There is arguably nothing more exciting in the game of basketball than a buzzer-beating shot. A player knocking down a shot with no time remaining to give his team the win gives the highest of highs for the victors and the lowest of lows to the losers.
The Los Angeles Lakers, being the premier franchise in the NBA, have had their fair share of exciting moments throughout the history of the franchise. As such we have taken it upon ourselves to list out the five greatest buzzer beaters in Lakers history.
To qualify as a buzzer-beater, there must be no time left on the clock after the shot which is why amazing clutch shots like Magic Johnson’s junior sky hook, or Derek Fisher’s daggers in the 2009 NBA Finals won’t be seen here.
Now that that’s out of the way. Let’s count them down:
5. Jerry West’s 60-Footer Sends Game 7 To OT
When someone gets forever immortalized as the logo of the NBA, and has the nickname ‘Mr. Clutch’ it’s fair to say that player has plenty of clutch moments and buzzer-beaters. Such is the case for the legendary Jerry West.
West’s most memorable moment came during Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the New York Knicks. After Dave DeBusschere hit a jumper to put the Knicks up by two, the Lakers immediately inbounded the ball to West who took a couple dribbles before firing up a 60-foot shot from beyond halfcourt that went in.
It was an amazing play that has lived on throughout NBA history. Unfortunately for West, and the Lakers, there was no three-point line at the time so West’s shot only counted for two points. The Lakers would ultimately fall in overtime, but even in a losing effort West was named NBA Finals MVP.
The fact that this shot only sent the game to overtime and the Lakers lost pushes it down the list despite the shot itself probably being the most difficult.
4. Kobe Bryant Clinches Division In 2004 Season Finale
Very few players have the clutch reputation that Kobe Bryant has. Time and time again he has stepped up at the most crucial moments when the Lakers needed him most and that was definitely the case on the final night of the 2004 regular season as the Lakers were in Portland to face the Trail Blazers.
The Lakers needed a win to clinch the division and remain the second seed in the West. A loss would drop them to the fourth spot and a much tougher road to the NBA Finals. Even though the Blazers were out of playoff contention, Portland is a notoriously tough place to play.
Kobe refused to let the Lakers fall, first hitting a ridiculous three-pointer over ‘Kobe-Stopper’ Ruben Patterson to send the game to OT. Shaq would foul out in the first extra period, and the game would eventually go to double OT.
There, Kobe once again proved his greatness. With one second left Gary Payton inbounded to Kobe and, with noted shot blocker Theo Ratliff right in his face, Kobe got off a high-arching three that fell straight through the net to clinch the game and the division.
Kobe’s greatness was on full display on this night as he would not let the Lakers fall. The only reason it isn’t higher on the list is that it was still a regular season game, while the top-3 come in more important playoff situations.
3. Kobe Bryant Gives Lakers a 3-1 Lead Over The Suns
It’s another double-dip for Kobe and this one is one of the most iconic moments of his career.
The Lakers were huge underdogs against the second-seeded Phoenix Suns in the first-round of the 2006 playoffs, but shockingly found themselves with a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 at Staples Center. The game went down to the wire as the Lakers trailed by two with under 10 seconds left.
Shockingly, the Lakers were able to strip Steve Nash and they immediately found Kobe who hit an insanely tough floater to tie the game and send it to overtime.
In the extra period the Lakers once again found themselves trailing, this time by one point and the Suns had the ball. Instead of fouling immediately, they were able to trap Nash and Luke Walton forced a jump ball with only six seconds left.
We all know the story from here. Walton wins the jump, Kobe works his way to his favorite spot on the elbow and hits a fadeaway over Raja Bell and Boris Diaw to give the Lakers a shocking victory and 3-1 lead over the Suns.
Kobe’s reaction to the shot is one that will be remembered forever and even though the Lakers couldn’t quite close out Phoenix (thanks Tim Thomas) this still remains one of the most memorable shots in franchise history.
2. Derek Fisher’s Famous 0.4 Shot
While the Lakers have always been known for stars, it is often their role players who have provided the biggest moments. Derek Fisher has built a career off clutch shots and clutch moments and none were bigger than this one.
In the second-round of the 2004 playoffs the Lakers and Spurs faced off in a hard-fought series with none being more important than Game 5, which was an ugly, defensive affair.
With 11 seconds left, Kobe Bryant hit a jumper to give the Lakers a one-point lead. On the ensuing possession Tim Duncan, with Shaquille O’Neal draped over him, hit an unreal fadeaway with 0.4 seconds remaining to put the Spurs back ahead. The Spurs celebrated as if the game was won, but there was just enough time remaining to catch and shoot, and the Lakers knew it.
Gary Payton was the inbounder and looked to get the ball to Kobe, but the Spurs knew it and had two players denying him which left space for Fisher to come forward. Payton put the pass right on the money, allowing Fisher to turn and release a shot that fell straight through the net.
Fisher’s reaction was priceless as he ran straight by his teammates looking to hug him in celebration and got off the court and into the locker room. It is truly one of the most famous shots in NBA history and these days is simply known as ‘0.4’.
1. Robert Horry Silences The Kings In 2002
The Lakers battled with a lot of teams in the early 2000s, but no rival was as talented, or fierce, as the Sacramento Kings. Their showdown in the 2002 Western Conference Finals produced one of the greatest series in NBA history and it peaked in Game 4.
Trailing 2-1 with Game 5 in Sacramento looming, the Lakers could not afford to drop Game 4 at home, but they were on their way to doing just that. Down two points with just 11 seconds left the Lakers had to find a way to get a basket.
The Lakers put the ball in the hands of Kobe Bryant who drove the lane, but Kings center Vlade Divac made a great defensive play, forcing a Kobe miss. Shaquille O’Neal would grab the offensive rebound, but shockingly missed an easy putback.
With only a couple of seconds left Divac slapped the ball away from the basket in an attempt to run out the clock, but he knocked it straight to Robert Horry who grabbed the ball in rhythm and knocked down the buzzer-beating three-pointer over Chris Webber’s outstretched hand to give the Lakers the win.
To this day, the Staples Center crowd was never louder than at that moment. The crowd all jumped up at the same time and wide shot of that moment is one of the most goosebump inducing moments as the building literally looks like it’s moving.
Horry’s smug face as he hopped back towards the bench being mugged by his teammates is just as iconic as the shot itself and the Lakers would go on to beat the Kings in seven games on their way to their third straight NBA Championship.
That wouldn’t have been possible without Horry’s clutch masterpiece, one of many in his career, and the greatest Lakers buzzer-beater of all-time.