In basketball, a buzzer beater is a shot taken just before the game clock of a period expires, when the buzzer sounds. The term is normally reserved for baskets that win or tie the game, but also refers to shots that beat an end-of-quarter or halftime buzzer. If a player releases the ball, "beating" the buzzer, so that it sounds while the ball is in mid-air, the shot still counts if it goes in. Often, a buzzer-beating shot will be released from long range (even from beyond half court), making for a spectacular play if it connects.
Officials in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Basketball Association, Serie A (Italy), and Euroleague (Final Four series only, effective 2006) are required to use instant replay to assess whether a basket made at the end of a period was in fact before the game clock expired. Since 2002, the NBA also has mandated duplicate light strips on the backboard and scorer's table for the purpose of identifying the end of period.
Remarkable buzzer beaters
Although buzzer beaters are fairly common, several instances have been recognized as special occasions:
- The 1986–87 Indiana Hoosiers won the school's fifth national championship against Syracuse in the 1987 NCAA tournament. The game was decided by a game-winning jump shot by Keith Smart with five seconds left.
- In the 1990 Sweet 16, with Connecticut down 1 with 1 second left, Scott Burrell threw the ball the length of the court to Tate George, who hit a turnaround jumper at the buzzer. However, that shot was short-lived, as Duke's Christian Laettner beat UCONN in the Elite 8 79–78, with a buzzer beater of his own.
- In the 1992 East Regional Finals, with 2.1 seconds to play and down by 1, Duke forward Christian Laettner caught a full court inbounds pass from Grant Hill, turned and drained a 17-footer at the buzzer to give Duke the 104–103 victory over Kentucky. The lead changed hands 5 times in the last 31.5 seconds. 
- In the 1992 NCAA Tournament, Georgia Tech's legendary coach Bobby Cremins led an inexperienced Tech team to the Sweet 16, thanks in no small part to James Forrest's buzzer-beating game-winning 3-pointer in the second round against USC (to which CBS commentator Al McGuire famously shouted, "Holy mackerel! Holy mackerel! Holy mackerel!"). With 8 tenths left, Forrest received a half-court inbounds pass, rotated 180 degrees and nailed the 3 at the buzzer for the win.
- On January 5, 2004, Texas forward P. J. Tucker hit a buzzer-beater in a game against Providence College to win 79–77 in OT. After extensive looks at instant replay, it was clear that the ball was in his hand when the game clock hit 0.0, but out before the red backboard light came on. By rule, the game ends when the red light comes on, so the basket counted and Texas won the game.
- On January 31, 2005, Guilford College was tied at 88 with Randolph-Macon College. Randolph-Macon was shooting 2 free throws with 0.6 seconds left. After making the first to take a 89–88 lead, the second shot missed. Guilford player Jordan Snipes grabbed the rebound under the basket and threw the ball towards the other goal. The shot went in, giving Guilford a 91–89 victory. Snipes duplicated the feat several days later on air with the WFMY-2 local news network in Greensboro, North Carolina.
- In the 2006 NCAA Tournament First Round, #14 seed Northwestern State (LA) stunned #3 seeded Iowa 64–63 with a last second 3 "off the heels" in the far corner by Northwestern State's Jermaine Wallace. Northwestern State came back from 17 points down with 8 minutes to play.
- In a 2010 NCAA regular season game against Georgia Tech, the Maryland Terrapins made 2 buzzer-beaters (only the second one counted). 1st, with 3 seconds on the clock, Greivis Vasquez made a half-court shot on the run to beat the buzzer. However, Maryland coach Keith Booth called time with 1.5 seconds left. Then, Eric Hayes passed to Cliff Tucker, who made a 3 at the buzzer to win the game 76–74.
NBA regular season
- On January 8, 1982, Dan Roundfield of the Atlanta Hawks scored when the Milwaukee Bucks' Harvey Catchings scored an own goal, deflecting a last-second inbounds pass from the Hawks' Tom McMillen into the basket, with the Hawks winning, 90–88. By NBA rules, the scoring team's player closest to the basket receives credit for an own goal shot.
- On January 3, 1984, Jeff Malone of the Bullets made a crazy sprinting last-second three-pointer as he was falling out of bounds, winning the game 103–102 versus the Pistons. The play has been acknowledged by the NBA as one of the greatest plays of all-time.
- On November 27, 1992, after Dikembe Mutombo blocked a layup by Danny Manning, Chris Jackson caught the ball, raced upcourt and launched a running buzzer beater from beyond halfcourt which swished through to give Denver a dramatic 109–106 win over the Clippers. It was the Nuggets' only lead of the game.
- On January 21, 1994, after Reggie Miller made a shot with 8 tenths left to put the Pacers up 95–93, Toni Kukoc took the inbounds pass and hit a 3 at the buzzer to give the Bulls the 96–95 win. It was the Bulls' 16th straight victory.
- On December 20, 2006, in a double-overtime game against the Charlotte Bobcats with 1 tenth left, David Lee of the Knicks hit the game-winner on a tip-in without breaking the league's Trent Tucker Rule, whereby a player cannot legitimately make a field goal with less than three tenths of a second remaining on the clock. As this applies almost exclusively to jump shots, Lee's shot attempt was the first ever made with 1 tenth left on the clock post Trent Tucker Rule.
