On Wednesday night, LeBron James drove a dagger into the hearts of the Pacers and their fans with a buzzer beating three-pointer that broke a 95-95 tie. With that shot, the Cavaliers took a 3-2 series lead over the Pacers, and they will head back to Indiana to try to advance to the second round. LeBron is looking to move on to the second round in the East for the 13th consecutive season, and then to what would be his 8th straight finals appearance.
LeBron’s shot drew parallels to Michael Jordan’s famous shot over Craig Ehlo in 1989, which is colloquially referred to as “The Shot.” It also reminded us of a buzzer beater he hit in 2009 against the Magic.
Where does LeBron’s buzzer beater sit among the best in recent memory? Let’s dive in and roll out the rankings, considering factors such as shot difficulty, context within the game, and series importance.
5. LeBron sinks the Pacers with a buzzer beater (4/25/2018)
LeBron’s game winner followed a controversial play in which he prevented Indiana’s Victor Oladipo from scoring a game-winning layup by pinning the shot against the glass. The correct goaltending call would have put the Pacers up by 2, but if everything followed the same way, the Cavaliers still would have taken the victory by 1. LeBron’s step-back three was a difficult shot, and one of his better game winners among many to choose from.
4. Vince Carter hits the corner three to shock the Spurs (4/26/2014)
With the Mavericks down 2 points to the Spurs in a 1-1 first-round series, head coach Rick Carlisle drew up a play that got Vince Carter the ball with a chance to go for the win. The veteran Carter expertly faked out Manu Ginobili and splashed a fading corner three to take an unlikely series lead over the first-seeded Spurs. Unfortunately for the Mavs, the Spurs would get their way and eventually win in 7 games.
3. Paul Pierce calls “game” (5/9/2015)
With an opportunity to take a 2-1 series lead in the 2015 East Semi-finals, The Truth answered the call as he always did, hitting a tightly contested shot over two defenders in front of his home crowd. Pierce’s game-winning bank shot wasn’t remembered for the shot as much as it was his post-game interview, in which the reporter asked him, did you call “bank?” He famously responded, “I called game.”
2. LeBron hits an answered prayer with one second left (5/22/2009)
In the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavaliers had their backs against the wall. The Magic had taken Game 1, and held a 2 point lead in Game 2 with just one second remaining. On the inbound play, LeBron James answered the Cavs’ prayers with a miraculous go-ahead, buzzer beating three to tie the series.
1. Damian Lillard sends the Blazers to the second round (5/2/2014)
The Blazers were facing the ominous possibility of heading back to Houston for a Game 7, down 2 points with just under a second remaining. However, Damian Lillard was having none of that, and caught Chandler Parsons sleeping to get the sliver of daylight he needed. His clutch three-pointer got the Blazers past the first round for the first time since 2000.
Honorable Mention: Ray Allen’s game-tying three-pointer in the 2013 finals, while it was an incredibly clutch and important shot, was neither a game-winner or a buzzer beater and therefore cannot be included on the list. We’ll give it the list’s only honorable mention as compensation.