Denver Nuggets Beats Seattle Supersonics in 1994 Playoffs – The Greatest Upset in NBA History

Denver Nuggets' Dikembe Mutombo Shoots a Jumphook Over Sonics' Sam Perkins
Denver Nuggets' Dikembe Mutombo Shoots a Jumphook Over Sonics' Sam Perkins

This was just an unbelievable series to watch and a miraculous win.  I have been a die-hard Denver Nuggets fan ever since the day that we beat the Seattle Supersonics in the first round of the 1994 NBA Playoffs as an 8th seed beating the 1st seed.

This was the first time ever in the history of NBA when the 8th seed knocked off the 1st seed.

Maybe similar to the 4 minute mile barrier that once broken, showing that it can be done… allowing teams such as the Knicks and the Golden State Warriors to upset the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.  Coincidentally, the 1994 Sonics were coached by George Karl.  Who knew he would end with the Nuggets?

The Nuggets win over Seattle will forever be etched in my memory

I remember the sweet joys of watching the Nuggets win game 5 in Seattle.  Of course, there was that famous image of Mutombo on the basketball floor with the basketball clutched in his hands with absolute joy and happiness after winning in overtime in Seattle.   Who could forget that?

I remember watching the game by myself.  Because the game was played so late and in Pacific time, everyone else had gone to sleep.  I was only about 14 years old then.  I remember just yelling and screaming that THE NUGGETS WON!  It was just unbelievable.  I think I woke everyone, but they couldn’t be mad.  🙂

It was a lot of fun watching the Nuggets just hang in there… playing their hearts out in Seattle… this young, athletic, and competitive bunch led by the likes of Dikembe Mutombo, LaPhonso Ellis, Robert Pack, Reggie Williams, Brian Williams, and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.

After losing the first two games, the Nuggets won the next three

This was back when the NBA only had 5 games in the first round. The Nuggets lost the first two badly, but at home, they won handily in Game 3 and in overtime in game 4.  Then, they went on to win Game 5 in Seattle in overtime.

For all the NBA, Nuggets, and basketball fans out there, I found this video on YouTube.  It really reminds me of the good times.  Check it out:

Man, we had a sweet team, then.  With Dikembe Mutombo, Laphonso Ellis, Reggie Williams, Robert Pack, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Brian Williams, Bryant Stith, and Rodney Rogers, the Nuggets were loaded.

As if it wasn’t already cool to have a really long name, Mutombo also had the infamous finger wags after blocked shots to say “not in my house”.  I remember everybody always tried to dunk on Mutombo to try to measure up.  He would just block vast majority of them and wag his fingers.  hehe.  The league eventually outlawed it saying it was taunting and that he would get technicals for those.  To me, they added additional fun and fire into the game.  For example, is there anyone who played basketball never participated in a little bit of trash talking or jabbing about how I am better than you, etc etc just for fun?  By the way, Mutombo’s real name is Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo.

By the way, Mutombo had a NBA playoff record 31 blocked shots in a 5 games series, which was against the Sonics.  He was just blocking everyone’s shots left and right.  I mean, scoring in the paint was never this difficult.  hehe

Laphonso Ellis of Denver Nuggets. He was heart and soul of the team.
Laphonso Ellis of Denver Nuggets. He was heart and soul of the team.

LaPhonso Ellis was the heart and soul of the Denver Nuggets.  He played with fire and intensity.  I watched the pre-season game in which he hurt his knee.  I was there.  It would turn out to be one of the saddest events in my Nuggets memory.  It happened in Moby Arena in Fort Collins, CO.  I remember the game being stopped and him leaving the arena, but I never thought it would change the Nuggets fate forever.

After beating the Sonics in 5, then advancing to play the Utah Jazz and taking the Jazz to seven games and an overtime loss in Game 7, the Nuggets had high expectations for the next year.  With injury to LaPhonso Ellis, Nuggets were off to a slow start that never met the expectations for the team.  Over the years, the 1994 Nuggets team was slowly disassembled.

Sharpshooter Reggie Williams never quite became the shooter.  His shooting and his overall game did not improve much after 1994.  Robert Pack was an explosive guard off the bench.  He had some nice dunks, with one right over Shawn Kemp.  He was athletic and just good.  Brian Williams was a leftie power forward/center off the bench.  He was big and strong; he had some breakout games in terms of rebounds and dunks.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf had a sweet game and played with the Nuggets for years.  He had his twitching issue but he had the best headfake in the game.  When he did a fake jumpshot, he got on his toes and swang the ball high above as if to shoot.  Defenders almost always fell for it.  He had such a quick jumpshot that people had to respect his headfake.

We also had Bryant Stith and Rodney Rogers.  Both were also in their early years in the league.  In fact, our entire roster was young.  We had one of the youngest but most talented and deepest teams in the league.  Bryant Stith was  a solid two-guard who could defend, post, and take his man off the dribble.  He loved posting up though.  Rodney Rogers was with the Nuggets before he got fat.  He was built but he had major hops.  He had this one put-back dunk that was just insane.  I don’t think it was during this playoffs, but he basically went up after a missed shot and when he caught the ball with his left hand before he dunked it, his head was the same level as the rim.  It was an incredible play.  WOW.

Another sweet play – this one by Laphonso Ellis

I remember one breakaway dunk by Ellis that I still remember.  On a fast break, he came from the right side with the ball palmed high above his head with his right arm.  He had one Sonics player run in front of him to strip but could reach since he had the ball palmed high.  I think the player was Gary Payton.  He also had Kendal Gill or another player try to block him from the behind but couldn’t reach the ball.  He looked sort of like MJ logo without the legs spread to the sides.  Ellis had two guys run by him in the front and in the back.  He dunked the ball.  That was a freaking sweet play.  I remember talking about it with the guys on the court the next day… with all of us trying to replicate his move.

Denver Nuggets Logo in 1994
Denver Nuggets Logo in 1994

Seattle Sonics Old Logo
Seattle Sonics Old Logo

Published by


Born in 1979. Lived, studied, and worked in the US from 1992-2007. Currently in Mongolia since 2007. Own and manage WebGuru Co Ltd (www.WEBGURU-CO.COM), an internet marketing and web design / development company based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

3 thoughts on “Denver Nuggets Beats Seattle Supersonics in 1994 Playoffs – The Greatest Upset in NBA History”

  1. Awesome post. It was a great series to watch on TV, Seattle got desperate late in game 7 and kept driving at Mutombo. Everything got swatted away!

  2. @Cam thanks buddy. it was definitely awesome staying up late to see the unbelievable happen. the nuggets team then was awesome. laphonso getting hurt just changed everything

  3. Still recalling this series – whatta time!
    WHATTA LINEUPS! Pac vs Payton, Brian Wiliams before he become Bison Dele and Abdoul-Rauf after changing the name from Chris Jackson 🙂

    Greetings from Poland!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *