If sport has taught us anything over time, it's that a game is never over until the final buzzer goes off - and even then, it might still not be over.
While every sports fan likes to watch a stress-free blowout win more often than not, there's nothing quite like the suspense and anxiety of a game that comes down to the final few ticks of the clock. Uncertainty lingers until the last second; can your team can snap victory from the jaws of defeat or will an opponent will stick a fatal dagger into the hearts of your entire fan base?
Buzzer beaters are arguably the most exhilarating and impressive feats in all of sports, and is one of the few things that almost every sport has in common. Basketball legends are often born or grow on the strength of a buzzer beater. Many a soccer game has been decided on a goal struck past a helpless keeper in the final moments of extra time. Even hockey games have ended on a bizarre last second bounce, leaving one side elated, while the other is left to stew under the crushing weight that was dropped on them.
The moments can define careers, as they have for so many of the great ones, but they can also be the fleeting moment of glory chased by journeymen athletes across all the major sports. One right move, one decisive finishing touch can turn a "blip on the radar" career into the incredible story of the unsung hero, who rose through adversity and doubt to make a significant mark on the history of his game.
Some are even more memorable for the way they happened - they may not have impacted a season, a playoff series, or the history of the game, but they'll remain etched in buzzer-beater lore for all of eternity.
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20 Alex Hemsky (Oilers) Assisted by Patrik Stefan (Stars)
How can anyone forget the "shining" moment of former number one overall pick and perennial bust Patrik Stefan during his stint with the Dallas Stars? There's missing the net and then there's missing the net the way Stefan did, which ultimately allowed the Oilers to counter attack and tie the game.
Luckily for Stefan, the Stars still won the game, or his career might have ended even sooner than it did.
19 The Muffed Monday Nighter
No one will ever forget the mess that was the NFL officials strike several seasons ago, which culminated in one of the most bizarre endings to a football game that any of us will likely ever witness in our lifetime.
If the officials hadn't broken up the pile in the back of the Packers endzone that fateful night, Golden Tate and M.D. Jennings would still be grappling over the football - the football that appeared to be intercepted by Jennings, but was ultimately called a touchdown, giving Seattle an improbable win in a fashion that will likely never be duplicated.
18 Joel Ward Stuns the Rangers
Granted, Alexander Ovechkin did most of the work on this play, but the fact that Joel Ward continues to cement his legacy as a big-game player, doing it against some of the best goaltenders and defensive teams during this era of the sport, is remarkable. After dispatching the Bruins in overtime of Game 7 a few years earlier, Ward was back at it, this time stumping All-Pro Henrik Lundqvist with milliseconds left on the clock to give the Caps a win that ultimately meant nothing, but in the moment was as memorable a hockey buzzer-beater as there ever will be.
17 LeBron Rules His Kingdom
By now, we know of King James' legend as perhaps the greatest basketball player of all-time, and as one of the most clutch players of this generation. Even when he caught a ton of flak (looking at you, Skip Bayless) early on in his career for passing off at the end of games or missing big-time shots, LeBron was still getting it done, as he did in Game 2 of the Cavs series against the Orlando Magic back in 2009, putting his name on the map for good - and with authority.
16 Tyler Johnson Sinks the Habs
The Tampa Bay Lightning won't have too many good memories about this year's Stanley Cup Finals, but they have plenty of great ones from the rounds leading up to their loss against the Chicago Blackhawks. One of the more notable moments was Tyler Johnson's game-winning buzzer-beater against the Habs in Game 3 of the second round. The goal effectively sunk the Habs and further cemented Johnson's growing legacy as an NHL star.
15 Mike Thomas' Hail Mary Catch
The two main characters in this story were barely blips on the NFL radar, but this moment will live on in league lore forever.
The Jags haven't had much to hang their hat on for the past little (long) while, but David Garrard and Mike Thomas made everyone forget Jacksonville's misery for one day with a miraculous Hail Mary play that game the Jags an improbable victory against their division rivals, the Houston Texans.
14 Jussi Jokinen's Miracle Tip
It's not often you get to Martin Brodeur late in a game, period. Once is a fluke, twice is a miracle. The Carolina Hurricanes not only managed to do it twice - they did it twice in one playoff series. The second (Eric Staal's series clincher) doesn't qualify as a buzzer beater, but Jussi Jokinen's Game 4 buzzer-beating tip-in sure does. After some solid work down low along the walls, Jokinen plants himself in front of Brodeur and gets some wood on the shot from the point for the fateful redirect.
13 David Lee's Famous Tip
This buzzer-beater must own the world record for the buzzer-beater completed with the least amount of time on the clock - 0.1 seconds, to be exact.
The Knicks had one tenth of a second to inbound the ball and get it in the hoop for an improbable win, and with a clever "tip drill" style play, David Lee and the Knickerbockers got it done.
So surprising was the made shot that for a second it seemed like the points wouldn't count and the euphoria of the moment would quickly turn to anger, but once the disbelief dissipated all that was left was a legendary moment.
12 Mo Pete Won't be Beat
Morris Peterson, like most athletes, would prefer to be remembered for their body of work at the professional level, rather than by one moment - but if one moment is going to define your career, it might as well be this one.
