NBA Playoffs

How many times has a No. 8 seed beat a No. 1 seed in the NBA playoffs?

The Heat are the latest team to pull off the first-round feat

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Two teams locked in the No. 8 seed from the NBA Play-In Tournament on Friday night.

The Miami Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls to secure the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the New Orleans Pelicans downed the Sacramento Kings for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With the playoff stage set, Miami is set to face the top-seeded Boston Celtics, while New Orleans will square off against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.

A No. 8 upset over a No. 1 is improbable, but not impossible – just ask the Heat. 

Just how often has a No. 8 toppled a No. 1 seed? Here is a look back at the history of No. 1-No. 8 first-round upsets in the NBA playoffs.

Has a No. 8 seed ever upset a No. 1 seed in the NBA playoffs?

Six No. 8 seeds have taken down a No. 1 seed in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The Denver Nuggets became the first to do so when they faced a Seattle SuperSonics team that finished 21 games up in the 1993-94 regular season standings. The first round was a best-of-five series then, and the Nuggets completed the stunner with a narrow Game 5 victory in Seattle.

The New York Knicks were a unique No. 8 seed in 1998-99 due to the lockout-shortened season. They far exceeded their seeding, upsetting the No. 1 Heat in the first round with a dramatic Game 5 victory, winning the East and eventually falling to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.

In 2007, the “We Believe” Golden State Warriors faced a Dallas Mavericks squad that lost in the previous year’s NBA Finals. Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson and Co. sent the 65-win Mavericks packing in six games to complete one of the NBA’s most iconic playoff upsets.

The Memphis Grizzlies’ first ever playoff series victory was an unlikely one. The "Grit and Grind" Grizzlies played up to their nickname in the 2011 playoffs by upsetting the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in six games.

The 2012 playoffs also saw some interesting seeding from a lockout-shortened season, but an injury played a greater part in the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers’ upset over the top-seeded Bulls. Chicago point guard Derrick Rose tore his ACL in Game 1 while the Bulls had a 12-point lead with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter. The Sixers went on to win four of the next five games to send the Bulls packing.

The latest No. 8-No. 1 upset came last season. The Heat entered the postseason as the East’s No. 7 seed but lost their opening play-in game against the Atlanta Hawks. They beat the Bulls in the ensuing play-in contest for the No. 8 seed and continued on a stunning run through the Eastern Conference. Miami upended the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games, beat the Knicks in the second round and took down the Celtics in a seven-game Eastern Conference finals after nearly blowing a 3-0 series lead. The Denver Nuggets put a stop to the Heat’s playoff run in the NBA Finals.

Here is the full list of No. 8 seeds to upset a No. 1 seed in the NBA playoffs:

  • 1993-94 Denver Nuggets: Beat SuperSonics in five games, lost in second round
  • 1998-99 New York Knicks: Beat Heat in five games, lost in NBA Finals
  • 2006-07 Golden State Warriors: Beat Mavericks in six games, lost in second round
  • 2010-11 Memphis Grizzlies: Beat Spurs in six games, lost in second round
  • 2011-12 Philadelphia 76ers: Beat Bulls in six games, lost in second round
  • 2022-23 Miami Heat: Beat Bucks in five games, lost in NBA Finals
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