We’ve seen too many great players hit big baskets in the NBA PLayoffs but none are bigger than these 10, which are cemented in basketball history as the biggest shots in NBA Playoff history. Read on.
10. Kyrie Irving, Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals
The Cleveland Cavaliers had fought their way back from a 1-3 deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. Game 7 turned out to be a back and forth classic between two heavyweights who were throwing haymakers at each other. With the score tied 89-all with 53 seconds left in the game, Kyrie Irving sank a dagger three-point basket over Stephen Curry that would seal the victory and give Cleveland its first-ever NBA title. And It couldn’t have come in a better way as they became the first team to overcome a 1-3 Finals deficit to win an NBA title. And they did so against the team which just set the record for most wins during the regular season.
9. Ray Allen, Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals
Down 2-3 in the 2013 NBA Finals and down 92-95 with five seconds left in the fourth quarter, Miami Heat guard Ray Allen took a pass after an offensive rebound by Chris Bosh and then nailed a corner three-point basket that sent the game to overtime. The Heat went on to win the game in overtime and they would proceed to win Game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs to win the 2013 NBA title. Allen’s shot didn’t win the game but no question, it was the turning point not just of the game but of the final two games of the series. It will always be remembered as one of the biggest shots in NBA Finals history.
8. Steve Kerr Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals
Before he became the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, Steve Kerr played for the Chicago Bulls and was a teammate of Michael Jordan. He also played in four of Jordan’s six title teams during the ’90s and was a key performer in the 1997 champion team. In Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Kerr took a pass from Michael Jordan and sank the game-winning mid-range basket from the top of the key to seal the Bulls’ win. Jordan took the ball with a little over 13 seconds left and dribbled to his right, attracting both his defender and John Stockton who was guarding Kerr. MJ delivered the perfect pass and Kerr didn’t disappoint with the biggest shot of his career.
7. Derek Fisher, Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Finals
The Lakers were Kobe and Shaq’s team but in 2004, it was stacked with talent with future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton added to that team. That group never won the NBA title as they would lose the 2004 Finals to the Detroit Pistons but the Western Conference Finals delivered one of the best playoff games ever. After Kobe Bryant gave the Lakers a one-point lead, Tim Duncan hit a miracle shot with 0.4 seconds left to play. With their only hope of winning Game 5 being a catch and shoot or alley-oop, Derek Fisher caught the ball and shot it in one motion, all in four-tenths of a second left to give the Lakers a 74-73 win. Unreal.
6. Damian Lillard, Game 5 2019 NBA Playoffs First Round
Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers faced a mammoth task of defeating the Westbrook and PG13 led OKC Thunder in the first round of the 2019 Western Conference Playoffs. In Game 5, the Blazers had the Thunder on the ropes, facing elimination. But it wasn’t easy as the Thunder kept the game close. With the score tied at 115-all and Portland in possession, Lillard dribbled off the clock and launched a 37-foot three-point basket over Paul George. The ball went swish and Dame waved bye-bye to the Thunder bench. He would finish with a playoff career-high 50-points and a playoff second-best 10 three-pointers. What a closeout game!
5. John Paxson, Game 5 of the 1993 NBA Finals
The Chicago Bulls were the dynasty team of the ’90s with six titles during their reign. The Bulls won their titles in sets of three because, in between, Michael Jordan retired. But before the Bulls won in 1993, the last time there was a three-peat was in 1954 by the Minneapolis Lakers. In-Game 6 of the 1993 Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Michael Jordan drove the ball and after attracting the double-team fed the ball to Scottie Pippen who dropped the ball to Horace Grant in the post. Grant immediately flipped a pass to a wide-open John Paxson. Paxson nailed the three-pointers with 3.9 seconds left in the game. On the other end, Grant made a defensive play against Kevin Johnson and sealed the Bulls’ win. But it was the reserve guard Paxson who made the game’s biggest play.
4. Robert Horry, Game 4 2002 Western Conference Finals
The Lakers were the NBA’s dominant team after the Bulls. Phil Jackson was their coach as well but it was because of stars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal that Los Angeles became a dynasty of their own. But the Lakers’ three-peat was in danger after the team had fallen behind 1-2 to the Sacramento Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. In Game 4, the Lakers were down by two with time winding down. Of course, the ball went to Kobe. But after the Black Mamba missed a drive and Shaq missed a follow-up basket, Vlade Divac of the Kings tapped the ball out into the waiting hands of Robert Horry. Big Shot Bob made the big shot as usual and the Lakers would win by one point at the buzzer. The shot completed a 24-point comeback that would change the tone of the series to L.A.’s favor.
3. Michael Jordan, Game 6 1998 NBA Finals
The Bulls were dominant in the ’90s but not all their wins came easily. We saw Kerr’s game-winner and Paxson’s big three-pointer in our previous items. But it wasn’t just the role players who made big shots. Michael Jordan also had his game-winning moment for the Bulls. In-Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan hit one of his most controversial game-winners. With Utah’s Byron Russell sticking to him like glue, Jordan would give a “slight push” that dropped Russell and gave MJ a wide-open look. Of course, Jordan would bury the jumper and help the Chicago Bulls complete a comeback. Whether Jordan pushed Russell off or not remains a debate up to this day.
2. Magic Johnson, Game 4 1987 NBA Finals
What list would be complete without the Lakers vs Celtics rivalry? The Lakers and Celtics would dominate the NBA in the 1980s with their rivalry. Of course, the rivalry began with old collegiate rivals Magic Johnson who played for the Lakers and Larry Bird who played for the Boston Celtics. These two would meet several times in the NBA Finals but in 1987, Magic Johnson got the better of Larry Bird. With the Lakers up 2-1 in the series and the Celtics threatening to tie it, Johnson’s skyhook over Kevin McHale and Robert Parish sealed the Game 4 win and gave the Lakers a 3-1 series lead they would not relinquish. The Lakers would win the title in 1987 and repeat in 1998.
1. Michael Jordan, Game 5 1989 NBA First Round
Michael Jordan’s legend began with his title-winning shot at North Carolina but he built his NBA legend after this big shot over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jordan’s Bulls were never playoff threats and in 1989, they were taken to Game 5 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. With three seconds left in the series-deciding game, Jordan took a pass from Scottie Pippen and dribbled away from Craig Ehlo before shooting a miraculous jumper over Ehlo’s outstretched arms. The Bulls wouldn’t win their first title until 1991 but this was the shot that transformed Jordan from a slam dunker and scorer to a playoff winning machine. No question that this was the biggest shot in Michael Jordan’s career because it announced his arrival as a clutch performer.