Sports Reference Blog

Every Buzzer-Beater in NBA History Added to Basketball-Reference

Posted by Mike Lynch on February 17, 2020

After years poring over play-by-plays, watching videos (tough, I know) and reading thousands of game stories in newspaper archives, Basketball-Reference has compiled the first comprehensive list of every buzzer-beating game-winning shot in the history of the NBA and the BAA. To date, there have been 772 such shots in NBA history, including free throws with time expired. I'm defining game-winning buzzer-beaters as successful shots taken with the shooter's team tied or trailing which left no time on the clock after going through the net. These are true game-enders leaving no opportunity for the opponent to respond. As Tim Duncan knows, there are no such thing as game-winning buzzer-beaters that leave even 0.4 seconds on the clock.

This list was constructed by using the Team Game Finder to find every game decided by three points or fewer and then used the above mentioned resources to determine whether or not a true buzzer-beater had occurred. Video was available for most of the shots back to the early 1980s for confirmation purposes. For shots from the first 30-35 years of the league, though, I was mostly reliant on the quality of the game stories. Fortunately, the quality of the reporting was excellent for most of the league's history. However, from 1946 to roughly 1955, most of the shots required me to make my best educated guess based on the available materials. The buzzer and the clock were not always properly aligned, which led to mass confusion at the end of many close games in the early days of the NBA/BAA. Players themselves, let alone the writers, weren't always certain how much time was left in games, as some of the gyms weren't even outfitted with digital clocks. So my rule of thumb for the first decade or so of NBA action was to include shots that were the final action of a game as far as I could tell from the best available sources.

There is some potential that I missed a buzzer-beater or two that occurred under strange circumstances that prevented the final margin from being three points or fewer. I'm 99% certain there's never been a three-point 'and-one' at the buzzer to win a game (though Ed Conlin had a 2-pt 'and-one' at the buzzer for the Warriors in 1961), but that's one possible scenario. Another is if there was a buzzer-beater followed by a series of technical fouls and free throws taken with time expired that caused a four or five-point final margin. If you happen to know of any shot we're missing, which was a true buzzer-beater and left no time remaining, please let us know.

You'll also notice that the table of shots includes some tertiary data on each, such as distance and who assisted on the shot. The distance and assist data are official via play-by-play back to 1996-97. For earlier seasons, that data is unofficial and based off of video review and newspaper reports. Oftentimes there was conflicting data on the shot distances. In those cases, the most thorough recap won the tiebreaker (this was generally via the beat reporter for the home or winning team). You'll also notice that some shots have no listed distance and/or a '?' in the assisted column. This indicates that we've been unable to locate reliable data. Assisted data is missing for fewer than 5% of all shots and distance is missing for ~2% of all shots. If you have access to footage of any of these shots, please let us know.

I should also mention that crediting assists is often more art than science. For instance, somehow DeMar DeRozan was not officially credited with an assist on this Cory Joseph buzzer-beater. For games that pre-date the availability of official play-by-play data I've done my best to ascertain whether an assist was warranted or not, but I'm certain at least some of my decisions deviate from the official record of the time (for better or worse).

All of the columns in the table are sortable, so you can find things like most points in a game with a buzzer-beater, most rebounds in a game with a buzzer-beater, best FG% in a game with a buzzer-beater and longest buzzer-beaters. Please note that while scoring totals are available for all games, rebounds, assists, field goal attempts and some other stats are mostly complete, but missing some data. You'll also notice that the table has been marked up so you can identify players with more than one career buzzer-beater.

We hope you enjoy this new feature.


21 Responses to “Every Buzzer-Beater in NBA History Added to Basketball-Reference”

  1. Arjun Says:

    I think you missed a game winner by Malik Sealy of the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Indiana Pacers on January 17, 2000.

