A Look Back at NBA Playoff Upsets: Ranking the Top 10

The NBA playoffs are full of excitement, drama, and surprises. The unpredictable nature of the game and the high stakes involved make it a thrilling experience for fans. Throughout the years, there have been numerous upsets that have shocked the basketball world. In this article, we will take a trip down memory lane and revisit the top 10 NBA playoff upsets of all time. So, let’s jump right in!

1994: No. 8 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 1 Seattle SuperSonics

  1. In one of the biggest upsets in NBA history, the underdog Denver Nuggets managed to defeat the top-seeded Seattle SuperSonics in a best-of-five first-round series. The Nuggets became the first No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in NBA playoff history, and their incredible victory was capped off with a Dikembe Mutombo iconic image, holding the ball after the final buzzer.

2011: No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies vs. No. 1 San Antonio Spurs

  1. The 2011 NBA playoffs saw another No. 8 seed triumph over a No. 1 seed when the Memphis Grizzlies took down the highly favored San Antonio Spurs. The Grizzlies’ gritty play and the exceptional performance of Zach Randolph helped propel them to a shocking 4-2 series win.

2007: No. 8 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 1 Dallas Mavericks

  1. In a series that will forever be remembered for the “We Believe” slogan, the Golden State Warriors pulled off an incredible upset against the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks. Led by Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson, the Warriors took the series 4-2, making them the third No. 8 seed to eliminate a No. 1 seed in NBA playoff history.

1999: No. 8 New York Knicks vs. No. 1 Miami Heat

  1. In a lockout-shortened season, the New York Knicks made a historic run as a No. 8 seed, starting with a first-round upset against the Miami Heat. The series featured a dramatic game-winning shot by Allan Houston in Game 5, securing the Knicks a place in NBA history.

2012: No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 1 Chicago Bulls

  1. The Philadelphia 76ers managed to shock the basketball world by defeating the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs. The series was marred by injuries, including a devastating ACL tear suffered by the Bulls’ Derrick Rose. The 76ers capitalized on the opportunity and won the series 4-2.

1995: No. 6 Houston Rockets vs. No. 3 Utah Jazz

  1. The defending champion Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon, were seeded sixth in the 1995 playoffs. They managed to overcome the odds by defeating the higher-seeded Utah Jazz in the first round, eventually going on to win their second consecutive NBA championship.

2009: No. 7 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 2 Dallas Mavericks

  1. In a battle between Texas rivals, the seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs managed to take down the No. 2 seed Dallas Mavericks. The Spurs were led by Tim Duncan, who put up a MONUMENTAL performance, averaging 19.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. The Spurs would go on to win the series 4-1, proving that experience and veteran leadership can sometimes trump a higher seed.

2010: No. 5 Boston Celtics vs. No. 2 Orlando Magic

  1. The aging but still formidable Boston Celtics, featuring the “Big Three” of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, managed to upset the No. 2 seed Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics’ experience and suffocating defense carried them to a 4-2 series victory, earning them a trip to the NBA Finals.

2006: No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 2 Phoenix Suns

  1. Led by the incredible talent of Kobe Bryant, the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers took on the high-powered Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2006 NBA playoffs. Although the Suns ultimately won the series in a thrilling seven-game showdown, the Lakers’ performance, including Bryant’s game-winning buzzer-beater in Game 4, will always be remembered as one of the most exciting upsets in NBA playoff history.

1998: No. 5 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 2 New York Knicks

  1. In a heated Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup, the No. 5 seed Indiana Pacers, led by Reggie Miller, faced off against the No. 2 seed New York Knicks. The Pacers managed to upset the Knicks in a hard-fought six-game series, with Miller’s clutch shooting and trash-talking becoming the stuff of legends.

These top 10 NBA playoff upsets remind us that anything can happen during the postseason. Underdogs can rise to the occasion and topple the giants of the league, leaving fans and analysts alike in awe. As we continue to enjoy the excitement and drama that the NBA playoffs have to offer, we can always look back at these unforgettable moments and cherish the unpredictability of the game we love.

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