The sports world is still going crazy over the finish to the Alabama-Auburn game Saturday where Auburn defeated the top team in the country on a walk-off missed field goal return. The video and reactions are pertty worth watching (go check them out over at Crystal Ball Run).
Many people are calling it the greatest finish in college football history. It is just such an astonishing and weird way to finish a game. Hard to find a more climactic way to end a game.
Basketball is decidedly different, but is not short of fantastic finishes. Some fantastic and startling finishes actually. There are the weird finishes and the unbelievable. Here are my favorite 10, feel free to add your own in the comment section below (YouTube us a link if you can!). These finishes are in no particular order:
1. Jerry West's 2-point heave
If this game were played 10 years later in 1980 rather than 1970, we would talk about this play as one of the greatest game-winning shots of all time. After Dave Debuscherre appeared to give the Knicks a two-point win on the road with about three seconds left, Jerry West took an inbound from Wilt Chamberlain, dribbled toward mid-court and heaved a shot before reaching midcourt as time expired. Nothing but net of course. The shot forced overtime where the Knicks would eventually win on their way to a seven-game series win. The 1970 Finals though remains the only series where the Finals MVP came from the losing team. That would be Jerry West.
2. The Shot Heard Round the World
The Suns were heavy underdogs against the Celtics and this series ended fairly quickly in six games. It still provided one of the most memorable finishes in league history. In regulation, Phoenix erased a three-point deficit with four quick points in the final 19 seconds. That was not enough. Boston got a quick bucket to retake the lead from John Havlicek and time appearing to be off the clock. The crowd stormed the floor believing the game to be over. The refs called the teams back out, cleared the floor and put a second back on the clock. A technical foul enabled the Celtics to take a two-point lead and then Gar Heard scored as time expired and we went for triple overtime. The Celtics won the game in triple overtime and won the 1976 Finals one game later in Phoenix.
3. Big Shot Bob rides again
By 2002, Robert Horry already had a pretty good reputation for making big shots at big times. Whether it was with the Rockets in 1995, the Suns or later on with the Spurs. His most famous shot might have come in Game Four of the 2002 Western Conference Finals in that classic series with the Kings. The Lakers trailed by two points and Shaquille O'Neal got a good look close to the basket. He missed and Chris Webber batted the ball out toward the top of the key. Horry was waiting and the rest was history.
4. Fisher's miracle shot
This was actually two increidble shots in the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals Game Five. Tim Duncan's fadeaway shot from the free throw line which gave the Spurs a one-point lead turned an ugly game into a classic immediately. The difficulty of that shot and the 0.4 seconds left almost assured the Spurs would win this titanic battle and make a return trip to the Finals. Then Gregg Popovich decided to leave the inbounder unguarded and he found Derek Fisher for a miracle shot that won the game for the Lakers and enabled them to wrap the series up a few days later in Los Angeles.
5. The Yellow Rope Game
Heat players saw the American Airlines Arena security staff bringing out the yellow rope with 30 seconds to play and the Spurs with a five-point lead in Game Six. It seemed almost certain the Spurs were going to win the championship. LeBron James was having none of it. And neither was Ray Allen. The Heat scored the final six points of the game to force overtime and won the game in overtime thanks to a Chris Bosh rebound of all things and Ray Allen doing Ray Allen things.
6. Memorial Day Miracle
The 1999 season is going to be remembered for some of the ugliest basketball in recent memory as the lockout brought guys to camp out of shape and not ready to play. It also brought one of the most memorable shots in league history. I was tired of piling on Spurs fans, so I had to deliver this one. The Spurs trailed the Blazers by two points with 12 seconds left when the ball worked its way to teh corner and Sean Elliott. Elliott drained the three, but replays showed this was not an ordinary shot. His heels were elevated slightly off the floor to avoid stepping out of bounds. The Spurs won the series in four and went on to win their first title.
7. Hakeem's tip-in
The Rockets erased a 20-point first-half deficit in the opener to the 1995 Finals. They got a clutch shot from Horry and another one from Kenny Smith to force overtime. Four missed free throws on the final possession from Nick Anderson did not hurt either. But it was Hakeem Olajuwon's tip-in with a couple tenths of a second remaining sealed the Magic's fate in Game One and sent the young team into a tailspin which resulted in their eventual sweep.
8. 8 Points, 9 Seconds
In the documentary, Winning Time, Pacers executive Donnie Walsh admitted he stepped away from the Madison Square Garden court convinced the game was over. Moments later, his staff was telling him to dash back in, because his Pacers were leading Game One of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Reggie Miller put together a 10 seconds no one likely ever will see again. He stole the inbounds from a befallen Greg Anthony and hoisted a three just after he had hit another one. A shocked Knicks crowd could not believe these Pacers had stolen one. The rivalry was just beginning.
9. The "4-point play"
One turn deserves another, I guess. In Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals, the Knicks trailed by three and turned to an overweight Larry Johnson to deliver the tie. He delivered that tie and was apparently fouled in the process. Johnson drained the shot, made the free throw and left the Pacers befuddled at a disappointing crunch time lost.
10. Havlicek Stole the Ball
You just have to say Johnny Most, John Havlicek and the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals and know exactly what is coming. It is the most famous radio or TV call in NBA history. Steals are so rare, that they have to be completely unexpected.