As I write this, the Warriors are minus-255 favorites to win the Finals. What that means is for every $255 you bet on them to win the series, you earn back $100 if they actually do ($255 gets you $100, $510 gets you $200, and so on). And what that means is the Warriors are big, big, big favorites to win. (For context: Last year, the season they won a record-breaking 73 games, they were minus-210 favorites at the start of the Finals.) (For funny context: Their line was minus-2,500 after they took a 3–1 lead in the series.)
I mention that because I want to present some other potential betting odds for things that might (and might not) happen in these Finals, which start Thursday, finally, thankfully, hallelujah.
First, though, a quick story:
The greatest gambling moment of my life happened on a basketball court in 2011, back when I was a middle school teacher and coach. I will never, ever forget it. It was after school one day right after Thanksgiving break and I was in the gym shooting around as the basketball team ran laps. (They started every practice by jogging around the perimeter of the court for 15 minutes.) As I was shooting, one of the players — this very charming kid — shouted, "I’ll bet you can’t make two 3s in a row, Coach." I looked at him and I smiled and I said, "OK. If I do, though, that’s an extra five minutes on y’all’s jogging time." He said, "Bet. And if you don’t, then you have to take five minutes off." I said, "Cool," and then I shot twice and made them both and then I laughed very loudly and mostly all the players on the team groaned.
Not to be deterred, the kid shouted again: "Double or nothing, Coach, except this time you have to shoot it at the other goal," and when he said it he was pointing at the rim at the other end of the court, some 80 feet away from where I was standing. I said, "What?" He said, "If you make it, then you can add another five minutes to our running, but if you don’t then we get to stop running right now." I said, "That’s not what double or nothing means." He said, "You know what I mean, Coach." I said, "OK. But I’m gonna tell you right now that I’m going to make this shot, and when I do I’m adding 30 minutes on to y’all’s time, not five." He took a second to consider the odds, then he said, "Yeah, right. You won’t even hit the rim." I said, "Are we betting?" He said, "Yes. Do it. Go," and the team continued jogging around as I prepped to shoot.
I rubbed my hands around the ball, got a good grip, looked across the court at the basket, took an overly dramatic breath, then threw the ball baseball-style exactly at the rim. It hung in the air for what felt like minutes, soaring and soaring and soaring. As it flew, I charted its potential trajectory in my head, deemed it true, shouted, "Oh, that’s good!" then raised my right index finger in the air on some Larry Bird shit. It was a perfect moment, and the ball was still soaring and soaring and soaring, and I could feel the dread seeping out of all the players’ bodies and it was making me so, so powerful. Everything was just so perfectly fucking perfect, and I don’t mind telling you that in that moment it very much felt like the entirety of the universe had paused to watch me make that shot. And then the ball sailed several feet to the left of the rim and smacked a kid who was still jogging his laps square in the side of the head.
The thud from the ball hitting him shook the bleachers, it felt like. The force knocked his tiny body all the way sideways. He fell down, I said to myself, "Oh my god," and the kid I’d made the bet with said, "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" It was terrible. Thankfully, the kid who got hit ended up being fine. He stood up, looked at me, shook his head, then started jogging again. I said, "Hey, man. My bad. Are you OK?" He said, "Yes," and that was it. The kids stopped running, we started practice, and that was that.
That was the greatest gambling moment of my life.
A list of prop bets for the Finals:
- LeBron breaks the all-time record for triple-doubles in the Finals: The record is held by Magic Johnson, who had eight. Right now, LeBron has seven. He’s played in 40 Finals games in his career, which means he’s averaging one triple-double every 5.7 games. That means there’s an OK chance that he ties the record (7–3) and a long-shot chance that he breaks it (14–3). A fun sidebar: LeBron’s seventh Finals triple-double happened in Game 7 last year. Only two other players in NBA history ever put up a triple-double in a Finals Game 7: Jerry West in 1969 (his Lakers lost, but West was awarded Finals MVP, which was probably super-sucky for him) and James Worthy in 1988 (his Lakers won, and also this was the game where Worthy earned the nickname Big Game James, which was probably not super-sucky for him).
- Who receives the first technical of the Finals: LeBron James (5–1), Draymond Green (5–2), Kevin Durant (5–2), Kyrie Irving (8–1), Kyle Korver (50–1), Matt Barnes (1–2), and David West (even money).
