Ralph Sampson’s Summer Beater sent the Rockets to the NBA final that day in 1986
Ralph Sampson caught the ball one second ahead of an inbound pass and somehow shot out of balance at the buzzer. The shot gave the Houston Rockets a 114-112 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers and a 4-1 series win in the Western Conference Final.
The shot stunned defending champion Lakers, who was the top seed of the Western Conference. Game 1 went as planned for Los Angeles, but Houston won the next four games.
Hakeem Olajuwon was brilliant for the Rockets throughout the postseason, scoring an average of 26.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game in 20 playoff games. Houston relied on him throughout the series against the Lakers, but was unable to go down the track in Game 5 after being kicked out for a fight against Mitch Kupchak. He ended the game with 30 points.
After Olajuwon was thrown out, the Rockets relied on Sampson, who also had an excellent postseason. He scored an average of 20 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in 20 postseason games. He finished game 5 with 29 points.
The win prepared a matchup against the Boston Celtics in the NBA final. Boston won the series in six games and Larry Bird was named Finals MVP.
The Rockets traded with Sampson in 1987, but his wondrous shot for Houston will never be forgotten.