The NBA's "real season" begins soon, as playoff time is finally almost upon us.
HoopsVibe Very Quick Call: Upsets used to be the exception, now they are the rule.
The following five match-ups all feature an eighth seed upsetting a number one seed, a feat that has only happened five times in NBA history. Of the five times, three of those upsets ocurred in the last six years.
Golden State Warriors Upset Dallas Mavericks - 2007
At the time, the Dallas Mavericks were considered one of the biggest favorite one seeds ever, coming off of a 67-15 regular season record which was the only since legitimate claim to challenge the Bulls 72-10 all-time best NBA season. The Mavericks were also coming off of losing in the Finals to the Heat the previous season, a series many people felt like they should’ve won; expectations were high and facing Golden State in the first round they had every reason to be. The Warriors were a franchise at the time, much like now, that was mired in mediocrity with no real reason to be optimistic. After squeaking into the playoffs at 42-40, they were a complete after-thought. The Warriors qualified for the playoffs that year for the first time since 1994 with the 13 year drought between appearances being the second longest in NBA history. The Warriors beat the Mavs in six games, and this Baron Davis dunk over AK-47 (even though it took place in the following playoff series) shows you the level he and the Warriors were playing at:
Denver Nuggets Upset Seattle Supersonics - 1994
The year was 1994. Charles Barkley signature “Air Max” shoes, selling for $150 a pair, were king. The world was shocked by the unexpected death of Kurt Cobain. And Seattle Supersonics fans the world over were reeling from a first round playoff loss to the eighth seed Denver Nuggets.The Sonics had blown through the regular season going 63-19 which was a franchise record for wins and were the number one seed heading into the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs to face a Denver Nuggets team that no one had expected anything from. And with good reason; to that point in NBA history no eighth seed had ever beaten a number one seed. And no one expected a 42-40 Denver team to pose a legitimate threat, especially after losing the first two games in what was at the time a best of five game first round series. Game five was an epic back and forth game where the intensity never waned and every possession felt like the most important in the game. Kendall Gill’s layup with a half second left on the clock sent the game into overtime. But the Nuggets maintained the momentum throughout the extra frame and escaped with a 98-94 victory, winning the series.
New York Knicks Upset Miami Heat - 1999
The Pat Riley led Heat were the number one seed after posting a 33-17 record during the strike shortened season and the Knicks stumbled to 27-23, barely qualifying as the eighth seed. Both teams had dominant big men from Georgetown University; Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing. Both had flashy offensive weapons that could make plays, Tim Hardaway for the Heat and a still dominant Latrell Sprewell.Down by one with 19.9 seconds left in the deciding game five, the Knicks did everything they could to screw up the possession and struggled to get a shot off. Ultimately after an inbound with 4.4 seconds, Allan Houston launched a running floater from the top of the lane that bounced off the rim and backboard before falling through the hoop securing a one point victory and the series for the Knicks.
Philadelphia 76ers Upset Chicago Bulls - 2012
Game one of the series, the Bulls are coasting right along, up by 12 with 81 seconds left. Then, this happens:
Series over, Philly wins four games to two. That's pretty much it.
Memphis Grizzlies Upset San Antonio Spurs - 2011
I remember at the time watching this series, particularly how slow and old the Spurs looked and thinking, "Man they had a great run, but they are definitely over the hill." Wrong again! The Spurs, essentially with the same core of players, will be the #2 seed in the West this year. The Spurs came into the 2011 playoffs as the #1 seed, with the second-best record in basketball and home court advantage against any Western Conference opponent and were dropped in the first round. Zach Randolph played out of his mind and Marc Gasol wore down Tim Duncan on both ends of the floor.
In this year's playoffs, if the Bucks were to beat the Heat, or the Lakers were able to vanquish the Thunder, would either be a bigger upset than any of the previous upsets on this list?
HoopsVibe was fortunate enough to speak with former NBA All-Star Dikembe Mutombo
HoopsVibe Very Quick Call: Mutombo is the latest pitch-man for Old Spice's "Champion Scent" line of products.
During his 18 year playing career, "Mt. Mutombo" was one of the most intimidating shot blockers and rebounders of all time, leading the league in blocked shots five times and rebounds four times. Mutombo was an eight time All-Star and appeared in the NBA FInals with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Dikembe Mutombo: Yes, Iteam up with Old Spice to promote the computer game and we have to save the world in 4 ½ weeks. Also to promote Champion Scent from Old Spice. It’s a wonderful game for everybody to play.
HV: Let’s talk about Georgetown. You played there with Alonzo Mourning and a lot of other great players; Why couldn’t you and Zo win a national title?
DM: Man, that is a major question that will haunt us for the rest of our lives. We had a chance and ultimately went to NBA to become dominant centers and we had opportunities to win in college. The opportunity was there, and we just didn’t do it.
