The No. 8 seed Heat are set to take on the No. 1 seed Nuggets in the 2023 NBA Finals in what appears to be a David vs. Goliath matchup on paper.
History is being made on both sides as Denver appears in its first NBA Finals in franchise history, while Miami is just the second No. 8 seed in NBA history to reach the championship stage.
If you’re tuned into the games on ABC, you may have heard ESPN announcer and NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy talk about a No. 8 seed in the NBA Finals from first-hand experience.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and re-visit the only other No. 8 seed in NBA history to reach the Finals.
How many 8-seeds have reached the NBA Finals?
Prior to the 2022-23 Miami Heat, there had only been one No. 8 seed in NBA history to reach the Finals: the 1999 New York Knicks.
The 1999 Knicks were coached by Jeff Van Gundy, who is now a part of ESPN’s lead broadcast team for the Finals.
The 1999 Knicks’ path to the NBA Finals
The 1998-99 season was shortened to 50 games due to the NBA’s lockout. The abbreviated season could have had an effect on playoff seeding, as the No. 8 seed Knicks finished with a solid 27-23 record.
With Van Gundy at the helm, the 1999 Knicks were led by prolific scorers like Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston. New York had plenty of size up front, with Larry Johnson, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and a 36-year-old Patrick Ewing anchoring the paint.
Eastern Conference First Round
New York pulled off an upset over Alonzo Mourning and the No. 1 seed Heat behind Houston’s series-winning shot in Game 5 of the five-game series.
Eastern Conference Semifinals
In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Knicks wiped the floor with the No. 4 seed Hawks, sweeping Atlanta in four games.
Eastern Conference Finals
In the Eastern Conference Finals against the No. 2 seed Pacers, New York was hit with some adversity. Ewing went down with a torn Achilles tendon in Game 2 and missed the remainder of the 1999 NBA Playoffs.
The Knicks still prevailed, defeating Reggie Miller and Indiana in six games to become the first No. 8 seed to reach the NBA Finals.
In the Finals, New York was outmatched by the No. 1 seed Spurs who were headlined by the “Twin Towers” of David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
The 1999 NBA Finals were the first step of Duncan’s Hall of Fame career, as the second-year player posted 27.4 points, 14.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks as San Antonio defeated New York in five games. Duncan was rewarded with his first of five championships and three Finals MVPs.
Has an 8-seed ever won the NBA Finals?
As a result, no 8-seed has won the NBA Finals.
The lowest seed to win an NBA Finals is a No. 6 seed — the 1995 Houston Rockets, who entered the postseason as defending champions despite their low seeding.