  2. The NBA’s All-Time Leaders in Game-Winning Buzzer-Beaters - My Blog Says:

    […] leaving no time left on the clock. (For extra on the specifics of the methodology, please see this blog post.) From that, we’re capable of decide the NBA’s all-time leaders in buzzer-beaters. We’ll […]

  3. The NBA’s All-Time Leaders in Game-Winning Buzzer-Beaters – NBA 101 Says:

    […] while leaving no time left on the clock. (For more on the specifics of the methodology, please see this blog post.) From that, we’re able to determine the NBA’s all-time leaders in buzzer-beaters. […]

  4. Marcel Pilatti Says:

    Are you guys also working on game winners in general (not only buzzer beater a)? We have the list of LeBron's Jordan's Kobe's and Magic's, but it'd be great if we could see them all. Great work! Keep it up!

  5. The NBA’s All-Time Leaders in Game-Winning Buzzer-Beaters - The Ringer Says:

    […] while leaving no time left on the clock. (For more on the specifics of the methodology, please see this blog post.) From that, we’re able to determine the NBA’s all-time leaders in buzzer-beaters. We’ll […]

  6. Mike Lynch Says:

    Thanks for the heads up. Will check that one out

  7. Mike Lynch Says:

    Not currently something we have in the pipeline

  8. Sean Says:

    I'll never forget Dwight Howard's tip-in against Duncan's Spurs with less than .4 left in the game.  It was a thing of beauty!

  9. Jimmy Cheng Says:

    From the list mentioned in this blog,it seems that you didn't find out the player assisted Gus WIlliams' buzzer beater on April 19,1984.
    The video clip of this shot can be found in this video called "Pride and Passion",21:24.
    Gus get the inbound pass and hit the shot without a dribble,and the assist may count on number 23,Danny Vranes.
    Hope this clue can help you,love from China.

  10. Mike Lynch Says:

    Great find, Jimmy! We'll get that assist added. Thank you!

  11. Every Buzzer-Beater in NBA History Added to Basketball-Reference - World Top Buzz Says:

    […] Data, Features, History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own […]

  12. GtGabi Says:

    Tremendous Job but i don't see Chris Paul buzzer-beater Game Winner against the Grizzlies Game 2 playoffs 2013.

  13. Mike Lynch Says:

    Thank you for the compliment and for sharing the Paul shot with us. The clip you attached is slightly edited. Officials ended up putting 0.1 back on the clock after that make.

  14. Dan M Says:

    I hate to request this but my curiosity is getting me: Is it possible to get a list of missed or failed buzzer beaters with a similar query?

  15. Jason A Says:

    All-time leaders: Jordan - 9, Kobe - 8, LeBron and Paul Pierce - 7... wait, Joe Johnson has 8 too!? That has to be one of the wackiest stats in NBA history.

  16. Joe Augustine Says:

    Shouldn't LeBron have another one? By rule, since there was less than 0.3 seconds remaining, 0.1 in this case, the game is over. In your own words, "These are true game-enders leaving no opportunity for the opponent to respond."

  17. Mike Lynch Says:

    As David Lee can attest, a game is not over with 0.1 left:

  18. Bill H Says:

    Would you consider doing a list of buzzer beaters that forced overtime as well? I think those are also notable and clutch enough to get either included with the game-winners or get their own list, as these can sometimes be considered just as if not more dramatic, particularly if the team that makes the shot goes on to win in the extra session (or sessions later). But even if they don't, like Gar Heard's shot to force the 3rd overtime in Game 5 of the 1976 Finals, they tend to leave a lasting impression.

  19. Mike Lynch Says:

    It might be possible, but the existing list is something that took me hundreds of hours over a decade to compile, so it could not be done very easily or quickly

  20. Steve Says:

    Hey, great list! I think I know of one that's missing. I seem to remember Alonzo Mourning hitting a top of the key jumper to knock the Celtics out of the playoffs in 1993 when he was a rookie with Charlotte. There was a feature about it on one of those cheesy old NBA hype videos - Guts 'n' Glory or something....

  21. Mike Lynch Says:

    There was a little bit of time left on the clock after that one. Great moment for sure!