NBA Playoffs: How many times has a No. 8 seed upset a No. 1 seed?

The New Orleans Pelicans defeat the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of the first-round 2022 NBA playoff series.
USA Today

Is history in the making at the NBA playoffs this year?

After a sweet yet unexpected win by the New Orleans Pelicans over the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of the first round series, the question poses: Will a No. 8 seed upset a No. 1 seed?

The Pelicans’ 125-114 victory on Tuesday has officially evened the first-round series, following the Suns’ win of 110-99 in Game 1 on Sunday. 

Suns’ guard Devin Booker, after scoring 31 first-half points, exited the game during the third quarter due to hamstring tightness. Is this a catalyst for the Suns’ downfall and Pelicans’ triumph?

It seems Phoenix was at risk for a loss way before Booker’s injury. New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram racked up 37 points while CJ McCollum clinched 23. The Pelicans had the upper hand from the start.

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

Four No. 8 seeds have advanced past No. 1 seeds in Round 1 of the playoffs, beginning with the No. 8 Nuggets’ victory over the No. 1 SuperSonics during the 1994 season.


The No. 8 Knicks also threw an unexpected competition in the works when they defeated the No. 1 Heat in the 1999 playoffs.

The trend continued with the No. 8 Warriors’ win over the No. 1 Mavericks in 2007 and the No. 8 Grizzlies’ win over the No. 1 Spurs in 2011.

During the 1997-98 season, the Knicks also had an exciting run, but this time, they did not just defeat a No. 1 seed in Round 1. The Knicks flew all the way to the NBA Finals. After defeating No. 1 Miami in Round 1 and No. 4 Atlanta in Round 2, the Knicks moved on to the conference finals, where they defeated the No. 2 Pacers and went on to the Finals against the No. 3 Spurs. Though they lost in five games, this made the Knicks the first No. 8 seed to make the NBA Finals in history.

But not only have No. 8 seeds upset No. 1 seeds. Thus far, five No. 7 seeds have made their mark by upsetting No. 2 seeds as well. The first time was the 1986-87 Seattle SuperSonics’ victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Round 1 and now we see the Pelicans making a similar move with the Suns this season.

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