When the NBA expanded from 12 playoff teams to 16 in 1984, it opened the door for some very uneven first-round matchups. It also opened the door some rather significant upsets, especially before those series were expanded from best-of-5 to best-of-7.
Here are the greatest NBA Playoff upsets since 1984.
Denver Nuggets over Seattle SuperSonics, 1994
Seattle had Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, and jumped out to a 2-0 series lead. But the Denver Nuggets, barely over .500 on the year, found some level of resolve and ripped off three consecutive wins. The aftermath of the stunning No. 8-over-No. 1 upset left a euphoric Dikembe Mutombo flat on the floor in one of the more indelible memories of the NBA Playoffs.
Golden State Warriors over Dallas Mavericks, 2007
This was the first time a No. 8 seed bested a No. 1 seed in the seven-game format. The Warriors only needed six, and clinched the surprising victory with an absolute blowout. Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson were at the height of their powers and the atmosphere in the Bay Area was incredible. The Mavericks, a 67-win side, were reduced to rubble.
New York Knicks over Miami Heat, 1999
A year earlier, the two teams had a brawl for the ages. The Knicks would do something even more painful this time: toy with their rivals until the very end. It was Allan Houston who rattled in a series-clinching shot in the final second.
Dallas Mavericks over Miami Heat, 2011
This one will go down as the darkest mark on LeBron James’ legacy. His superteam was humbled by Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs. The Heat took a 2-1 series lead by beating Dallas in Game 3 on the road, but then stumbled in three straight.
Detroit Pistons over Los Angeles Lakers, 2004
The Lakers were arguably the most stacked team of all time. Kobe Bryant. Shaquille O’Neal. Karl Malone. Gary Payton, who is sadly on this list multiple times. The Detroit Pistons had a team built on defense with Ben Wallace dominating on that end of the court. The Lakers managed to score only 81.8 points/game in the five-game series and unraveled in dramatic fashion.