When the verdict of any sports game is decided too early and the narrative gets too predictable, a game can quickly go from being entertaining and dramatic to unwatchable and boring. The Super Bowl this past year was certainly an example of that. With the fate of the game already decided by half time, the highly anticipated Super Bowl became the highly disappointing Super Bowl.
What makes sports so provocative and engaging is that every now and then, the fate of a game come down to the wire; where the verdict of the game could go either direction and the viewer has no idea which way the wind will blow. It is like a movie that keeps you at the edge of your seat until the very end. The suspense and mystery are what keep us coming back over and over to sports.
Sometimes there’s only one second on the clock, sometimes there is two, and sometimes there is even less than that. But what keeps us at the hair on our skin standing is the possibility of a buzzer beater.
In basketball, a buzzer beater is a shot that goes in as time expires. Now, there are some shots that are close to being buzzer beaters, but technically do not qualify as buzzer beaters since there is still some time left on the clock. A true buzzer beater is a shot that goes in as time expires. That means that if any time is left over after the shot goes in, it technically does not qualify as a buzzer beater.
This is a list of the top 10 buzzer beaters of all-time that have decided the fate of a game with zero seconds left. Sometimes the game is meaningful and sometimes it is just a regular season game, so this list will factor in either the intensity of the game or the ridiculousness of the shot.
10 Josh Smith’s Dunk Off a Missed Shot
On March 25th, 2010, the Atlanta Hawks were tied 84-84 against the Orlando Magic. Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks had possession of the ball for the very last shot. The ball went to Joe Johnson, but his one legged jumper went off the back of the rim. Smith then went in for the high arching rebound and did a put back dunk as time expired. Buzzer beating shots are rare, but buzzer beating dunks are even rarer.
9 Dwyane Wade – This is My House
On March 9th, 2009, the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls were in a double overtime with the game tied 127-127. The Bulls had the ball and they wanted to do an isolation play with John Salmons at the top of the key. However, Dwyane Wade double teamed Salmons from his blind slide, stripped the ball out of Salmons’s hands, and then shot a one legged three pointer for the win. It was great defense and great offense combined into one and one of the best post-game celebrations ever.
8 David Lee’s 0.1 Second Tip In
On December 20th, 2006, the New York Knicks were tied with the Charlotte Bobcats 109-109 in the second overtime with only 0.1 seconds left - not 1 second left, but 0.1 seconds left. There isn’t a whole lot that you can do with just 0.1 seconds left. The only option that you really have is a tip-in.
The Knicks were inbounding the ball from half court and lobbed the ball over the basket where David Lee tipped the ball in for the win with his off hand. It really doesn’t get any closer and miraculous than that.
7 Stephon Marbury’s Runner
On April 19th, 2003, the Phoenix Suns and the San Antonio Spurs met in the first round of ’03 playoffs. The Spurs were up 95-93 in overtime and Tim Duncan was at the free throw line for his second free throw with just 5.1 seconds left. Duncan had already missed the first free throw, which could have given the Spurs a 3-point lead, unfortunately Duncan missed the second free throw as well and the rebound went right into the hands of Stephon Marbury. Marbury then rushed the ball down the court and hit a three pointer off of one leg for the win to put the Suns 1-0 ahead of the Spurs.
6 John Stockton’s Biggest Shot of His Career
On May 29th, 1997, during Game 6 of the ’97 Western Conference Finals, the Utah Jazz were tied with the Houston Rockets 100-100 with just 2.8 seconds left. The Jazz had the ball out of bounds and Bryon Russell threw the ball to Stockton at the top of the key where he nailed a three over Charles Barkley to send the Utah Jazz to the Finals passed the Houston Rockets. Pressure situations are hard enough during the regular season, but the pressure is that much higher in the Conference Finals.
5 Big Shot Bob vs. Sacramento Queens
On May 26th, 2002, the Los Angeles Lakers were down 99-97 to the Sacramento Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers were already trailing 2-1 and the Kings were poised to take a 3-1 lead, until Big Shot Bob came to the rescue.
After the Lakers missed a shot to send the game into overtime, Vlade Divac tipped the rebound towards his end of the court hoping that time would expire. Unfortunately, the ball was tipped right to Robert Horry as he nailed one of the biggest shots of his career.
4 Jordan over Ehlo
On May 7th, 1989, it was Game 5 of the first round between the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs had swept the Bulls during the regular season 4-0, but the playoffs were an entirely different story. Michael Jordan already had 42 points, but the Bulls were down 100-99 with just 3 seconds left. In what may be one of the most epic celebratory acts in NBA history, Michael Jordan got the inbounds pass, dribbled to the free throw line, and hung just a second longer than Craig Ehlo for the game winner.
3 Derek Fisher’s 0.4
On May 13th, 2004, the rivalry between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers was one of the most intense in the league.
The game was over. Or at least, it should have been over. But one lucky shot deserves another. The Lakers called a timeout and advanced the ball to half court. The Spurs thought that the ball was going to go to Kobe Bryant, so they double-teamed him. Unfortunately, that left Derek Fisher wide open. Fisher streaked across the free throw line and put in a shot that only a left-hander could have done with 0.4 seconds left.
2 Morris Peterson’s Ridiculous Buzzer Beater
On March 30th, 2007, the Washington Wizards were up 109-106 over the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors had no timeouts, so they could not advance the ball to half court. With just 3.8 seconds left, the Raptors threw a Hail Mary pass across half court only for it to be intercepted by Wizards big man Michael Ruffin. Ruffin then threw the ball high up in the air with the hopes that time would expire, only to have it re-intercepted by Raptor Morris Peterson. Peterson then caught the ball with barely any time left and heaved it from half court to send the game into overtime. For all of that drama to have taken place within 3.8 seconds was truly a miracle.
1 Devin Harris Miracle Shot
On February 23th, 2009, the New Jersey Nets inbounded the ball after a made free throw by the Philadelphia Sixers, which puts the Nets down 96-95. As one of the fastest point guards in the league, Devin Harris dribbled the ball down the court with 1.8 seconds left, but Harris had it stripped and the ball bobbled out of his hands.
Harris then re-gathered the ball and put up a half-court heave while falling out of bounds for the win. The game was just a regular season game, but it may have been the most remarkable shot in NBA history.