Gary Neal Saves the San Antonio Spurs and 6 More Playoff Buzzer-Beaters

The rookie landed a three-point shot just after the clock hit zero in Game 5 of the first round of the post-season. A look at those who came before him, from Michael Jordan to LeBron James.

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AP/Eric Gay


When the final buzzer sounded in Wednesday's Game 5 between the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies, the Grizzlies were leading 97-94. It was a game the Spurs had to win to avoid becoming just the second No. 1 seed in NBA history to lose a best-of-seven first-round playoff series. The clock read all zeros and the Grizz were ahead, so pop the champagne and cue the blues-y celebration in Memphis, right?

Wrong. A split second earlier, San Antonio rookie Gary Neal had launched a game-tying three-point attempt, and a split second later the ball swished through the hoop to knot the score at 97 and keep the top seed's title hopes alive. The Spurs won the game in overtime, 110-103, forcing a Game 6 in Memphis and sending sportswriters scrambling to the history books. Not since Chauncey Billups beat the buzzer in 2004 had a team tied a playoff game on a last-second three-point shot, and Billups' Detroit Pistons actually went on to lose that game in triple overtime to the New Jersey Nets.

Neal's heroics put the rookie from Aberdeen, MD—by way of Turkey, Spain and Italy—in elite company. Here is a sampling of playoff game-winning shots that went in after the clock hit 0.0. We've discounted buzzer-beaters where the team that tied the game went on to lose (like Jerry West's historic 63-foot heave to send Game 2 of the 1970 NBA Finals to overtime) and shots that came just before the buzzer (like Allan Houston's 1999 series-winning shot for the New York Knicks over the Miami Heat, which went in with 0.8 seconds to spare). These following are bona fide buzzer-beating winners.

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Jake Simpson is a New York-based writer.

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