The Buzz Around Buzzer Beaters

Michael Jordan holds the record for the most buzzer beaters, followed by Kobe Bryant and Joe Johnson

Dan Evans

Michael Jordan holds the record for the most buzzer beaters, followed by Kobe Bryant and Joe Johnson

   The buzz surrounding buzzer beaters in the NBA basketball this season are observable and have recently proven frequent. These shots are not completely uncommon, but when the star player is sinking a halfcourt shot within the last second of a tied game, a player’s skill is easily proven. A buzzer beater is a basket that “beats the buzzer,” signaling the completion of a quarter, half, or game.

   Statistically, Michael Jordan holds the record for the most buzzer beaters in NBA history with nine successful shots in fifteen professional seasons. Following Jordan is Kobe Bryant and Joe Johnson, tied with eight buzzer beater shots.

  With all past shots combined, there have been over 780 successful game winning buzzer beaters in NBA history. While 780 in 70 years and counting seems considerably common, the whopping 200,000 shots that are taken in each season alone puts the number into perspective. 

   Back in December of 2022, Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets hit a buzzer beater, winning a game against the Raptors with a 3-pointer. At Irving’s post-game interview, he expresses how this shot succeeded due to communication and trust with fellow teammates. Irving was asked how he felt, what allowed the play to be executed properly, and how this was different from the rest of his career highlights.

   Most questions posed at these interviews are based on particular game highlights. However, humble players typically contest that the final outcome of the respective season is more important than the crowd-pleasing shots.     

A few weeks ago when the Philadelphia 76ers played the Boston Celtics, the score was tied at the end of the fourth quarter and Joel Embiid heaved, then drained, a 70 foot shot across the court. This was shot backcourt within the 3-point line, 1.3 seconds before the buzzer ended. The ball hit the basket just a fraction of a second after the buzzer terminated. Though the point did not count, this close to full-court shot made the crowd go wild and portrayed Embiid’s exceptional shooting skills, once again. 

     On February 26th, in a game against the Brooklyn Nets, point guard Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks scored a game winning, mid-range shot as the buzzer went off, beating the Nets 129 to 127. He had totalled thirty-four points in the game. Young made a notable assist to a teammate down the court at the end of overtime in another game, which resulted in yet another buzzer beater. 

    The amount of skill necessary to carry out these difficult shots is usually not just a coincidence nor luck. Since these shots are generally unplanned and usually a considerable distance from the net, only the most skilled players can precisely perform and execute buzzer beaters. The player must not only escape defenders but also think quickly as the loud buzzer sounds— every fraction of a second matters.