Basketball is a game of moments. Some of those moments are surprisingly easy to forget, while others are so significant that they become etched in the annals of sports history to never be forgotten. From buzzer-beaters, clutch free throws, and game-winning layups– some shots simply stand out above all else. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the 10 most unforgettable game-clinching shots in basketball lingo. Whether it was a shot made by a superstar or an unknown player with just seconds remaining on the clock, these ten shots will go down as some of the most electrifying plays in basketball history.
Michael Jordan’s shot against the Utah Jazz
It was the 1998 NBA Finals, and the Chicago Bulls were facing off against the Utah Jazz. The series was tied at two games apiece, and the deciding game was in Utah. The Jazz had taken a lead late in the fourth quarter, but the Bulls fought back. With time running out, Michael Jordan took the ball and dribbled towards the basket. He elevated and hit a jump shot over Bryon Russell to give the Bulls a lead they would not relinquish. The shot is widely considered to be one of the greatest clutch shots in NBA history.
Kobe Bryant’s shot against the Phoenix Suns
Kobe Bryant’s shot against the Phoenix Suns was one of the most unforgettable game-clinching shots in basketball history. The Lakers were down by two with less than 10 seconds remaining when Kobe caught an inbounds pass from Derek Fisher. Kobe pump-faked to get Raja Bell off his feet, then rose up and hit a fadeaway jumper over Shawn Marion to give the Lakers a one-point lead with less than two seconds remaining. The Suns would go on to lose the game in overtime, but Kobe’s shot will be remembered as one of the great game-winners in NBA history.
LeBron James’ shot against the Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls were up by two points with only seconds remaining in the game. The Cleveland Cavaliers had the ball and were looking to score. LeBron James took the shot and made it, giving the Cavaliers the lead and the win.
This was an incredible shot by James, who has become known for his clutch shooting. The fact that he was able to make this shot under pressure and with the game on the line is what makes it so memorable. It is one of the most unforgettable game-clinching shots in basketball history.
Ray Allen’s shot against the San Antonio Spurs
Ray Allen’s game-winning three-pointer in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals is one of the most unforgettable shots in basketball history. With the score tied at 95 and 5.2 seconds remaining, Allen caught an inbounds pass from LeBron James and drilled a wide-open three-pointer to give the Miami Heat a 98-95 lead. The Spurs would go on to lose the game in overtime, but Allen’s shot will forever be remembered as one of the biggest clutch shots in NBA history.
Paul Pierce’s shot against the Boston Celtics
It was the summer of 2010, and the Boston Celtics were on the verge of winning their first NBA Championship in over two decades. They had just come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals, and were now up 3-2 in the series. Game 6 was going to be played in Boston, and the Celtics were confident they could close out the series at home.
But things didn’t go as planned. The Lakers came out firing in Game 6, and took a commanding lead early on. The Celtics fought back, but they just couldn’t seem to get over the hump. Late in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Lakers were going to seal the deal and force a Game 7.
But then Paul Pierce happened. With under a minute to go, Pierce hit a clutch three-pointer to give the Celtics a lead they would never relinquish. The shot sent the Boston crowd into a frenzy, and helped propel the Celtics to their record 17th NBA Championship.
Pierce’s shot is widely considered to be one of the most clutch shots in NBA history, and will forever be remembered by Celtics fans.
Dirk Nowitzki’s shot against the Miami Heat
In the final seconds of Game 4 of the 2006 NBA Finals, Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki took an off-balance jump shot over Miami Heat center Shaquille O’Neal to give his team a one-point lead. The Mavericks went on to win the game and the series, becoming the first team in NBA history to come back from a 0-2 deficit in the Finals.
Nowitzki’s shot was just one of many clutch moments in his Hall of Fame career, but it’s certainly one that Mavericks fans will never forget.
Magic Johnson’s shot against the Los Angeles Lakers
In the 1980 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers were down by one point against the Philadelphia 76ers with just seconds remaining in the game. The Lakers’ Magic Johnson was able to get a clean look at the basket and sunk an iconic shot to win the game and the championship for his team. The image of Johnson celebrating with his teammates is one that has been ingrained in basketball history.
Larry Bird’s shot against the Detroit Pistons
In Game 5 of the 1988 Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics were trailing the Detroit Pistons by one point with seconds remaining. The ball was inbounded to Larry Bird, who caught it and turned to face the basket. He pump-faked once, then twice, before finally taking the shot. The ball sailed through the air and hit nothing but net, giving the Celtics a one-point lead with just seconds left on the clock. The Pistons didn’t have time to get off a final shot, and the Celtics won the game and eventually went on to win the NBA Championship.
This shot is widely considered to be one of the greatest clutch shots in NBA history. Bird himself has said that it’s the shot he’s most remembered for, and it’s not hard to see why. With the game on the line and the pressure at its highest, Larry Bird calmly drained a difficult shot to give his team a chance to win. It was a truly unforgettable moment.
Kyrie Irving’s shot against the Golden
Kyrie Irving’s shot against the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals will go down as one of the most unforgettable shots in basketball history. With the score tied at 89 and just seconds remaining on the clock, Irving calmly stepped up and hit a contested three-pointer to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a lead they would not relinquish. The shot capped off an incredible come-from-behind effort by the Cavs, who became the first team in NBA history to win a Finals series after being down 3-1. For Irving, it was redemption after he had missed a potential game-winning shot in Game 1 of that same series.