- On March 30, 2007 the Toronto Raptors were trailing the Washington Wizards 109–106 with 3.8 seconds left. Anthony Parker threw the inbounds pass down the court, only to have it intercepted by Michael Ruffin. Ruffin tossed the ball up in an attempt to run out the clock, only to have it fall into Morris Peterson's hands. Peterson quickly threw a desperation 3 from 31 feet out and hit it, barely beating the buzzer and tying the game at 109. The Raptors won in OT, 123–118.
- On November 5, 2008, the Portland Trail Blazers were tied with the Houston Rockets when Houston guard Tracy McGrady missed a shot and Portland forward Travis Outlaw got the rebound. Coach Nate McMillan chose not to call timeout and Brandon Roy brought the ball up the court and hit a fade-away with 1.9 seconds left to give Portland a 98–96 lead. Then with 0.8 seconds to go, Yao Ming hit a fade-away while Roy fouled him; he converted the and-1 to give Houston a 99–98 lead. After the timeout which Portland saved, Portland guard Steve Blake inbounded the ball to Roy, who hit a 30-ft fade-away 3 at the buzzer to give Portland the 101–99 OT victory.
- On November 5, 2010, the Phoenix Suns were playing the Memphis Grizzlies and were down 98–94 with 3.6 seconds left. The Phoenix Suns had possession out of bounds, and inbounded to Jason Richardson, who banked in a three with 1.1 seconds left. The Grizzlies' Rudy Gay inbounded the ball off Grant Hill's back, which time seemed to run out, but Steve Nash fouled him with 4 tenths left. Rudy Gay missed the first free throw, and while trying to miss it, he made the second to put them up 99–97. Phoenix advanced the ball to halfcourt. Grant Hill threw the ball close to the rim, and Jason Richardson caught it and scored. The game would go to double OT, in which the Suns would win.
- In Game 1 of the 1950 NBA Finals, Bob Harrison hit a 40-ft buzzer-beater to win the game for the Lakers, 68–66.
- In Game 4 of the 1969 NBA Finals, Sam Jones hit an off-balance 18-footer as time expired to lift the Celtics to a series-tying 89–88 win over the Lakers.
- In Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Jerry West sank a desperation buzzer-beating 60-ft shot to tie the game at 102. However, his Lakers still lost to the Knicks in OT, 111–108.
- In Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals, Gar Heard hit a buzzer beater against the Boston Celtics to tie the game at 112 and force a 3rd overtime. This was one of the many high points of the game, which the Celtics won 128–126. Heard's shot is one of the many reasons the NBA refers to Game 5 as "The Greatest Game Ever Played".
- In Game 1 of the 1986 Eastern Conference First Round, Dudley Bradley made a buzzer-beating 3 to win the game 95–94 after the 76ers led 94–77 with 3 minutes left.
- In Game 3 of the 1986 Western Conference Semifinals, Derek Harper hit a long 3 with 3 seconds left to beat the Lakers 110–108.
- In Game 5 of the 1986 Western Conference Finals, the Rockets were tied with the Lakers at 112 with 1 second left and the ball at half-court. Ralph Sampson hit a turn-around shot at the buzzer, to win the series 4–1 for the Rockets.
- In Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference First Round, Michael Jordan took the inbounds pass with 3 seconds left, sprinted to the free throw line and hit The Shot over Craig Ehlo at the buzzer to beat the Cavs 101–100.
- In Game 4 of the 1993 Eastern Conference First Round, with Charlotte down 103–102 with 3.3 seconds left, Alonzo Mourning took the inbounds pass and hit a 20-footer with 0.4 seconds left.
- In Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals with 1.8 seconds left and the Bulls down 2–0 in the series, Toni Kukoč sank a 23-ft fadeaway at the buzzer to give Chicago a 104–102 victory over the Knicks.
- In Game 5 of the 1995 Western Conference Semifinals, Nick Van Exel hit a 3 with 3 tenths left in OT to give the Lakers a 98–96 win over the Spurs.
- In Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Reggie Miller scored 8 points in 8.9 seconds to erase a 6-point deficit and beat the Knicks, 107–105.
- In Game 4 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, Indiana's Rik Smits faked a shot over Tree Rollins, then hit a 10-footer at the buzzer to beat Orlando 94–93.
- In Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals, Hakeem Olajuwon of the Rockets tipped in a missed layup by Clyde Drexler with 3 tenths left in OT to beat the Magic 120–118.
- In Game 4 of the 1997 Western Conference First Round, the Suns' Rex Chapman caught an overthrown Jason Kidd pass and made a falling-out-of-bounds 3 with 1.9 seconds left to tie the game at 107. The Suns still lost 122–115.
- In Game 4 of the 1997 Western Conference Finals, Houston's Eddie Johnson hit a buzzer-beating 3 to beat Utah 95–92.
- In Game 6 of the 1997 Western Conference Finals, John Stockton hit a 3 at the buzzer, lifting Utah over Houston 103–100 to win the series 4–2.
