Who was the lowest seed to win an NBA Title?
The Miami Heat are the second eighth seed to make it to the NBA Finals, but if they beat the Nuggets they would make history as the lowest seed to win it all.
It’s not every year that you see an eight seed go to the NBA Finals. In fact, it’s only happened one other time in the history of the league. That came back in 1999 after a shortened season due to the lock out. The New York Knicks lost that Finals before the turn of the millennium, but this year the Miami Heat have a chance to become the lowest seed to win an NBA title.
Underdogs have it tougher in NBA
The NBA isn’t like the NCAA’s March Madness. Seeing low seeds make deep runs into the playoffs isn’t as common for a number of reasons. First of all because these are professionals in the NBA, so consistency is something we grow accustomed to seeing. If one team is better than the other you can usually see the disparity from the very start. The other reason it’s so hard for low seeds to advance deep into the playoffs is because of the format.
In March Madness it’s a one-off tournament. If the higher seeded team has an off night, that’s it. They are done. With the seven game series, top seeds can afford a night or two off and still cruise comfortably to win the series. That wasn’t the case for the teams who had to play the Houston Rockets in the 1994/95 season.
The Rockets were coming off of their first NBA title in franchise history as Hakeem Olajuwon and Kenny Smith led Houston to glory in the first year Michael Jordan took a baseball sabatical opening the door for the rest of the league to occupy the vacancy on the throne.
Rockets go back-to-back to make history
After beating the Knicks in Game 7 of the NBA Finals the year previous, the Rockets had an underwhelming regular season as they defended their title. They finished as the sixth seed in the West with a 47-35 record. Midway through the season Houston made a trade for Clyde Drexler, who reunited with his college teammate Hakeem Olajuwon, but that trade didn’t pay immediate dividends.
The Rockets were paired up with the Utah Jazz in the opening round, and after losing two for their first three they won two in a row to take the five game series and advance to the next round of the playoffs. They took on Charles Barkley and the second seeded Phoenix Suns in the next series, and despite digging themselves into a 3-1 hole, they won three straight and eclipsed the Suns in Game 7.
After their comeback in Phoenix, they went into San Antonio and beat the top seeded Spurs in both road games to start the Western Conference Finals. David Robinson and the Spurs would respond with two wins in Houston as both teams failed to protect their home court. The Rockets got the best of the Spurs again in San Antonio during Game 6 and then closed out the series at home to make it to the NBA Finals for a second straight year.
Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic were waiting in the NBA Finals, but Hakeem Olajuwon and company made light work of the Magic after struggling through the brutal Western Conference. They swept Orlando who were the top seeded team in the East, and closed out the series on their home floor to seal back-to-back titles and become the lowest seed to win the NBA title in the history of the league.
The Heat have been playing against the odds all postseason long. If they are going to make history, they will have to do so again against a heavily favored Denver Nuggets team looking for their first title in franchise history.