In basketball, a buzzer beater is a shot taken before the game clock of a quarter expires but does not go in the basket until after the clock expires and the buzzer sounds. The term is normally reserved for baskets that beat an end-of-quarter buzzer but is sometimes referred to shots that beat the shot clock buzzer. If a player releases the ball before the buzzer sounds, the shot still counts if it goes in even though the clock expires before the ball goes through the hoop.
Officials in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Basketball Association, Women's National Basketball Association, Serie A (Italy), and the Euroleague (Final Four series only, effective 2006) are required to use instant replay to assess whether a shot made at the end of a period was in fact released before the game clock expired. Since 2002, the NBA also has mandated LED light strips along the edges of the backboard and the edge of the scorer's table for the purposes of identifying the end of a period.
Notable buzzer beaters
Although buzzer beaters are fairly common, several instances have been recognized as special occasions:
- 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 the Duke Blue Devils the 104–103 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats. The lead changed hands five times in the last 31.5 seconds.
- In the 1992 NCAA Tournament, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets' 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 0.8 seconds left, Forrest received a half-court inbounds pass, rotated 180 degrees and nailed the three-pointer at the buzzer for the win.
- On January 5, 2004, the Texas Longhorns' 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 backboard lights up, 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 an 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 local news network WFMY-TV in Greensboro, North Carolina.
- In the 2006 NCAA Tournament First Round, #14 seed Northwestern State (LA) stunned #3 seed Iowa Hawkeyes 64–63 with a last second three-pointer "off the heels" in the far corner by Jermaine Wallace. Northwestern State had come back from 17 points down with 8 minutes to play.
- In a 2010 NCAA regular season game against Georgia Tech, the Maryland Terrapins, in essence, made two buzzer beaters (with only the second one counting). First, with 3.0 seconds on the clock, Greivis Vasquez made a half-court shot on the run to beat what would have been the buzzer. However, Maryland coach Keith Booth had called time with 1.5 seconds left, before Vasquez had released the ball. Following the timeout on the ensuing inbounds pass, the Terps got the ball to Cliff Tucker, who made a three-pointer at the buzzer to win the game 76–74.
- On February 7, 2013, in an NCAA regular season game, Tyler Griffey made an uncontested buzzer-beating layup off an inbounds pass with 0.9 seconds remaining to lead the Illinois Fighting Illini to a 74–72 upset home win over #1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers.
- On March 18, 2016, during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, with 2.7 seconds remaining, Paul Jesperson of Northern Iowa made a buzzer beater from half court to win the game for the 11th seeded Panthers, 75–72, and upset the 6th seeded Texas Longhorns.
- On March 20, 2016, during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, with 2.6 seconds left and the game tied 63–63, Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig made a 3-point buzzer beater after receiving an inbound pass from Ethan Happ. This resulted in the 7th seeded Wisconsin upsetting the 2nd seeded Xavier.
- On April 4, 2016, Villanova's Kris Jenkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to defeat North Carolina to win the 2016 NCAA Tournament, 77–74.
- 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, with the Lakers trailing the Knicks 102–100. Jerry West sank a desperation buzzer-beating 60-ft shot to tie the game. Since the three point shot was not adopted before the 1979–80 NBA season, it counted as a 2. The Lakers lost 111–108 in OT.
- 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 banked in a 3 at the buzzer to win it 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 and Lakers were tied 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 for Houston.
- 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 4 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Semifinals, "The Shot II". With the score tied at 101, Michael Jordan made an 18-foot fade-away over Gerald Wilkins at the buzzer to give the Bulls a 103–101 victory and sweep Cleveland.
- 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 5 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 New York, 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. The lead changed hands four times in the last 13.3 seconds.
- In Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals, Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon 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 it 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 #8 seed at the time to beat a #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 hit a 20-footer at the buzzer to win the game for the Lakers 74–73.
- In Game 5 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Semifinals, 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 hit 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 Heat down 102–101 in overtime against the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James made a driving lay-up as time expired in OT to give the Heat a 103–102 win over the Pacers.
- In Game 3 of the 2014 Western Conference First Round, Vince Carter hit a 3 from the left corner at the buzzer, giving the Mavericks a 109–108 victory and a 2–1 series lead over the San Antonio Spurs. However, Dallas would lose in 7 games to the eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs.
