The best NBA playoff game-winners are born in high stake situations where players become legends. Throughout the league’s long history, we’ve seen countless games that went down to the wire, only to be shut down with ice-cold killer buzzer-beaters.
In this article, we’re going to look at the best buzzer beaters in NBA playoffs, and see which players have the clutchest NBA shots.
Best NBA Playoff game winners
While this list could potentially be top 50, or even top 100, we’ve tried to narrow it down as much as we can to fit the top 10 best NBA Playoff game-winners. So if your favorite clutchest NBA shot did not make the cut, please forgive us and try to enjoy the ride through crunch time.
Here we go! Our top 10 best buzzer beaters in NBA playoffs.
10. Robert Horry: 2002 Western Conference Finals, Game 4, Lakers vs Kings
This game has a special place in every Laker’s heart; however, it did not start off on the right foot. The Lakers were down 2-1 in the series after losing Game 3 at home, and Game 4 did not start off as well as they hoped.
After a missed lay-up from Kobe and a missed put-back from Shaq, the ball found its way to Horry on the 3-point line who nailed a go-ahead triple to win the game and ignite the Los Angeles crowd.
The Lakers ended up taking the series in seven, and Horry’s buzzer-beater became one of the best NBA playoff game-winners of all time.
9. Damian Lillard: 2014 Western Conference First Round, Game 6, Blazers vs Rockets
Damian Lillard, Dame Time, Dame Dolla, call him whatever you want, the man is clutch in crunch time.
The Rockets were favored to win the series, but the Blazers were ahead 3-2 after five games.
The series was filled with dramatic matchups, clutch shots, and legendary basketball. But it was Game 6, with one second left on the clock that “Dame Time” slipped behind a screen and hit a 3-pointer off an inbound pass.
The Blazers knocked out the Rockets and reached the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. The crowd erupted in an iconic celebration centered around Lillard and one of the best buzzer-beaters in the NBA playoffs.
8. LeBron James: 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 2, Cavaliers vs Magic
LeBron James had just captured the first of his four MVP titles and was still a young gun fighting his way to an NBA title.
Trailing 95-93, and down 1-0 in the series, the Cavs really needed to win this game at home. They blew a big lead in Game 1, and again in Game 2, but LeBron made sure they didn’t lose in crunch time.
With one second left on the clock, James caught an inbound pass from beyond the arc and drained his first-ever playoff buzzer-beater to win the game and tie the series.
The Magic ended up winning the series, but LeBron showed Cleveland that it had a bright future.
7. John Stockton: 1997 Western Conference Finals, Game 6, Jazz vs Suns
This iconic shot is one of the best NBA playoff game-winners because of the man himself, and because of its significance. During his career, John Stockton led the league in assists, and even to this day, he is still the all-time assists leader.
Being a pass-first guard, the Suns left him open, and Stockton buried a triple before Charles Barkley could come out and contest it properly. The shot clinched the series for the Jazz and sent them to their first NBA finals. Stockton’s celebration after the shot remains as iconic as the shot itself.
6. Damian Lillard: 2019 Western Conference First Round, Game 5, Blazers vs Thunder
Don’t be surprised Lillard has another entry on our list, the man deserves it. In their first-round match-up against the Thunder, the Blazers took control of a chippy series 3-1 and had the opportunity to send Russell Westbrook and the Thunder packing.
Lillard exploded for a 50-point performance capped off with a game-winner in Paul George’s face. With two seconds left on the clock, Lillard pulled up from 37 feet and netted a triple that erupted the entire arena. Dame Time then waved goodbye to Westbrook before he got tackled by his teammates.
The ice in Lillard’s blood makes this one of the greatest NBA Playoff game-winners.
5. Michael Jordan, 1998 NBA Finals, Game 6, Bulls vs. Jazz
This shot is famously known as the “last shot” Michael Jordan took in a Bulls uniform. It also happens to be the shot that won the Bulls their sixth title and second threepeat. There is controversy around this shot, but it remains one of the best NBA playoff game-winners.
With the game going down to the wire, Jordan crossed Bryon Russell and hit the game-winning shot to give Chicago the lead with five seconds left on the clock. Jordan might have shoved Russell to get some space, but when the stakes are high, you do everything you can to get that shot off.
4. Michael Jordan, 1989 Eastern Conference First Round, Game 5, Bulls vs Cavaliers
This particular buzzer-beater is widely known as “The Shot.” Jordan was much younger in 1989 and was yet to win a title, but that shot took the Bulls to the second round and broke Cleveland’s heart.
Jordan eluded the defense to get the ball from an out of bounds play, drove to the center, and then double-clutched a game-winning jumper that is arguably the GOAT’s best NBA Playoff game-winner.
3. Derek Fisher, 2004, West Conference Semi-Finals, Game 5, Lakers vs. Spurs
With the Western Conference semi-finals deadlocked 2-2, Derek Fisher hit one of the most cold-blooded buzzer-beaters that the NBA has ever witnessed.
Tim Duncan drained a tough contested jumper from the foul line leaving only 0.4 seconds on the clock. The Spurs were practically celebrating, but Phil Jackson drew up a play that left Fisher open with just enough time to hit an insane fadeaway jumper that won the Lakers the game.
They ended up closing out the Spurs in six games.
2. Kobe Bryant, 2006, Western Conference First Round, Game 4, Lakers vs Suns
There can never be a top 10 best NBA Playoff game winners list without the Black Mamba’s name somewhere on it.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in his career the previous season, Kobe came out punching against the second-seeded Suns and their MVP Steve Nash.
The Lakers were up 2-1 but every single game went down to the wire, and Game 4 was no different. Kobe first tied the game and forced overtime, but then came the shot that showed the world that you should never count out the Black Mamba.
With six seconds on the clock, Kobe chased a tipped ball, calmly went to his spot, and drained a jumper to give the Lakers a 3-1 lead. Rest in peace, Mamba.
1. Kawhi Leonard, 2019, Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, Game 7, Raptors vs Sixers
This has to be the most dramatic buzzer-beater in NBA history, shot by the most undramatic player in NBA history.
During his short stint in Toronto, “The Claw” brought Canada its only NBA title and riled up an entire nation around his calm robotic demeanor.
There are no better words in basketball than Game 7, especially when it ends with the best NBA playoff game-winner.
After battling it out for six games, Game 7 came down to one final shot which Leonard took from the right corner with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid right in his face. The ball bounced off the rim four times before the basketball gods approved its destiny and it went in igniting the whole of Canada and surprisingly Leonard himself.
Embiid was left crying, and Leonard’s shot was glorified as the greatest shot in postseason history.