Here’s everything you need to know before watching the NBA Finals. This is an epic matchup between one of the best players of all time versus the best shooter of all time. So many great story lines…
NBA basketball is fun again! This isn’t the isolation-heavy 1990s.
Ball movement and motion mean everything. Here’s why: math.
The NBA has gone super analytics heavy. Literally every movement that a player makes during a game is tracked via motion camera and fed into computers for analysis.
The most obvious result of this analysis is that NBA teams know the expected value of a shot from any point on the floor. It looks like this (for some reason, green is bad):
In layman’s terms, you want to dunk, shoot a layup or a three.
NBA teams work extra hard to get those high quality shots, which means a lot of tricky motion, screening, cutting and passing.
Here’s what that looks like for the Cavs. Lebron is the best player on the planet, but that doesn’t mean he takes all the shots. They have a lot more movement than I thought they would:
Of course, I’m a Warriors homer and I believe the Warriors motion exquisite.
Steph Curry’s Shooting
Steph Curry is widely considered to be the best shooter of all time. This year he’s already set the record for most three pointers made in a season (286), set the record for most threes made in a single postseason (old record: 58, new record: 73 with 4+ games to go) and won the All-Star 3-point shoot out.
Here’s a supercut of every three pointer he made this season. Mesmorizing.
But, I wondered what makes him such a great shooter. Thankfully, we have several YouTube coaches to break it down for us.
Basically, it comes down to a perfectly consistent upper body paired with very flexible footwork.
This last is my favorite — Curry is super aggressive about spotting the goal with his eyes early. Watch for it in the game. Dude is a gunner and is always looking to get a shot off.
Lebron’s been struggling with his shot in the postseason (but he’s still in the finals!). For a guy that’s built like a power forward, he’s got a prety great shot. Here’s his approach:
According to Nike, the between the legs step back jumper is Lebron’s signature move (I would have chosen monstrous dunk on a coast-to-coast fast break).
Let’s not forget that earlier in the season, Klay Thompson had a 37 point quarter. As the coaches said afterward, “Once he got hot, we ran two plays: Get the ball to Klay and Klay come get the ball.”
Curry and Kyrie Irving are two of the best ball handlers the NBA has ever seen.
Here’s the NBA trying to hype this up:
One of the things that always gets me about great ballhandlers is how they train. Invariably, a coach is throwing things at them while they dribble. Here’s an example:
Here’s what to look for from Kyrie:
Here’s what to look for from Curry:
Nike vs. Under Armour
In the 90s, Nike had the basketball crown because of Jordan. Reebok tried to steal that crown with inflatable shoes. I’m serious. This was Reebok’s master plan:
Obviously, this failed. And Nike hasn’t been seriously pushed in basketball until Under Armour’s CEO, Kevin Plank, decided to get feisty.
He made waves by starting (and losing) a 285 million dollar bidding war for Kevin Durant (last year’s MVP).
However, UnderArmour still managed to get an MVP under contract, Stephen Curry. Basically, UA got incredibly lucky. When Curry joined Brandon Jennings and Raymond Felton on UA’s basketball roster in 2013, nobody was predicting he’d be the MVP. (And yes, Jennings and Felton were the second and third best players wearing UA at the time).
But, the real question is: how does Curry’s UA ad hold up to Lebron’s Nike ads? In my opinion, not well. Nike is just great at advertising. For example, I love the Kobe System ads. Here’s the definitive Nike ad on Lebron returning to Cleveland:
On the Curry front, this isn’t quite an ad, but it’s pretty funny. A bunch of people challenge Curry to a 3-point contest:
The Cav’s have a very bored J.R. Smith. Dude literally credits his improved play after being traded from NYC: “There’s nothing to do here except play basketball.”
But the Warriors have this excellent anthem to cocaine (team PR made them stop singing this):
Of course, JR Smith leads the team rap in the ice bath. BTW, they make an ice bath look a lot more fun than it really is.
Harrison Barnes (Warriors) has a pretty good sense of humor. Learn all about his offseason job:
And here’s the Curry family having fun with the Drake song about them.
You’ll want to look out for what Grantland calls, The Glorious Bastardry of Andrew Bogut. Basically, Bogut has mastered old-man tricks.
Here’s Bogut with the armlock move. This same style of trick is why we’re not seeing Kevin Love in this series: he dislocated his arm while being armlocked in the Celtics series.
More armlock — lets him guard two people at once.
Quick neck grab to slow down the fast break:
Success is Not an Accident.
My mom showed this video to her 3rd grade class as part of a lesson she put together on growth mindset (based on Carol Dweck’s work).
These are the best players and the best teams in the world. They’re not here by accident. Let’s enjoy!