- In Game 6 of the 2014 Western Conference First Round, with the Portland Trail Blazers down 98–96 with 9 tenths left, Damian Lillard hit a buzzer beating 3 off the inbounds pass to beat the Houston Rockets 99–98 and win the series 4–2.
- In Game 4 of the 2015 Eastern Conference First Round, Jerryd Bayless banked in a lay-up at the buzzer to give the Milwaukee Bucks a 92–90 win against the Chicago Bulls; this meant that they trailed the series 3–1.
- In Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Derrick Rose banked in a 3 at the buzzer to give the Chicago Bulls a 99–96 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers and take a 2–1 series lead.
- In Game 4 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals, LeBron James hit a corner 2 at the buzzer to give the Cleveland Cavaliers an 86–84 win against the Chicago Bulls and even the series at 2 games apiece, while Cavaliers coach David Blatt was being held back from attempting to call a timeout. The Cavs had none at the time, and the technical foul would have given Chicago a free throw and possession.
- In Game 3 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Paul Pierce banked in a step-back 21-footer at the buzzer to give the Washington Wizards a 103–101 win against the Atlanta Hawks and take a 2–1 series lead.
- In Game 1 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors hit a half court shot at the buzzer to tie the game 90–90. The Raptors would eventually lose the game against the Miami Heat 102–96 in OT.
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 teammate. 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 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, 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 Olympic Games, after a run of Alejandro Montecchia, Manu Ginóbili 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 ABA 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.
- On January 24, 2014, in a Top 16 Euroleague game between Anadolu Efes and EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, Efes was trailing by two points when Keith Langford from Milan had another free throw attempt (after hitting the first one) with three seconds left on the game clock. He then probably missed the second free throw on purpose so that Anadolu Efes cannot take another timeout. Zoran Planinić from Anadolu Efes then grabbed the rebound, took one dribble and threw the ball from within their own three point line to the basket of Milan. He made it and no time remained on the game clock; the final score was 61–60.
- On April 25, 2014, in the semifinal game of the 2013–14 ABA League Final Four, between Partizan Belgrade and Cedevita Zagreb, Cedevita was trailing with 1 point and possession less. Milenko Tepić of Partizan missed the thee-point shot with 6 seconds left, Nolan Smith of Cedevita grabbed the ball, ran to the other side of the court with his defenders not guarding him, and hit a running three-point buzzer beater from 30 feet. The final score was 81–79. The significance of that shot is even more than just a victory, if it is known that it secured a direct spot in the 2014–15 Euroleague season for Cedevita, while leaving Partizan out of the Euroleague for the first time after 14 years, and the first time since ULEB takeover of the competition in 2000.
In other sports
The term is sometimes applied to analogous achievements in other sports.
In ice hockey, like in basketball, a buzzer beater is a goal that is scored just as the clock expires in a period. Unlike in basketball, however, the puck must completely cross the goal line with 0.1 seconds or more remaining on the clock in order for the goal to count; if the period expires before the puck completely crosses the goal line, the goal is disallowed and the green light boots up.
In gridiron football, a last-minute field goal (or, much more rarely, a successful fair catch kick) kicked as time expires can be described as a "buzzer beater," though no actual buzzers are used in that sport and a quarter or half ends upon completion of a play unless a compliant defensive penalty occurs, which gives the offense one final play, an instance that led to the Green Bay Packers' 2015 "Miracle in Motown" play against the Detroit Lions. Several important games have been decided on the outcome of buzzer beaters, such as Super Bowl XXXVI and Super Bowl XXXVIII, both of which were decided on successful kicks by Adam Vinatieri; in contrast, Scott Norwood's infamous missed kick in Super Bowl XXV decided that game in favor of the opposing New York Giants. A related concept in football is the Hail Mary pass.
The concept is applicable to other football codes as well; a goal can be scored in either rugby football code, Gaelic football or Australian rules football in the closing seconds to win a game. The concept is less common in soccer; the end of the game is not officially signaled by the expiration of the clock, but by declaration of the official, who almost always adds "stoppage time" to account for time lost to stoppage of play during the game.
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- NBA.com: George Mikan Bio
- NBA.com: West's Heroics Can't Deprive Russell of 11th Title
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