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Looking Back at Number 1 Seed Champions in the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL

Looking Back at Number 1 Seed Champions in the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL

For the first time since 1993, two No. 1 seeds will meet in the playoffs to dispute for the Vince Lombardi trophy when the high scoring Denver Broncos collide with the brick wall-ish defense of the Seattle Seahawks. Super Bowl XLVIII will be the first time we’ll see a  No. 1 seeded team win since the New Orleans Saints took home the holy grail of American Football in Super Bowl XLIV.

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#1 seeded teams have dominated pro sports this year:

  • 2013 NBA Finals Champion: Miami Heat (#1 seed)
  • 2013 World Series Champion: Boston Red Sox (#1 seed)
  • 2013 Stanley Cup Champion: Chicago Blackhawks (#1 seed)

Let’s have a comparison of sorts of this specific occurrence with three other major pro sports league – MLB, NBA, the NHL—before taking a deeper look at the NFL.


No. 1 seed champions: 7 since 1995

The current postseason format of MLB has two wildcards, a setup that was introduced just two seasons ago. So for us to have a larger sample size, let’s count the number one seeds that won the World Series from the 1995 season – the first time the league added the wild card teams into postseason mix. Here are some of the data we came up with:

  • Only seven No.1 seeds have won the World Series title
  • The New York Yankees account for three of those No. 1 seed World Series Titles (1998, 1999, and 2009)
  • So far, the 1995 Atlanta Braves are the only No.1 seed World Series Champions that came from the National League
  • There had been four instances when the team with the best record (or tied for best), won the World Series. They are the 1998 and 1999 Yankees and the 2007  and 2013 Boston Red Sox.


No. 1 seed champions: 49 since 1950.

It has been said countless times before that the NBA has by far the most predictable league among the four major pro sports. More often than not, the eventual champions were the teams that were expected to win the NBA title. Though there were surprises in David Stern’s playoffs like the No. 8 New York Knicks making the 1999 NBA Finals, those kind of instances are as rare as Shaquille O’Neal hitting a trey.

[sc:NBA240banner ]When put side-by-side with the other leagues, the NBA comes up with the most No. 1 seeds winning the championship. Here are a few takeaways on the number of NBA champions based on their seeding:

  • Since the first NBA Finals, only two teams have won the championship as No. 4 seed or higher. These teams are the 1969 Boston Celtics (No. 4) and the 1995 Houston Rockets (No.6).
  • Only seven No. 3 seeds have won the NBA title in league history.
  • The No. 1 seeds took home the NBA Title an overwhelming 49 times.
  • The past six NBA champions were all No. 1 seeds.


No. 1 seed champions: 7 since 1994.

Mark Messier, New York Rangers, NHL, Stanley Cup

We’ll begin breaking down the champions from the 1994 season, when the current playoff format was introduced. Before the 16-team NHL postseason that we know of today – eight from each conference – the league spent a lengthy time employing different kinds of playoff formats such as ranking teams from 1-4 to 1-16.

  • From 1994, only seven No. 1 seeds got to touch the prestigious Stanley Cup trophy.
  • Three No. 3 seeds skated off the ice crowned as NHL champions. These teams are the 1997 and 1998 Detroit Red Wings and the 2011 Boston Bruins.
  • Three teams seeded No. 4 or higher became Stanley Cup champions.
  • Only once that the NHL saw back-to-back No. 1 seed Stanley Cup champions: 2001 Colorado Avalanche and 2002 Red Wings.


No. 1 seed champions: 21 since 1975

Funny that the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII match-up generates so much commotion. This is largely because of these teams being both No. 1 seeds; isn’t it that pitting the best two teams in each conference is the ideal Super Bowl scenario?

Well, yes, but it’s the rarity of the occasion (AFC #1 vs. NFC #1) which compels us to explode in excitement. Since the NFL introduced the seeding system in the postseason in 1975, the Broncos-Seahawks will only be the 10th time two No. 1 seeds will duke it out in the Super Bowl.

That’s not even considering the fact that this is only the second time since Super Bowl XXV (1990 NFL season) in which the top rated offense in the NFL meets the league’s best defensive squad.

  • The Broncos-Seahawks will be the second time since 1993 that two No. 1 seeds sneaked into the Super Bowl.
  • Since 2002, only the New England Patriots (Super Bowl XXXVIII) and New Orleans Saints (Super Bowl XLIV) had won the Super Bowl as No. 1 seeds.
  • The NFC No. 1 seed is 7-2 in the previous nine Super Bowl match-ups against the AFC No. 1.

The grand sporting event that is the Super Bowl is just a week away. Head over to Top Bet sportsbook while you have time to see the latest Super Bowl XLVIII odds and lines. You will also find a variety of NFL game props to bet on. Plus find out how you can claim your $10 Super Bowl free bet!

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Written by Rex

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