethroned their rivals. With the Lakers on the verge of elimination in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, Houston’s Ralph Simpson stepped up to the spotlight.
The game was tied at 112 and just one second remained on the clock, but Sampson received an inbounds pass and hoisted up an off-balanced jumper that found its way in the basket, sending the Rockets to the NBA Finals.
1. 1989: Michael Jordan’s “The Shot”
Before Lillard’s “The Shot,” it was MJ who arguably hit the most memorable jumper the league has ever witnessed. With just two seconds remaining on the clock and the Chicago Bulls facing a one-point deficit to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 1989 Playoffs, Jordan made history. He fought off a double-team, received the ball from the inbounder, took two dribbles into the lane, double-clutched and continued his storied legacy.
What do you think?
Follow Matt on Twitter at @MatthewHochberg.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.