Jerry West’s 60 Foot Buzzer Beater

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The final seconds of regulation time in game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals make for one of the most dramatic moments in NBA history. With 3 seconds left in the game, the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers were tied at 100-100 when the Knicks’ Dave DeBusschere worked a shot that looked to have won them the game.

From the resulting inbounds, the eccentric Lakers point guard Jerry West dribbled up the court and released a snap shot from 60 feet out that miraculously sailed perfectly through the net without touching the rim. The buzzer-beating shot sent the game into overtime and is remembered as one of the best plays in NBA history.

The Game and Buildup to the Play

En route to the NBA Finals, the Knicks had an impressive track record, including an 18-game winning streak that helped them secure a 60-22 record. The beat the Bullets in the Eastern Division semis and then beat the Bucks in the Eastern Finals. The Lakers meanwhile had a more winding path as an injury-ravaged team finished second, before squaring it out in a seven-game semifinal against the Phoenix Suns in the West Division. They then swept the Atlanta Hawks in the West Division Finals to set up an even match-up with the Knicks for the finals.

In their ranks, the Lakers had Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, both of whom were at the peak of their powers. West, the main protagonist of this episode, had endeared himself to basketball fans with his flashy play and eccentric personality.

The Knicks and the Lakers came into the game at Madison Gardens tied at 1-1 having exchanged wins in the first two games at the Staples Center. The fact that his dribbling stance is the logo of the NBA attests to his significance in basketball. He had been named Finals MVP the year before despite the Lakers losing the series.

The even match-up between the Lakers and the Knicks was showing as both teams stayed in close proximity of each other throughout the game. With three seconds left in the fourth quarter, Dave DeBushcerre gave the Knicks a 102-100 lead, seemingly killing the game. With LA having exhausted their timeouts, Wilt Chamberlain quickly inbounded the ball to West who looked to get up the court as quickly as possible.

Never one to shy from the outrageous, West dribbled twice to evade the close attention of Knicks high defense and from inside the Lakers half, unleashed a high-arching shot that barely touched the rim on its way in. the shot counted for two points rather than the modern three, but it was enough to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Aftermath of the Shot

In overtime, luck seemed to abandon Jerry and the Lakers. West missed five shots and the Knicks were able to win the game by three points. Drama between the two teams still wasn’t up, as they battled through the remaining games to set up a tantalizing game 7 which did not disappoint. The game saw the return of Knicks fan favorite Willis Reed who had missed game 6 with injury, giving the Knicks a major morale boost. The Knicks won that game to lift the championship, and leave the Lakers to rue the missed opportunities, including losing game three.