“Buzzer beater” plays a huge role in basketball games. So do you know what a “buzzer beater” is? And who has the most buzzer beaters in NBA history?
It was a tight game at the Chase Center, with the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets tied at 103-103 as the clock ticked towards zero.
Steph Curry was able to wriggle free and create some space, scoring a buzzer beater to secure a narrow 105-103 win for Steve Kerr’s side.
It is the first game winner of Curry’s career.
But who has the most buzzer beaters in NBA history? Which all-time great leads the way, and who has the most among active players?
MOST NBA BUZZER BEATERS IN HISTORY
The record for most NBA buzzer beaters in history goes to none other than Michael Jordan.
A six-time champion and arguably the greatest to ever pick a basketball up, Jordan tallied nine buzzer beaters in his illustrious career.
All but one – the final one – came for the Chicago Bulls, with that last buzzer beater coming for the Washington Wizards.
Jordan’s first buzzer beater came in 1989 against the Cleveland Cavaliers to secure a 101-100 Bulls win.
He would go onto claim buzzer beaters against:
- Cleveland Cavaliers x3
- Utah Jazz x2
- Atlanta Hawks x2
- Detroit Pistons
- Charlotte Hornets
Jordan’s record for most buzzer beaters in NBA history is one clear of the next two on the list – who are also among the greats.
BRYANT AND JOHNSON BUZZER BEATERS
Second on the all-time buzzer beater list are the late Kobe Bryant and Joe Johnson with eight apiece.
Bryant, an 18-time All-Star and five-time champion hit eight during his career which was played exclusively for the LA Lakers.
One of the most famous included one against the Phoenix Suns in the 2006 Playoffs.
Johnson retired from basketball in 2018, before making a temporary comeback for the Boston Celtics in December 2021 as an injury cover.
Johnson moved around, playing for seven franchises in a 17-year career.
WHAT ABOUT ACTIVE PLAYERS?
Among active players, the record for most buzzer beaters in the NBA goes to LeBron James.
The Lakers star has actually yet to record a buzzer beater for the side, with his tally coming for the Cavaliers and Miami Heat before he was traded.
As of January 22nd, 2021, James’ last buzzer beater came in 2018 for the Cavs vs the Toronto Raptors in the Playoffs.
He’s also hit buzzer beaters against the Indiana Pacers (twice), Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Bulls and Warriors.
James is equal with Paul Pierce on seven buzzer beaters for the third most in NBA history.
Who has the most buzzer-beaters in NBA history?
So far, the NBA has seen a total of 786 buzzer-beater winners. This includes some of the most memorable moments, including most recently Kawhi Leonard’s incredible game-winner for the Toronto Raptors during Game 7 of the 2019 NBA Finals. Older NBA fans might also remember Michael Jordan’s “The Shot” in Game 5 of the 1989 playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Over the years, many players have surpassed Jerry West’s mark of four buzzer-beaters. In fact, a total of five players have hit at least seven game-winning shots. Only one of those five is still active in the NBA and he could finish his career with the most buzzer-beaters in the league’s history.
Let’s look at the five NBA players who have made the most buzzer-beating shots in league history.
#5 Paul Pierce – Seven buzzer-beaters
Former NBA star Paul Pierce, who was known for his elite shooting, ended up registering seven buzzer-beaters in his career.
Paul Pierce spent a total of 19 seasons in the NBA and spent the majority of them with the Boston Celtics. He won his only NBA title in 2008 with the team and was also the Finals MVP.
In addition to hitting buzzer-beaters, Pierce also holds the record for being involved in the most buzzer-beaters in NBA history. He assisted five, in addition to scoring seven.
#4 LeBron James – Seven buzzer-beaters
The second player on this list is the LA Lakers’ LeBron James. The four-time NBA champion was criticized during the initial years of his career for lacking the “clutch gene.”
It took until his sixth season in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers for James to hit his first buzzer-beater. Over the years, LeBron James has hit a total of seven buzzer-beaters, with the latest coming back in May 2018 for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Playoffs.
He is yet to register a buzzer-beater for the LA Lakers.
#3 – Joe Johnson – Eight buzzer-beaters
Joe Johnson was a seven-time All-Star who had some of his best years playing for the Atlanta Hawks.
He last represented the Houston Rockets in the 2017-18 NBA season and has since not played professional basketball. “Iso-Joe” earned his nickname while playing for the Atlanta Hawks due to his clutch isolation plays, and finished his career with a total of eight buzzer-beaters.
#2 Kobe Bryant – Eight buzzer-beaters
The late, great Kobe Bryant is one of the biggest legends in the sport’s history and is by far the greatest player in the history of the LA Lakers. He played for 20 seasons in the NBA and was an 18-time All-Star. He won the championship five times and was named the Finals MVP twice.
During his 20-year career, Bryant ended up hitting a total of eight buzzer-beating game-winners for the Lakers. This most famously included a buzzer-beater during the first round of the playoffs against the Phoenix Suns back in 2006.
#1 Michael Jordan – 9 buzzer-beaters
Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player in NBA history. One among Jordan’s innumerable NBA records is the mark for the most game-winning buzzer-beaters in league history with nine.
He is the only player alongside Damian Lillard to have ended two playoff series with buzzer-beaters. Both of Jordan’s series-ending shots came against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jordan’s nine buzzer-beaters were more than twice as many as any other player had managed when he retired back in 2002. The record has since lost its air of invincibility, with LeBron James having a fair chance of overtaking Jordan by the time he finishes.