- In Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan hit a jumper over Bryon Russell at the buzzer to give Chicago the 84–82 victory.
- In Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, Indiana was down to Chicago 94–93 with 2.9 seconds left. Derrick McKey inbounded to Reggie Miller, who hit the game-winning 3 with 7 tenths left.
- In Game 5 of the 1999 Eastern Conference First Round, Allan Houston hit a runner with 8 tenths left to beat Miami 78–77. This also meant New York was just the 2nd No. 8 seed at the time to beat a No. 1 seed.
- In Game 4 of the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals, the Lakers were trailing the Kings 99–97 with 11.8 seconds left. The Lakers were trailing 2–1 in the series and faced Game 5 in Sacramento. After Kobe and Shaq missed consecutive layups, Vlade Divac swatted the ball away in a vain attempt to run out the clock. However, it went right to Robert Horry, who caught the ball and hit a 3 at the buzzer to give the Lakers the 100–99 victory.
- In Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals, Tim Duncan made a fadeaway 18-footer over Shaquille O'Neal to give the Spurs a 73–72 lead with 0.4 seconds on the clock. But Derek Fisher turn, and shoot the game-winning basket all in 0.4 seconds after timeout and the Lakers won the game 74–73.
- In Game 5 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals, with the series tied at 2, the Detroit Pistons were down 88–85 to the Nets with no timeouts. Chauncey Billups ran upcourt and banked in a 3 at the buzzer to tie the game at 88. Detroit lost in 3OT, but won the series in 7 and proceeded to defeat the Lakers 4–1 in the NBA Finals.
- In Game 4 of the 2006 Western Conference First Round, Kobe Bryant made a buzzer beater to defeat Phoenix 99–98 and give the Lakers a 3–1 series lead.
- In Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron James took the inbounds pass and hit a 3 at the buzzer to give the Cavs the 96–95 victory.
- In Game 3 of the 2010 Eastern Conference First Round, Paul Pierce made a jumper from the free-throw line at the buzzer, giving the Celtics a 100–98 victory and a 3–0 series lead over the Miami Heat.
- In Game 5 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals, after Kobe Bryant missed a 3, Ron Artest hits the putback at the buzzer to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 103–101 win over the Phoenix Suns to give the Lakers a 3–2 series lead. The Lakers won the series 4–2 and went on to win their 2nd straight title.
- In Game 1 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, with the Miami Heat down by one 101-102 in overtime against the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James made a driving lay-up as time expires in OT to give the Heat a 103-102 win over the Pacers and a 1-0 series lead.
Olympics and Europe
- In the 1972 Olympic Finals, Alexander Belov of the Soviet Union scored a last-second basket after catching a full-court desperation launch by a team mate. As time expired, Belov hit a layup that won the game 51–50 against the U.S. team.
- In the second round of the 1997 Eurobasket, in a high-strung game between FR Yugoslavia and Croatia (the first one after the breakup of SFR Yugoslavia and the ensuing Yugoslav wars), Aleksandar Đorđević won the game for Yugoslavia 64–62 with a coast-to-coast three-pointer. The same player won the 1992 Euroleague title for Partizan Belgrade in a strikingly similar fashion (albeit with 2 seconds left on the clock).
- (Euroleague) On April 7, 2004, Maccabi Tel Aviv was trailing Žalgiris at home, on the decisive round-robin match to determine which team advances to the Final Four tournament, held later that month on Maccabi's home court in Tel Aviv. Maccabi's failure to advance would mean utter disaster, as team officials battled all season long against Euroleague attempts to relocate the tournament due to ensuing Al-Aqsa intifada and similar UEFA ban on football (soccer) matches hosted in Israel. With 2 seconds remaining and Maccabi trailing by 3 points, Derrick Sharp caught a long pass from Gur Shelef, turned to the basket and fired a game-tying fade-away three-pointer, forcing overtime. Maccabi won that game, advanced to the Final Four and became Euroleague Champion, winning the final game against Skipper Bologna by the all-time record score of 118–74.
- On August 15, 2004, in the first game of the Olympics Games, after a run of Alejandro Montecchia, Emanuel Ginobili received the ball trailing 82–81 against Serbia and Montenegro with 0.7 seconds left. He made the shot while falling sideways after it hit the board. Argentina then would win the Gold.
- In a friendly match between the US and Germany during the run-up to the 2004 Olympics, a less than stellar Team USA was saved by Allen Iverson (then of the Philadelphia 76ers), who hit a half-court shot to keep the game from going into overtime.
- On April 25, 2010, in the title game of the 2009/10 season of the Adriatic League, Partizan Belgrade topped Cibona Zagreb in overtime in Arena Zagreb, thanks to an off-the-glass three-pointer by Dušan Kecman from half-court at the buzzer, bringing the celebration of Cibona players and staff (who already invaded the floor as Bojan Bogdanović scored a corner three-pointer for Cibona with just 0.6 seconds left on the clock) to an abrupt end. Partizan thus won its fourth consecutive Adriatic League title. The final score was 75–74.
- Weinberg, Rick. "60: Smart's jumper wins NCAA title for Indiana". espn.com. Retrieved 2008-03-30.
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