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Bracket of the Week: Greatest shots in NBA postseason history down to semifinals

Which of these is the greatest shot in postseason history?
Which of these is the greatest shot in 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?

On to the semifinals!

After starting the week with the 16 greatest shots in postseason history, we're now down to the final four as determined by YOU!

What is the greatest shot in postseason history? Is it Michael Jordan's last shot as a member of the Chicago Bulls? What about Kyrie Irving's clutch 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals? Or Ray Allen saving the Miami Heat in 2013?

Could it be a shot that didn't even take place in the NBA Finals? Kawhi Leonard and his four-bounce buzzer-beater against the Philadelphia 76ers might have something to say about that.

Here are the semifinal matchups?

  • Michael Jordan vs Kawhi Leonard
  • Ray Allen vs Kyrie Irving

Let's get right to it!

Up first are the matchups followed by results from the first two rounds along with the original field seeded 1-16.

1 Michael Jordan vs 4 Kawhi Leonard

For the second straight day, Michael Jordan and Kawhi Leonard face off. After taking down "The Shot" in the quarterfinals, Kawhi Leonard's four-bouncer (appropriately, the No. 4 seed) takes on the No. 1 overall seed, "The Last Shot."

You've seen it a million times. Michael Jordan buries a jumper in the closing seconds of Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals over the outstretched arms of Jazz guard Bryon Russell, holds the pose and puts the ultimate exclamation point on a Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bulls.

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. That it happened in the Conference Semifinals instead of later on is the only reason it's not a higher seed. But to do that in a Game 7 over the outstretched arms of a fully extended Joel Embiid and wait for it to play pinball on the rim... just an incredible moment.

Which shot is better?
1) Michael Jordan in Game 6 of 1998 Finals
2) Kawhi Leonard in Game 7 of 2019 Conf Semis
Created with Quiz Maker

2 Ray Allen vs 3 Kyrie Irving

The two former teammates of LeBron James meet for an opportunity to move onto the championship.

It's wild to think how much different we'd view the legacy of 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 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.

Irving's go-ahead 3-pointer with 53 seconds left in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals came less than a minute after LeBron's famous block of Andre Iguodala. Just how big of a shot was it? In terms of how much it actually swung the series according to win probability, there's a case to be made it's the single biggest shot in NBA history as written by the Wall Street Journal back in 2016.

Which shot is better?
2) Ray Allen in Game 6 of 2013 Finals
3) Kyrie Irving in Game 7 of 2016 Finals
Online Survey Maker

First Round Results

Here is how the opening round matchups played out on voting across Global NBA.com sites. 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%

The Original 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.

1. Michael Jordan 1998 NBA Finals Game 6 - game-winner over Bryon Russell
2. Ray Allen 2013 NBA Finals Game 6 - hits corner 3 to tie game and force OT
3. Kyrie Irving 2016 NBA Finals Game 7 - Pull-up 3 from right elbow
4. Kawhi Leonard 2017 Conf Semis Game 7- Four bounces and in
5. Michael Jordan 1989 1st Round Game 5 - The Shot over Craig Ehlo
6. Magic Johnson 1987 NBA Finals Game 4 - Jr. Skyhook to beat the C's
7. Sam Jones 1969 NBA Finals Game 4 - Jumper at buzzer to win
8. Steve Kerr 1997 NBA Finals Game 6 - game-winning shot with 5 sec left to clinch title
9. John Paxson 1993 NBA Finals Game 6 - game-winning 3 in final seconds to clinch title
10. Jerry West 1970 NBA Finals Game 3 - 60-footer to force overtime (no 3-point line)
11. Robert Horry 2002 Western Conf Finals Game 4 - Hits 3 at buzzer to win 100-99
12. Larry Bird 1981 NBA Finals Game 1 - shot and putback to win it at end
13. John Stockton 1997 West Conf Finals Game 6 - 3 at buzzer to send Jazz to first Finals
14. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1974 NBA Finals Game 6 - Game winner skyhook in double OT
15. Allan Houston 1999 1st Round Game 5 (best of 5) - Game winner in lane over Miami Heat
16. Damian Lillard 2019 1st Round Game 5 to eliminate Oklahoma City Thunder

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

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

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