Ranking the 15 Most Clutch Shots in NBA Finals History

Peter Emerick@@peteremerickSenior Writer IIJune 12, 2012

Ranking the 15 Most Clutch Shots in NBA Finals History

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    The 2012 NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat are about to get under way, and they happen to feature players who aren't strangers to clutch moments.

    LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade and James Harden have all had their share of game-winning shots and clutch-time moments, and they will all undoubtedly be ready to rise to the occasion if their team needs them to in this year's finals. 

    With that being said, it's time to look at the most clutch shots in NBA Finals history—from Michael Jordan's final shot with the Chicago Bulls to Jerry West's 60-foot, game-tying two-pointer. 

    Ahead, you'll find the 15 most clutch shots in NBA Finals history.

15. Kobe Bryant's Game-Tying 3 Against Detroit in Game 2 of 2004 Finals

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    When: Game 2 of 2004 NBA Finals

    Kobe Bryant has certainly hit his fair share of clutch shots in his career, and his playoff heroics began here with a game-tying three-pointer in the 2004 NBA Finals.

    What makes this play such a memorable one is that the Black Mamba launched the game-tying shot from about three feet behind the three-point line.

    Not only that, but Kobe also hit the shot with the poise of a true champion—proving that in just his eighth year in the NBA, he was ready to become one of the all-time greats.

14. Allen Iverson over Tyronn Lue Ends Lakers' 19-Game Streak in 2001 Finals

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    When: Game 1 of 2001 NBA Finals

    Allen Iverson sneaks onto this list with the infamous "step-over shot."

    While this shot wasn't a game-winner, it certainly sealed the win for the Philadelphia 76ers with under one minute left in the game.

    What makes this shot so epic is the fact that it capped off Iverson's remarkable 48-point performance, in which he absolutely abused Tyronn Lue—the player who had made fun of Iverson's trademark cornrows and overall "look" heading into the finals.

    If Iverson hadn't stepped over Lue after his cross-over jumper, the shot wouldn't be so special. But he did, and that's why this clutch shot, with the game within two points, is on this list.

13. Gerald Henderson Steals Pass, Sends Game 2 of 1984 Finals to Overtime

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    When: Game 2 of 1984 NBA Finals 

    Gerald Henderson's steal of James Worthy's lackadaisical pass and subsequent layup to send the game to overtime is one of the most clutch moments in Boston Celtics franchise history.

    Not only did Henderson's clutch play send the game to overtime, which the Celtics ultimately won, it also gave the Celtics the momentum they needed to ultimately knock off the Lakers in seven games in the 1984 NBA Finals.

    If Henderson hadn't stolen Worthy's pass and driven straight to the basket, the Celtics could've very well failed to win the 1984 NBA title, and that's what makes his shot such a clutch one.

12. George King's Game-Winner Lifts Nats over Fort Wayne in 1955 Finals

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    When: Game 7 of 1955 NBA Finals

    Here's a clutch finals moment that came out of a matchup between two teams that you may have never heard of—the Syracuse Nationals and the Fort Wayne Pistons.

    George King's game-winning free throw and following steal to seal the Nats' first NBA title is the definition of clutch, and it's certainly deserving of its spot on this list.

    King made the Game 7, game-winning free throw look ridiculously easy, and the poise he displayed on the defensive side of the ball just moments later makes it that much more remarkable.

11. Gar Heard's Game-Tying Jumper Against Celtics in 1976 Finals

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    When: Game 5 of 1976 NBA Finals

    Just when the Celtics thought they had won Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals, Garfield Heard had different news for them.

    With just one second left on the clock in the second overtime, after Jo Jo White put the Celtics up by two points on a free throw, Heard hit a turnaround jumper from the top of the key to send this epic matchup into a third overtime (at 4:10 mark of video).

    While the Suns would go on to lose this Game 5 and ultimately the series with the Celtics, Heard's shot was clutch, and it helped make this matchup the first in NBA Finals history to make it to a third overtime.

10. Jerry West's Steal and Game-Winner in 1962 Finals

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    When: Game 3 of 1962 NBA Finals

    This clutch NBA Finals moment is helped by one of the laziest inbound passes in the history of the game—courtesy of the Celtics' Sam Jones—but that doesn't negate the clutch play Jerry West made.

    Jerry "Mr. Clutch" West proved once again why he earned that nickname with a veteran steal and a game-winning layup as time expired against the mighty Boston Celtics.

    The Lakers would go on to eventually lose the series in Game 7, failing to end the Celtics' stranglehold on championships in the 1960s.

9. Sam Jones Picket Fence Sets Up Massive Upset in 1969 Finals

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    When: Game 4 of 1969 NBA Finals

    Sam Jones' long-range jumper as time expired in Game 4 of the 1969 NBA Finals is known as the "picket fence play," and that framework has undoubtedly been used time and time again in clutch-time situations from a number of NBA teams.

    The most amazing piece of this shot is that it happened with Jones jumping off the wrong foot, fading away from the basket and ultimately getting one of the best "shooter's rolls" in NBA Finals history.

    This play would go on to not only help the Celtics win their 10th NBA title in 11 years, but also help Bill Russell capture his 11th career NBA title—a feat we may never see outdone.

8. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Sky Hook Against Beantown in 1974 Finals

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    When: Game 6 of 1974 NBA Finals

    While the Milwaukee Bucks would go on to lose this finals series in Game 7, the Bucks did the unthinkable by beating the Celtics in Game 6 on their home court.

