NBA Playoffs

What's the lowest seed to ever win the NBA Finals?

With the playoff field set, here's a look at the lowest-seeded teams to ever make and win the Finals.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Who will capture this year's Larry O'Brien Trophy?

The Denver Nuggets enter the 2024 NBA playoffs looking to become the first repeat champion since the Golden State Warriors went back-to-back in 2017 and 2018. But Nikola Jokic and Co. will face fierce competition from other top teams in the field, headlined by the regular-season-best Boston Celtics.

And, as we saw last year, a low seed going on a Cinderella run can't be ruled out, either. The Miami Heat entered the 2023 playoffs as the East's No. 8 seed before beating the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks, No. 5 New York Knicks and No. 2 Celtics en route to a historic Finals berth. Miami then fell to Denver in five games.

So, could we see a Heat-esque run from a low seed this year? The East's No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers and West's No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers are among the potential threats.

With the playoff field set, here's a look at the lowest-seeded teams to ever make and win the Finals:

What’s the lowest-seeded team to ever reach the NBA Finals?

Last year's Heat were not the first No. 8 seed to reach the Finals.

In the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, the Knicks went 27-23 to grab the East’s eighth and final playoff spot. In a win-or-go-home Game 5 against No. 1 Miami in Round 1, Allan Houston hit a go-ahead shot with under one second remaining to push the Knicks into the conference semifinals.

Patrick Ewing and Co. met the No. 4 Atlanta Hawks in the second round and rolled to a four-game sweep. Then, in a conference finals where five of the six games were decided by single digits, the Knicks defeated the Reggie Miller-led Indiana Pacers to punch their ticket to the NBA Finals.

New York ran into the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals and fell in five games, as Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan combined for their first of five championships over a 15-year stretch.

The 1998-99 Knicks and last year's Heat are the only No. 8 seeds to ever advance beyond Round 2.

What’s the lowest-seeded team to ever win the NBA Finals?

The 1994-95 Houston Rockets stand as the lowest-seeded team to ever win the NBA Finals.

As the reigning NBA champions, Houston entered the 1995 postseason as a No. 6 seed following a 47-35 regular season. The Rockets went the distance with their opponent in each of the first two playoff rounds, first beating the No. 3 Utah Jazz in five games and then the No. 2 Phoenix Suns in seven games. 

Hakeem Olajuwon and Co. actually came back from a 3-1 deficit against Charles Barkley and the Suns. The second-round triumph was capped by a one-point road win in Game 7, where Mario Elie drilled a tie-breaking 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds that became known as the “Kiss of Death.”

After splitting the first two games in the West Finals versus San Antonio, Houston took Games 5 and 6 to make it back to a second consecutive NBA Finals. The Rockets beat the Knicks in seven games the prior year, and this time they were matched up with Shaquille O’Neal’s Orlando Magic.

Hakeem got the better of Shaq in the series, powering the Rockets to a sweep and a historic repeat.

Drew Dinsick, host of “Bet the EDGE” podcast, discusses why these young stars have the potential to breakout during the 2024 NBA playoffs.
Contact Us