The Ten Most Memorable Shots in NBA Playoff History
Game winning shots are the stuff that legends are made of.
Some are iconic players like Jerry West or Michael Jordan. Others were in the right place at the right time and seized the opportunity like John Paxson and Gar Heard.
Robert "Big Shot Bob" Horry and Derek Fisher seemed to capitalize when they are called on in crunch time.
What all of these players have in common is that their shots have put them into immortality. Their place in NBA lore was cemented because when their team needed them most, they hit a shot at a critical time.
10. Derek Fisher - 2004 G5 Western Conference Semifinals vs. San Antonio
Each team had won the first two games of the series, so game five was a pivotal one in the series matching up the last five NBA Champions.
After Tim Duncan hit a fallaway jumper that put San Antonio up 73-72, it appeared the home court was safe through five games.
Duncan wasn't even sure that the ball went in and had to be reassured that it did, leaving the Lakers just .4 seconds.
Gary Payton inbounded the ball and when Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were covered, Fisher had just enough time to turn around and hit the game winning jumper.
The Lakers took a three games to two lead and took control of the series. They wrapped it up in the next game in Los Angeles.
9. Allan Houston - 1999 G5 Eastern Conference First Round vs. Miami
Prior to the 1999 Playoffs, the 1994 Denver Nuggets had been the only eight seed to defeat a one in the first round when they ousted the Seattle SuperSonics.
Houston took an inbounds pass from Charlie Ward with 4.5 seconds remaining. He drove the lane and floated a shot towards the rim that fell in with .8 seconds left to give the Knicks a 78-77 win.
The Knicks became only the second eighth seed to ever win a series. They would capture two more and advance to the NBA Finals before being losing in five games to San Antonio.
8. Ralph Sampson - 1986 G5 Western Conference Finals vs. Lakers
The Lakers were the defending NBA Champions and had won the last four Western Conference titles when they matched up with the Rockets in the 1986 Western Conference Finals.
With a 3-1 games to one lead, the Rockets were attempting to end the Lakers reign and return to the NBA Finals for the first time in five years.
One second remained on the clock when Sampson received the in-bounds pass. He lobbed the ball towards the net and it miraculously went it to give the Rockets the series, four games to one.
7. Robert Horry - 2002 G4 Western Conference Finals vs. Sacramento
After falling behind two games to one, the Lakers faced a must-win Game Four.
Sacramento raced to a 40-20 lead after the first quarter. The Kings pushed that lead to 50-26 in the second quarter before the Lakers mounted a furious comeback.
Trailing by two, Kobe Bryant drove the lane and missed a layup. Shaquille O'Neal missed the follow tip in. Kings center Vlade Divac tipped the ball out, and it found Lakers Forward Robert Horry, AKA Big Shot Bob.
Horry buried a straight-away three-point shot to give the Lakers the win and even the series.
6. Jerry West - 1970 G3 NBA Finals vs. New York
Dave DeBusschere appeared to give the Knicks the win when he made a shot in the lane with three seconds left to give New York a 102-100 lead.
West took the inbounds pass from fellow Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlin, dribbled to just before half court and launched a miracle shot that sent the game to overtime.
If the three point shot had been in existence then, the shot would have won the game. As it was, the Knicks recovered to win 111-108 in overtime.
5. John Stockton - 1997 G6 Western Conference Finals vs. Houston
The Jazz had lost three times in the Western Conference Finals with John Stockton and Karl Malone. The Hall of Fame Duo seemed destined to win an NBA Championship.
With the game tied at 100, Stockton let fly a three-point shot. It swished through at the buzzer for a 103-100 victory and a 4-2 series victory. The Jazz won their first conference title.
They would repeat the conference title the next season, losing both times to the Bulls and Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals. Stockton and Malone never won an NBA Title.
4. John Paxson - 1993 G6 NBA Finals vs. Phoenix
Paxson's gutsy shot was set up by a series of events. The Bulls failed to score in the first 6:09 of the fourth quarter.
With 39 seconds remaining, Phoenix still held a four point lead. Inexplicably, Michael Jordan took the ball coast to coast for a layup to cut the Suns lead to two.