    The Bucks accomplished that with the play of Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Ultimately, the Bucks would win Game 6 on a memorable sky hook from Abdul-Jabbar with under five seconds left on the clock (at 6:35 of video).

    If you've never watched the highlights of this all-time great finals series, do yourself a favor and watch the entire clip included here. You'll be amazed at the number of "clutch" shots hit in the final minutes of this one.

7. Steve Kerr's Dagger in Game 6 of 1997 Finals Against the Utah Jazz

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    When: Game 6 of 1997 NBA Finals

    When you look at all-time clutch moments in the NBA Finals, it's amazing the number of times when Michael Jordan did the right thing by deferring to teammates rather than forcing shots himself.

    With the 1997 NBA title on the line, Jordan drove into the paint and kicked the ball out to Steve Kerr, who hit a 15-footer to give the Bulls their second straight NBA title.

    Kerr's ability to not only hit the shot, but to also find open space as the Jazz's defense was keying on Jordan, is what makes this shot such a memorable one. Who would've thought Kerr, not Jordan, would win the 1997 NBA Finals for the mighty Bulls?

    This play proves that deferring to teammates who are capable of hitting shots is never a bad thing.

6. Vinnie Johnson's "The Microwave Scores" Moment in Game 5 of 1990 Finals

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    When: Game 5 of 1990 NBA Finals

    Not only did Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson's game-winning jumper help the Pistons win the 1990 NBA title, it also helped earn them a spot as back-to-back world champions.

    In a series defined by the dominant play of Isiah Thomas, it's amazing that Johnson was the guy to take this clutch-time shot.

    The best part of this clutch-time shot by "The Microwave" is that he had a chance to give Thomas the ball back, but he instead kept it and hit the game-winner. Johnson's clutch abilities are a major reason why his No. 15 jersey is retired in the Palace of Auburn Hills.

5. John Paxson's Game-Winner in 1993 Finals Gives Bulls Elusive 3-Peat

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    When: Game 6 of 1993 NBA Finals

    Michael Jordan had scored all of the Bulls' nine points in the fourth quarter, but none of those points were as important as the three about to be scored by John Paxson.

    Down two points with less than 15 seconds left on the clock, Scottie Pippen drove into the paint and dished to Horace Grant, who then passed the ball to John Paxson out on the perimeter.

    Paxson knocked down the three-ball with just four seconds left on the clock with ice in his veins, helping the Bulls obtain their first three-peat of the Jordan era. There was quite a bit on the line with this shot, and Paxson certainly rose to the occasion.

4. Robert Horry Goes off Against the Pistons in Game 5 of 2005 Finals

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    When: Game 5 of 2005 NBA Finals

    Robert "Big Shot Rob" Horry is no stranger to clutch-time moments. He's hit game-winning shots with the Rockets, Lakers and Spurs throughout his career. But no shot was bigger than his Game 5 winner against the Pistons in the 2005 NBA Finals.

    With the Spurs down by four points under two minutes left in the game, Horry drove and threw down a massive dunk to bring the Spurs within one point.

    Horry followed that up by hitting an incredibly clutch three-pointer with just six seconds left on the clock. That shot would be the game-winner, and it would solidify Horry as one of the most clutch players of all time.

    Oh, and Horry did all of that with an injured shoulder. Yeah, talk about clutch.

3. Magic's Best Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Impression Against Celtics in 1987 Finals

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    When: Game 4 of 1987 NBA Finals

    When you think of the epic Lakers vs. Celtics NBA Finals of the mid-1980s, this Magic Johnson mini sky hook is certainly one of the most memorable plays that comes to mind.

    With the Lakers up two games to one in Game 4, the Celtics absolutely needed to win, but Magic had other plans. Down by one point, Magic passed up a jumper and did his best Kareem Abdul-Jabbar impersonation with what he called a "junior, junior sky hook."

    Magic hit the hook shot over the arms of Kevin McHale, Larry Bird and Robert Parish. Yeah, you can't get much more clutch than that, especially when you're a point guard winning an NBA Finals game with a sky hook.

2. Michael Jordan's Final Shot as a Chicago Bull in 1998 Finals

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    When: Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals

    Michael Jordan capped off his all-time great NBA career with the Chicago Bulls with a game-winning dagger against the Utah Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

    Jordan's classic last shot also earned him his sixth NBA title and his second three-peat with the Bulls.

    Putting aside the fact that Jordan pushed off his defender like his life depended on it, there's no doubt that it's one of the great clutch shots in the history of the NBA Finals. It gave Jordan one more clutch moment that will live on in the history of the NBA and the NBA Finals alike.

1. Mr. Clutch's 60-Footer and Dave DeBusschere's Near Game-Winner in 1970 Finals

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    When: Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals

    While the 1970 NBA Finals are best known for Willis Reed's inspirational Game 7 moment, the most clutch shot, or shots, in NBA Finals history also took place in this series between the Knicks and the Lakers.

    It's not often you see two clutch shots in five consecutive seconds, but that's what happened when Dave DeBusschere of the Knicks hit a free-throw-line jumper to put the Knicks up 102-100 with only a few seconds left on the clock.

    Jerry "Mr. Clutch" West wasn't having that though, as he grabbed the inbound pass and launched a 60-foot prayer that was answered, which sent the game into overtime. While the Lakers would lose this game and ultimately the series, there's no way around the fact that West's 60-foot shot is still the most clutch shot in the history of the NBA Finals.