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 also inspired us to take a look back not only at the best buzzer-beating, series-ending shots, but also reminiscing on simply the ten best series-ending shots in league playoff history.
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10. 1995: Mario Elie’s “Kiss of Death”
While Elie’s gesture may have caught more attention than his performance on the court, the former Houston Rockets wingman drained a clutch-three pointer to help take Game 7 and the title from the Suns, who had a 3-1 series lead at one point. Following the shot, Elie famously blew a kiss to the Phoenix crowd.
9. 1999: Allan Houston’s floater
Allan Houston delivered a game-winning floater for the New York Knicks in Game 5 of the 1999 first-round series to defeat the Miami Heat. Though it wasn’t a buzzer-beater, his improbable shot led the Knicks to become the second eight-seed to ever knock off a one-seed.
8. 1993: Charles Barkley’s dagger
It may have left time on the clock, but Barkley’s jumper over David Robinson to defeat the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals will forever be etched in the record books. With the game tied at 100, Barkley dribbled in before leaping and knocking down the cold-blooded shot.
7. 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 saved his young Blazers from a Game 7 on the road and did it in less than a second. My only question is how did Houston allow 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.
6. 1990: Vinnie Johnson’s Finals-clinching jumper
The “Bad Boy” Pistons won their second consecutive NBA title due to Vinne Johnson’s heroics. He hit the series-ending contested 15-footer with 0.7 ticks left on the clock, securing the 92-90 victory and ultimately the Larry O’Brien championship trophy.
5. 1993: John Paxson’s trey
While it is always Michael Jordan who gets brought up when talking about the Bulls in the ’90s, there were other integral parts of those teams, too. In the 1993 NBA Finals, Chicago guard John Paxson hit the biggest shot of his life.
Trailing the Phoenix Suns by two points in Game 6, Horace Grant found Paxson waiting by the three-point line with no one else in sight. He caught the ball in stride and knocked down the three, giving the Bulls the one-point lead with 14.2 seconds remaining. The shot proved to be the difference in the series.
4. 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.
3. 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.
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 into the basket, sending the Rockets to the NBA Finals.
1. 1998: Michael Jordan does it… again
The shot has been immortalized worldwide. It’s the shot we all dream of having the opportunity to take as children. NBA Finals. Game 6. No bigger stage.
The Chicago Bulls were searching for their sixth title in the last eight years, but found themselves down one point to the hungry Jazz. After Jordan’s layup and steal to give Chicago one final opportunity to win the game, MJ crossed up Bryon Russell–one of the league’s premier defenders at the time–rose up and knocked down the 20-footer with just 5.2 seconds left in regulation.
Stockton missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, which sealed the game for the Bulls and added onto Jordan’s extraordinary resume as the best basketball player who has ever lived.
What are the most memorable shots in NBA Playoff history?
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