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The 1999 New York Knicks are still the only No. 8 seed to ever reach the NBA Finals. You have to wonder if they'll be the last, at least for the foreseeable future.
The odds for No. 8 seeds just to get out of the first round are usually long. Last season, the first seed in the East, the Philadelphia 76ers, were -1000 to win in the first round. The top seed in the West, the Utah Jazz, were -1400. Both won easily. Since the NBA moved to a 16-team field for the 1984 playoffs, No. 1 seeds have won their first-round series 71 of 76 times.
The Knicks didn't just get out of the first round. They nearly won it all.
There aren't too many 1983 NC State stories in professional basketball. The top teams are usually too good, and it's not a one-game elimination scenario. The Knicks had arguably the best run ever for an NBA underdog, even if they fell just short. They were 30-to-1 odds to win the championship before the playoffs started, according to SportsOddsHistory.com, and they almost pulled it off.
The 1999 Knicks still remembered fondly
The Knicks weren't enormous underdogs in the first round of the 1999 playoffs, at least compared to other No. 8 seeds through the years.
The Knicks had big expectations before the season. They were +500 to win the NBA title before the season started, tied for the fifth-best odds, according to Pro Basketball Reference. They added Latrell Sprewell, Marcus Camby, Dennis Scott and Kurt Thomas in the offseason to go with Patrick Ewing. Due to injury and all the pieces not fitting great right away in a lockout-shortened season, the Knicks didn't have a great regular season. The Knicks finished 27-23. But they still had talent heading into a No. 1 vs. No. 8 meeting with the Miami Heat. They were +230 underdogs in the first round according to SportsOddsHistory.com. The Knicks advanced on Allan Houston's game-winner in Game 5, the second time a No. 8 seed had advanced.
A parlay for the Knicks to win all three series would have been a little more than 20-to-1 (+2028 to be exact). Given the 20 years that have passed, without any other No. 8 seed getting past the second round and the Knicks' struggles as well, the 1999 Knicks making the Finals seems like a lot longer shot than it actually was.
Knicks' run ended in NBA Finals
The Knicks' run ended against the San Antonio Spurs. They were +600 and lost in five games. Still, that team is remembered fondly. Larry Johnson's four-point play against the Pacers is one of the greatest moments in Knicks history, and especially over the past 25 years.
The story would have been better had the Knicks finished it with a championship, but it was still an incredible run for Knicks fans and bettors alike.
It was a perfect storm. The Knicks might not have been a No. 8 seed if the season had been longer than 50 games. Their talent was coming together right about when the playoffs started. Had Houston's shot not bounced off the rim, off the backboard and in, the Knicks would have been out in the first round and we'd have never remembered them.
It's still one of the great postseason runs in NBA history. It will be a long time before we see another one like it.