HV: How did the finger wave come to become your signature move?
DM: It happened after my third year just before we beat the Seattle Supersonics in 1994 NBA playoffs. I was having such a great year and blocking shots and moving up in the league. I used to block the shot and then I would shake my hand and no one said nothing. One day I decided shaking the hand doesn't really mean nothing- maybe the best way to not come into the House of Mutombo it's best to wave my finger, so it worked out very cool. But it ended up getting me a lot of technicals.
HV: How did the NBA come to ban that? Does David Stern call you personally?
DM: It came from the players. You would hear from someone like Phil Jackson or something, that maybe you better stop what you're doing it's costing you a lot of money. It was good for me to do in the players face, but if I could face the fans and wave my finger away from the players face, it would be great. That's why you see in the last five years I started doing it away from the players face. So I don't have to lose a couple of thousand dollars (laughing).
HV: Who was your favorite NBA player to block?
DM: That's a good question. To me, not just one in particular. But I think playing against Shawn Kemp. He was such a high jumping, athletic player.
HV: How gratifying was it to be the first eight seed to beat a one seed when your Nuggets beat Kemp's Sonics?
DM: One of my proudest successes of my career. But I’m happy to promote the Old Spice game now. I want everyone to go to the website on your computer and play the game to save the world we only have four and a half weeks so we better do it!
To play "Dikembe Mutombo's 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World", click here.
On pace for a video game like four loss season, the Rockets came back to earth from then on and finished a subdued 36-23 over the final 59 games. The up and down nature of the season continued in the playoffs as well. After easily dispatching the Portland Trailblazers 3-1 in round one, The Rockets nearly had an early postseason exit when they lost the first two games of the conference semifinals to Phoenix at The Summit in Houston. The Rockets won three in a row, lost game six in Phoenix and then returned to Houston for the decisive game seven victory.
In the Western Conference Finals, the Rockets over powered the Utah Jazz 4-1, setting up a Finals matchup with the Eastern Conference champion New York Knicks.
The Rockets versus Knicks Finals was one of the most physical in NBA history, even to this day, thanks to each team's emphasis on tough defense and a grind it out approach on offense, working the ball through Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, respectively. For the first time since the introduction of the shot clock in 1954-55, neither team reached 100 points in any game of a seven-game playoff series. Not since 1975 had there been a Finals series in which the margin of victory in every game was less than 10 points, until this one.
The Rockets won the series 4-3, securing their first title in NBA history. Hakeem Olajuwon's "Dream" season was one for the ages. Olajuwon was named league MVP, NBA Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and All-NBA First Team.
Though a win in Atlanta on 12/3/1993 would have set a new record, it's safe to say the Rockets were satisfied with how the season ended.
The following is a list of the NBA's top five highest salaried teams. (And thanks to Hoopsworld.com for providing the data).
Hoopsvibe's quick call: This list proves that the best team isn't always the one that spends the most money.
1.) The Los Angeles Lakers - $102,256,438
Point and case. The Lakers may have the largest payroll in the league but their current record is the worst on this list. The organization kept busy this offseason and when they acquired both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, it was looking like the purple and gold were the team to beat. And indeed, they have been the team to beat. Yes, it's still early in the season, but having won only three games with their expensive lineup is pretty embarrassing. Let's hope the recent hiring of Mike D'Antoni turns things around.
2.) The Miami Heat - $87,595,822
It shouldn't come as much of a shock that the Heat are number 2 on this list. They pretty much cleared out their books a few years ago to make sure there was enough cap space for Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to be on the roster. And as it turns out, that was a good idea. Micky Arison, Pat Riley and company made a good decision in doing so seeing that the Heat are the defending NBA Champions and are currently sitting at the top of their division.
3.) The New York Knicks - $82,010,527
The Knicks could quite possibly be the surprise of the season so far. J.R. Smith is posting career numbers, averaging 18.2 points per game. Raymond Felton is averaging 14 points and 6.2 assists while Carmelo Anthony's 26.8 ppg leads the league in scoring. As a result, they're 5-0; all the while Amare Staudemire has been on the bench with knee injury. Who knows if they'll keep it up, but it will certainly be interesting to see how they play with Amare back in the lineup.
4.) The Brookyln Nets - $83,511,726
The NBA's newest team are 4-2 to start the season. They have a new stadium in the Barclays Center and with Deron Williams, Brooks Lopez, Kris Humphries and Joe Johnson on their payroll, they certainly have a few expenses. But if they continue to win games, those expenses most likely won't be much of an issue.
5.) The Memphis Grizzlies - $77,098,154
I was pretty surprised when Memphis came in at #5 on this list. I would have thought Boston, or San Antonio, or even Oklahoma City would have been ahead of the Grizz. Then again, they do have Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol on their roster. Those three guys alone take up about $47 million of the payroll. And for good reason; they combine for over 51 points per game.