As long as they keep putting air into basketballs and taking time off the clock there will be buzzer-beaters.
Nothing tops the gasp of the crowd, the jaw-dropping shock on the faces of the victims, the unexpected thrill of the moment.
There have been so many memorable ones down through the years, but very few like Friday night when the Magic beat the Thunder at the buzzer with a slam dunk.
It began with rookie Victor Oladipo making a defensive play and tipping a loose ball to gain control. He passed it to Mo Harkless for what looked like a layup. But Harkless instead turned and fed to a charging Tobias Harris who stuffed it home with 0.1 seconds ticking off the clock.
The game has given us plenty of last-second heaves and prayers and maybe even blind tosses. But this was the basketball equivalent of Kirk Gibson’s homer with two out in the bottom of the ninth — a walk-off slam dunk. A rarity, indeed.
Here’s a look at some of the other famous buzzer-beaters down through the years. But as far as we’re concerned, only Lorenzo Charles’ dunk to win the 1983 NCAA championship for North Carolina State beats Harris for a resounding, rim-rattling finish:
1970 — NBA Finals Game 3 — Jerry West takes the inbounds pass from Wilt Chamberlain, one dribble and lets fly with a 60-foot heave that ties the Knicks at the end of regulation time and the Lakers go on to win Game 3. The Lakers win in overtime 111-108, but lose the series 4-3.
1976 — NBA Finals Game 5 — After John Havlicek gives the Celtics a two-point lead with one second left in the second overtime, Garfield Heard catches the inbounds pass at the top of the key, turns and buries the jumper. The Suns eventually lose in 3 OTs and lose the series 4-2.
1983 — NCAA Championship Game — Dereck Whittenburg heaves up the most famous air ball in history, Akeem Olajuwon leaves his defensive post, Lorenzo Charles catches the ball and slams it home to give North Carolina State a 54-52 win over Houston in one of the greatest upsets in tournament history and sends Jimmy V dancing across the floor in Albuquerque.
1989 — NBA playoffs, first round, Game 5 — The Shot. It’s where so much of the legend began. Michael Jordan gets the inbounds pass, lifts up like a rocket off the launch pad and buries the jumper over the Cavs’ Craig Ehlo for a 101-100 win to close out Game 5 of the first round playoff series for the Bulls.
1992 — NCAA Tournament East Region Finals — Grant Hill lines up on the far baseline and throws a perfect strike on his length of the court pass to Christian Laettner in the key. He turns and fires to give Duke a 103-102 win in what has been described as the greatest college basketball game ever. Duke goes on to win the national title.
2002 — NBA Western Conference finals, Game 4 — The Lakers were trailing 2-1 in the series and down 99-97 when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant both missed layups. But the rebound came bouncing straight out to Robert Horry beyond the top of the key and Big Shot Bob calmly pick it up and nailed the 3-pointer for the win. The Lakers won the series 4-3 and beat the Nets in The Finals for their third straight title.
2004 — NBA Western Conference Semi-finals, Game 5 — Down 73-72 with just 0.4 seconds showing on the clock in San Antonio, Derek Fisher gets the feed on the run from Gary Payton, turns and fires in the kill shot to sink the Spurs on their home floor. The Lakers go on to win the series 4-2, but were beaten by the Pistons 4-1 in The Finals.