The NBA is built on star power, making underdog stories that much sweeter to witness. For as many titles have been won by the best players in league history, there is the occasional time when David is able to slay Goliath.
The NBA is no stranger to upsets. Throughout the league's start, underdogs have risen through the ranks to take down those at the top - providing unforgettable moments in sports history. Here are five major underdog moments we won't be forgetting anytime soon:
5. Dallas Mavericks foil LeBron James
LeBron James joined the Miami Heat to win championships, so when the Heat met the Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals, the outcome seemed predestined. Even though the Heat jumped out to a 2-1 series lead, the Mavericks–led by Dirk Nowitzki–won three straight games and grabbed a championship that had previously eluded owner Mark Cuban.
4. Washington Bullets make history in 1978
The ’78 Bullets live in basketball lore. Most NBA teams ride stars to titles, as basketball is a sport where one player can truly make a difference. However, the Wizards won just 44 games during the regular season–making them the lowest ranked team to ever secure a championship. Bob Dandridge, Elvin Hayes, and Phil Chenier got hot at the right time. The Bullets would eventually outlast the Seattle SuperSonics in seven games.
3. Detroit Pistons halt Los Angeles Lakers’ dynasty
With Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Phil Jackson at the helm, the Lakers seemed like a lock to get past the pesky Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals. Many writers and talking heads had the Lakers sweeping the Pistons–forget about actually losing the series. Larry Brown’s Pistons rode a team approach to the title, relying on Ben Wallace’s defense and Chauncey Billups’ shot-making. In addition, Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton played key roles in helping the Pistons win the series in five games.
2. Golden State Warriors shock Dallas Mavericks in 2007
For the first time in NBA history, a No. 8 seed beat a No. 1 seed in a seven-game series. The Warriors stunned the Mavericks, who looked like favorites to win the 2007 NBA championship. Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, and head coach Don Nelson found a way to get past the 67-win Mavericks, electrifying a city and the NBA in the meantime. The Warriors needed the last game of the season to clinch a playoff berth, making the stunning upset all the more unlikely.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers win the 2016 championship
The Cavaliers were the ultimate long-shot. They started at a 3-1 series hole against a Golden State Warriors team that set a record for 73 wins during the 2015-16 regular season. Despite boasting LeBron James, the Cavaliers still needed to win two out of three games in Oakland’s Oracle Arena. The Cavs survived Game Five before blowing out the Warriors in Game 6. Kyrie Irving knocked down a step-back three-pointer over Stephen Curry with under a minute to play in a tightly-contested Game 7, giving Cleveland its first championship team since 1964.
There are sure to be many more instances where the underdog rises to the top on the hardwood; be sure to catch the games as they happen with Sling TV. Sling TV lets you personalize your channel lineup and save, starting at just $25 a month. Customize with Extras like Sports, Comedy, Kids, News & more. Stream live TV on your favorite devices—anytime, anywhere. No useless channels, no long-term contracts, no hidden fees, easy online cancellation. Watch 7 Days Free! Restrictions apply.