- Who does the first petty thing of the Finals: LeBron James (3–1), Draymond Green (2–1), Steph Curry (even money), Kevin Durant (1–2), and Shaun Livingston (1–500). My favorite subplot of the Finals is how much these two teams seem to enjoy taking shots at each other. We’ve gotten petty T-shirts, petty song mutes, petty Halloween decorations, petty sideways insults, and petty Photoshops. I am so excited to see what comes next. I hope it’s something big and obvious and merciless, like maybe during the press conference following a Game 1 loss, Kyrie Irving says it’s actually their strategy to go down 3–1 in the series. Or maybe Draymond gets tired of answering questions about LeBron’s career-defining block in last year’s Finals and says something like, "What he needs to do is block whoever it is that’s convincing him to get them hair plugs."
- Steph Curry passes LeBron James for the most 3s made in Finals history: Did you know LeBron has the record for the most 3s made in Finals history? I legit didn’t know that. (God bless Basketball-Reference.) He has made 68 in his seven Finals appearances. Steph Curry is in second place with 57. He’s catching him this series. Book it: 3–1.
- Something bounces off of Javale McGee’s head during a game: More than likely, if this one happens it’ll be a basketball (5–2), but also it could be an Acme anvil like in those old cartoons (8–1), a bird like in that one episode of Seinfeld (15–1), a pair of clippers someone’s thrown at him hoping to convince him to shave off that rattail (23–1), the actual bird from that one episode of Seinfeld (45–1), an angel falling to earth like when Nicolas Cage did in City of Angels (650–1), actual Nicolas Cage (700–1).
- Either team breaks the record for the most 3s made in a Finals game: The Warriors set the record when they made 17 3s in Game 4 against Cleveland last year. If someone breaks that in these Finals, though, I think it’s the Cavs, given that they set the record for 3s made in a regular-season game a couple of months ago when they poured in 25 (!!!) against the Hawks (lol). What’s more: Kevin Love and J.R. Smith weren’t even playing that game. The Warriors get good odds on this prop bet (5–3), but the Cavs get slightly better ones (5–4). A fun sidebar: The record for combined 3s made in a Finals game is 25. It’s happened four times. Three of those times involved a LeBron James team (the Heat and the Thunder combined to make 25 in a Finals game in 2012, the Heat and Spurs combined to make 25 in a Finals game in 2014, and the Cavs and the Warriors combined to make 25 in a Finals game last year).
- Y’all stop underappreciating my beloved Klay Thompson: He’s perfect. What’s wrong with you all? Why won’t you appreciate him? The whole entire landscape of the NBA would look different today were it not for his heroics last year. Say his name, say his name. Odds: 25–1.
- Michael Jordan’s name gets mentioned more than 20 times during the Finals: 7–2. I am a big fan of the Jordan vs. LeBron conversation that’s happening all the time now. I think it’s fascinating. Arguing about these sorts of things is absolutely part of the reason talking about basketball is so much fun and thinking about basketball is so much fun.
- Kevin Durant runs off the court before anyone can talk to him after the Warriors win the title like how Dirk Nowitzki did in 2011: First, here’s Dirk leaving the court early as the Mavs won the title. It’s a great and emotional clip. Second, I feel very confident in assuming the Warriors are going to win the title this year. That being the case, I’m especially excited to see what happens in the moments immediately after. What’s Steph going to do, for example? Or what about LeBron? Or what about Draymond? And, most of all: What about KD? It’s a fascinating thing to think about. More than likely, it won’t be anything unexpected; he’ll probably just smile and do a normal interview and then that’s that. But there’s so much other stuff in play. What if he breaks down and finally lets all of that emotion out like what we saw Jordan do when he finally won his first championship and then laid on the floor with the trophy and cried? (7–1) What if he asks OKC for forgiveness? (170–1) WHAT IF HE SAYS RUSSELL WESTBROOK’S NAME? (235–1)
- David West realizes it actually wasn’t worth it: Two years ago, David West was making about $12 million a season and not winning championships. Now, per ESPN, he’s making $980,431 a season and is (likely) winning a championship. Odds he gets his ring and realizes it wasn’t actually worth that $11 million-plus he left on the table: 500–1.