With 14.1 seconds remaining, the Suns Dan Majerle shot an airball causing a shot clock violation. That set up the championship winning shot by the Bulls current boss.
In the team huddle, legendary coach Phil Jackson asked the team if they wanted to go for it? Do you want to go for the three? The answer was clearly yes, as Chicago put Paxson and fellow three-point sharp-shooters Trent Tucker and B.J. Armstrong on the court for the final play.
The Suns double teamed Jordan, forcing Scottie Pippen to take the in-bounds pass and become the facilitator for the final play.
Pippen drove the lane, passed to Horace Grant in the low post, who in turned passed out to Paxson on the three-point line.
Down two, Paxson did not hesitate; he let fire from beyond the line and gave the Bulls a fateful one-point lead with 3.1 seconds remaining.
After the Suns Kevin Johnson runner in the lane was blocked by Grant, the Bulls became only the third franchise in NBA history to win three consecutive titles.
It was the first time in 27 years an NBA team had accomplished that feat.
The most amazing thing about the Bulls win in Game six, was that they only scored 12 points in the fourth quarter. All the Bulls fourth-quarter points were scored by Jordan until Paxson's three-point shot.
3. Gar Heard - 1976 G5 NBA Finals vs. Boston
Many refer to game five as "The Shot Heard Round the World." After Celtic John Havlicek gave the Celtics a one-point lead with two seconds remaining, a series of bizarre events began.
The game was being played in Boston and the Celtics timekeeper "allowed" time to run out. This was despite the fact it was clear that two seconds remained.
The Celtics players went to the locker room and the fans rushed the court, thinking the game had ended in a Celtics win. In the the interim, a Celtics fan attacked Referee Richie Powers after it was announced that the game was not over yet.
The Suns correctly pointed out to the officials that there was still time left. After the referees convened, they concluded one second should be put back on the clock.
After the Suns received the ball back, Suns guard Paul Westphal intentionally called time-out. This allowed them to advance the ball to half-court.
The consequence was that a technical foul was called. The Celtics Jo-Jo White hit a free throw to put the Celtics up two to set up Heard's heroics.
After the Suns utilized this strategy, the rule was changed. Initially the rule was changed to eliminated the advancement of the ball to half-court.
Eventually if a team called a timeout when they had none left, the opponent would receive a free throw and possession.
Suns Center-Forward Garfield Heard took the in-bounds pass after Westphal was covered. He launched a high arching turn around rainbow jumper from 20 feet away that fell in and pushed the game into a third overtime.
Although the shot is one of the most memorable in NBA History, the Celtics went on to win 128-126 in the third overtime. The game is considered the best in NBA History.
After an exhausting and dramatic game five in Boston, the series shifted the Phoenix. The Celtics would capture Game Six 87-80 to win their 13th NBA Championship.
2. Michael Jordan - 1989 G5 Eastern Conference First Round
Possibly the most famous shot by the most famous player. Three years after Jordan scored 63 points in a losing effort playoff effort against Boston, he put up legendary status No. 2 on his mantle.
With 3.1 seconds remaining, Cavalier guard Craig Ehlo scored on a layup to give the Cavaliers a one-point lead in game five of a best of seven series.
Jordan took the inbounds pass from Brad Sellers and as legendary Bulls announcer Jim Durham called "The inbounds pass comes in to Jordan. Here's Michael at the foul line, a shot on Ehlo...GOOD! The Bulls WIN!!! THEY WIN!!! The Chicago Bulls UPSET the Cleveland Cavaliers!"
1. Michael Jordan - 1998 G6 NBA Finals vs. Utah
At the time, many thought that Jordan's series clinching shot with five seconds remaining would be the last of his illustrious career.
Jazz fans to this day allege that Jordan pushed off on Byron Russell. Jordan rose over Russell and hit a jump shot to give the Bulls a one-point lead.
After John Stockton's shot was blocked the Bulls secured their sixth title in eight years.
The shot was Jordan's last in his iconic Bulls career. He would make an ill fated comeback attempt with Washington four seasons later.