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NBA

Greatest shots in NBA playoff history

The greatest shots in NBA postseason history.
The greatest shots in NBA postseason history. (Getty Images; DAZN illustration)

Every week on NBA.com, we'll unveil a new bracket with daily matchups to vote on. By the end of the week, we'll crown a champion and determine a winner based on fan voting. Starting us off this week? The greatest shots in postseason history!

In the moment, Kawhi Leonard's game-winning, buzzer-beating, four-bouncing shot in Game 7 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Semifinals felt like an all-timer.

One year later, it still resonates.

Leonard bested Ray Allen in the championship round, capping off a week-long fan vote that started with the 16 greatest shots in postseason history ( click here to skip down to the entire field ). Leonard outlasted a star-studded field that also included the likes of Michael Jordan, Kyrie Irving, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, among others.

Here's how it all unfolded...

The Field

So here's the deal... picking 16 and only 16 was TOUGH. Factors considered for each shot included the stakes, whether or not that shot changed the outcome of a series, and the degree of difficulty.

To watch each of the shots, click on the links included in the table.

Some of our hardest omissions:

  • Robert Horry's shot to beat the Pistons in the 2005 NBA Finals.
  • Don Nelson's go-ahead shot in Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals
  • Derek Fisher and "0.4 seconds"
  • Any of the game-winners by LeBron James
  • Kobe Bryant against the Suns in 2006
  • Damian Lillard's shot to sink the Rockets in 2014

First Round Results

The only upset came in the 7 vs 10 matchup with Jerry West's 60-foot heave to force overtime taking out Sam Jones's game-winner from the 1969 NBA Finals.

The closest matchup was between a couple of Lakers in Magic Johnson and Robert Horry while Kawhi Leonard received 91% of the votes in his duel with John Stockton, the most lopsided of the eight opening-round pairs.

  • 1 Michael Jordan in 1998 def. 16 Damian Lillard in 2019: 67%
  • 2 Ray Allen in 2013 def. 15 Allan Houston in 1999: 88%
  • 3 Kyrie Irving in 2016 def. 14 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1974: 66%
  • 4 Kawhi Leonard in 2019 def. 13 John Stockton in 1997: 91%
  • 5 Michael Jordan in 1989 def. 12 Larry Bird in 1981: 70%
  • 6 Magic Johnson in 1987 def. 11 Robert Horry in 2002: 58%
  • 10 Jerry West in 1970 def. 7 Sam Jones in 1969: 82%
  • 8 Steve Kerr in 1997 def. 9 John Paxson in 1993: 68%

Quarterfinals Results

Here is how Day 2 of voting played out. No surprises in store as the top four seeds in the tournament all advanced to the final four.

  • 1 Michael Jordan in 1998 def. 8 Steve Kerr in 1997: 89%
  • 2 Ray Allen in 2013 def. 10 Jerry West in 1970: 63%
  • 3 Kyrie Irving in 2016 def. 6 Magic Johnson in 1987: 56%
  • 4 Kawhi Leonard in 2019 def. 5 Michael Jordan in 1989: 83%

Semifinals Results

After the top four seeds survived to the final four, the No. 1 overall seed went down in the semifinals to set up our championship clash.

  • 4 Kawhi Leonard in 2019 def. 1 Michaell Jordan in 1998: 59%
  • 2 Ray Allen in 2013 def. 3 Kyrie Irving in 2016: 65%

Championship

One of them saved a team on the brink of Finals elimination. One of them won a grueling seven-game series at the buzzer.

In the end, the fans voted for Leonard.

Let's start with the runner-up.

It's wild to think how much different we'd view the legacy of LeBron James had Ray Allen not sank the clutch 3-pointer from the corner to force overtime in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. Allen's only made 3 of the game came at the biggest possible moment and right after Kawhi Leonard himself missed the opportunity for the Spurs to go up by four points. If Allen misses that shot, who knows what happens next with James and the Heat. Would he have ever returned to Cleveland? Would Kyrie's shot three years later have ever even occurred? Who knows!

But Allen buried it, the Heat won Game 6 in OT and won Game 7 to win their second straight title.

It's impossible to overstate the magnitude of Leonard's shot and what it meant not only for the Toronto Raptors but for basketball in all of Canada. Sure, it happened in the Conference Semifinals, but that remains THE signature moment for the Raptors run to the 2019 title. That shot captured the entire essence of why Masai Ujiri traded for Leonard in the first place in what surely will go down as the most impactful championship-deciding trades of all-time.

To do that in a Game 7 after freeing himself from Ben Simmons and shooting over the outstretched arms of a fully extended Joel Embiid and waiting for it to play pinball on the rim... just an incredible moment that will live on forever.

And there you have it! Thanks to the thousands of fans from all across the world who voted throughout the week. Next week's bracket? The greatest duos in NBA history.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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