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Only 6 players have made multiple game-winning buzzer beaters in the NBA playoffs. Who’s made the most?

Kevin C. Cox // Getty Images

Only 6 players have made multiple game-winning buzzer beaters in the NBA playoffs. Who’s made the most?

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks against the Atlanta Hawks

Basketball’s buzzer-beater shot is one of the most enthralling moments in all of sports.

First, the shooter must get the shot off before the clock hits double zeros. Then, the moments after the shooter’s shot seem to take an eternity as the ball arcs high over the hardwood. Finally, the swish through the net or the clang of the ball bouncing off the rim triggers the purest joy of victory for half of the game’s fans and the purest agony of defeat for the other half.

The intensity only ratchets up during the NBA playoffs, when every win matters an order of magnitude more than during the regular season.

Entering the 2023 postseason, there have been 51 game-winning buzzer beaters throughout NBA playoff history, at least according to a Stacker analysis of data. Those include the very first playoff game-winning buzzer beater in 1957 and go all the way up to the 2022 playoffs when two were scored. In total, counts 820 game-winning buzzer beaters during the regular season and playoffs—that means just under 1.2% of all games have finished with a game-winning shot.

During the 65 years between the first and last playoff game-winning buzzer beaters, only six players have managed to hit two or more such shots. Stacker ranked those six players—so keep on reading to find out who has made this elite pantheon. Here’s a quick hint: Hall of Famers Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird didn’t make this list.

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Stacker // Jared Beilby

18 teams have made at least one game-winning buzzer beater in the playoffs

Stacked bar chart of the NBA teams with the most playoff buzzer beaters

Before the best individual records on game-winning buzzer beaters are revealed, take a peek at how teams stack up.

Unsurprisingly, two of the NBA’s elite franchises—the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics—are ranked at the top. Combined, the Lakers and the Celtics have won 15 playoff games via buzzer beaters, accounting for just under one-third of all game-winning buzzer beaters in playoff history.

In total, 18 teams have won at least one playoff game via a game-ending shot, while another seven have been on the losing end of such a play. Just five franchises have never been involved in a game-winning playoff buzzer beater: the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, and New Orleans Pelicans.

Alika Jenner // Getty Images

#3. Damian Lillard (tie)

Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers passes the ball.

– Number of playoff buzzer beaters: 2
– Years scored: 2014, 2019
– Team scored for: Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard has emerged as one of the best clutch players in modern NBA history and has been a catalyst to the Portland Trail Blazers’ recent playoff appearances.

In Game 6 of a Western Conference first-round series in 2014, the seven-time All-Star drained a buzzer-beating three-pointer to lift the Trail Blazers over James Harden and the Houston Rockets with a 99-98 final score. The shot gave the Trail Blazers a 4-2 series win over the Rockets. Portland lost in the next round to the eventual NBA champions, the San Antonio Spurs.

Lillard shocked NBA fans once again in the 2019 playoffs. Etched in history because of its popularity on social media, the 6-foot-2 guard’s series-clinching buzzer beater against the Oklahoma City Thunder secured a 118-115 victory in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series. That game-winning basket rounded out Lillard’s 50th point of the game, marking his first 50-point playoff performance, a feat he repeated in 2021.

Jared Wickerham // Getty Images

#3. Paul Pierce (tie)

Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics takes a game-winning shot over LeBron James.

– Number of playoff buzzer beaters: 2
– Years scored: 2010, 2015
– Teams scored for: Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards

Paul Pierce solidified his status as one of the best players to ever wear the green and white thanks to his playoff performances. His first playoff buzzer beater came in 2010 when he nailed a game-winning 21-foot jump shot over Dorell Wright to give the Boston Celtics a 3-0 series lead over the Miami Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Pierce worked his magic again in 2015 as a member of the Washington Wizards by making a banked-in buzzer beater in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks—a top-seeded team. The iconic “I called game” shot helped the Wizards get back in the series, but the team eventually got bounced by the Hawks in six games.