Granted, the Wizards completely botched the end of the game, but Mo Pete still had to grab the ball out of mid-air, set himself and heave up what can only be described as a desperation, Hail Mary style three-pointer than ultimately sent the game to overtime in incredible fashion.
11 Jordan's Finals Magic
You could make a list dedicated alone to the exploits of Michael Jordan in the final moments of basketball games - you could even make one of just his "big-game" buzzer-beaters if you really wanted to. This one lands on our list for its significance: a huge shot to win Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals, a shot that spurred the Bulls to yet another championship with His Airness leading the way - with ice running through his veins at all times.
10 John Stockton is no One-Trick Pony
John Stockton will always be remembered as one of the greatest passers in the history of the NBA, but don't be fooled - he was more than just a distributor. Stockton was always an underrated clutch shooter, but everyone was paying attention after he drained the game-winning buzzer-beating shot in Game 6 of the '97 Conference Finals - a shot that set up the Jazz for a date with Jordan and the Bulls in the NBA Finals.
9 Devin Harris' Miracle
It's hard enough to get a basketball to go through the hoop when you're standing at the free throw line. It's even harder as you back up, to the three-point arc, and then to half-court. So imagine the degree of difficulty of a shot that involves a clock seconds away from hitting zero and having to hit the game-winning shot while running full-speed with a defender breathing down your neck.
Devin Harris scoffed at the challenge, drained the half-court heave and helped the Nets walk out the Sixers stunned arena with a victory.
8 Why Does Everyone Hates Christian Laettner?
OK, there's more to the villain label Christian Laettner picked up during his basketball career, but he certainly didn't score any brownie points among Kentucky basketball fans after his near-miraculous fadeaway jumper propelled Duke to the Final Four during March Madness 1992.
Laettner reached up to grab a long-bomb pass with ease, controlled the ball and put up the fadeaway as if it was a game of pick-up in the park - despite the sky-high stakes of the game and the play itself.
7 Derek Fisher Silences the Spurs
The Spurs thought it was over. They were already celebrating. Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals was in the bag, right? ...right?
If you've watched even half a Lakers game over the past two decades, you would know even without me telling you that the play was drawn up for Kobe Bryant. It always is. It always will be.
But Kobe was covered, and the clock was ticking - the ball landed in Derek Fisher's hands, and before you could blink an eye the Lakers were walking off with an improbably victory, and the Spurs were left dumbfounded as to what had just transpired.
6 D-Jax Slays the Giants
Say what you want about DeSean Jackson, but the man has a flair for the dramatic and he knows how to come through in the clutch. You could almost tell that if the ball came anywhere near him on the fateful play, he was going to bring it back. Then again, why on Earth would the Giants punt to him?
They did and they regretted it. Even after bobbling the punt, Jackson scooped up the football, bolted through the Giants special teams, and danced along the goal line as the clock ran out, giving Philadelphia an improbably victory and leaving Tom Coughlin in a rage that had his face redder than a Kansas City Chiefs home jersey.
5 Jerry West's Long Bomb
Most of us are too young to have seen, or even remember, Jerry West as a player, but modern technology has given us the gift of West's 60-foot long bomb buzzer-beating shot of Game 3 of 1970 NBA Finals. Wilt Chamberlain got the ball to West, who sunk the prayer of a shot to tie the game (there was no three-point line back then). West managed to tie the game for the Lakers after the Knicks took the lead with seconds to spare - and while they didn't win the game (or the series), the shot will live on in Lakers lore forever.
4 Music City Miracle
It was perhaps, simply put, the craziest play in NFL history.
With 16 seconds on the clock and the Buffalo Bills up by one, the only option for the Titans seemed to be hoping for good field position, getting one, maybe two plays off, and trying for a game-winning field goal.
Instead, they pulled off the Music City Miracle.
The bobbling of the football by the big men. The questionable (but legal) lateral pass to Dyson. The unimpeded run to the endzone. A magical moment that will never be replicated - or forgotten.
3 Flutie's Hail Mary
Doug Flutie is one of the most interesting characters in the history of the sport. A guy who didn't look like he even belonged on a football field, let alone at the quarterback position, somehow managed to carve out a legacy at all levels of the sport - including in the National Football League.
Despite his successes in multiple leagues, the first highlight anyone ever remembers is the incredible Hail Mary pass while he was manning the offense for Boston College in 1984 against the University of Miami.
2 Gar Heard's "Shot Heard Round the World"
Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals is arguably one of the greatest NBA playoff games of all-time, but it is most memorable for Gar Heard's buzzer-beating "Shot Heard Round the World".
With the Phoenix Suns down in the second overtime, Gar Heard knocked down a buzzer-beating, game-tying shot in the raucous Boston Gardens to stun the Celtics' faithful and force triple-OT. The Suns ended up losing the game, but the shot will remain a top playoff moment for an eternity.
1 The Ehlo Shot
You knew Michael Jordan would be No. 1. He's always number one. It was just a matter of choosing which shot would top the list.
The Ehlo Shot is iconic for it's significance in Jordan's legendary career - the way he hit the shot, the excitement during the celebration and, most of all, a sign of things to come for the man who transcended the sport and eventually solidified his status as the greatest of all time with moments just like this one.
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