Spencer Grant // Getty Images

#3. Jo Jo White (tie)

Jo Jo White of the Boston Celtics jumps during a game against the New York Knicks.

– Number of playoff buzzer beaters: 2
– Years scored: 1974, 1977
– Team scored for: Boston Celtics

As another player who suited up for the Boston Celtics, Jo Jo White was expected to be great in the playoffs.

The Kansas graduate unconventionally nailed his first playoff game-winner at the free-throw line. White made two free throws with no time remaining on the clock to give the Celtics a 106-104 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1974 Eastern Conference semifinals. The Celtics went on to win their 12th NBA championship that season.

In 1977, the 6-foot-3 point guard sank another buzzer beater in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers to give the Celtics a 113-111 win, although the Celtics lost the series in seven games.

Bettmann // Getty Images

#3. Jerry West (tie)

Jerry West drives up the middle of a court with a ball.

– Number of playoff buzzer beaters: 2
– Years scored: 1962, 1963
– Team scored for: Los Angeles Lakers

Honored as the figure in the NBA’s logo, Jerry West had one of the most illustrious careers in league history. A part of his legacy was his ability to nail game-winning shots.

Known as “Mr. Clutch,” West made a layup to beat the buzzer in Game 3 of the 1962 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. His shot gave the Los Angeles Lakers a 117-115 win, but Boston won the NBA championship in seven games. In 1963, West knocked down his second playoff buzzer beater in a 101-99 win over the St. Louis Hawks in Game 2 of the West Division finals.

While it wasn’t game-winning, West also hit a 60-foot buzzer beater in 1970 to force overtime against the New York Knicks in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. The Knicks went on to win the game 111-108 to take a 2-1 series lead en route to the franchise’s first NBA championship.

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Focus On Sport // Getty Images

#2. Michael Jordan (tie)

Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls shoots a jump shot against the Detroit Pistons.

– Number of playoff buzzer beaters: 3
– Years scored: 1989, 1993, 1997
– Team scored for: Chicago Bulls

As arguably the best basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan had no hesitation in taking his team’s last shot in Game 5 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. In 1989, the 6-foot-6 guard drained “The Shot” in that game to eliminate the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Jordan created another historic moment against the Cavaliers in 1993 with a buzzer beater in Cleveland to give the Bulls an Eastern Conference semifinals series victory in four games.

The North Carolina product used his clutch gene again in the 1997 playoffs with a jumper to give the Chicago Bulls an 84-82 win over the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Chicago. The Bulls went on to win the NBA championship with a 4-2 series victory over the Jazz.

Gregory Shamus // Getty Images

#1. LeBron James

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers hits the game-winning shot over the Toronto Raptors.

– Number of playoff buzzer beaters: 5
– Years scored: 2009, 2013, 2015, 2018 (2)
– Teams scored for: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat

LeBron James—the second active player on this list—happens to have the most playoff buzzer beaters.

Also considered one of the best to ever dribble a basketball, the 6-foot-9 forward has been making game-clinching shots in the playoffs since 2009. That year, James nailed a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a 96-95 win over the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

In 2013, James shocked the Indiana Pacers with an overtime game-winning layup to give the Miami Heat a 103-102 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Heat eventually won the NBA Finals in seven games.

In 2015—his first season back in Cleveland—James hit a 21-footer as time expired to give the Cavaliers an 86-84 victory over the Chicago Bulls in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Cleveland went on to win that series and the Eastern Conference crown but ultimately came up short against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Three years later, James won two separate games with buzzer beaters to solidify his greatness. The first came against the Pacers once again. In Cleveland’s first-round playoff series, James nailed a game-winning three-pointer over Thaddeus Young in Game 5 for a 98-95 victory. He picked up where he left off in the next series against the Toronto Raptors by making an off-glass floater in Game 3 to give the Cavaliers a 105-103 win. The Cavaliers went on to win the series 4-0 before later falling, once again, to Golden State in the NBA Finals.

Article Topic Follows: stacker-Sports

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