The Golden State Warriors completed one of the greatest all-time playoff performances in NBA history with a 129-120 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the championship four games to one. The Warriors finished their playoff run as the first team with a 16-1 record in the postseason. It marks the team’s second NBA title for the Warriors in three years as they staked a claim as a modern-day dynasty.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from the 2017 NBA Finals.
Durant lamented that he was sick of finishing second (draft, MVP voting, Finals) in a 2013 Sports Illustrated cover story. Durant is second no more.
The four-time scoring champ crushed his good-guy image when he left Oklahoma City to don the black hat in the Bay Area as a free agent last summer. Some will view Durant as piggy-backing on the Warriors’ success, but history should judge Durant more kindly. The addition of the 2014 MVP made the Warriors’ attack even more lethal. He was the runaway choice as the NBA Finals MVP with 30-plus points in all five games, just the sixth player in NBA history to do that. He averaged 35 points per game for the series on otherworldly shooting of 56%, 47% and 93% for field goals, three-pointers and free throws. His pull-up three-pointer in the final minute of Game 3 was arguably the biggest shot of the series.
Sure, ABC would have loved an extra game or two in this series, but the first four games marked the highest ratings for an NBA series since Michael Jordan won his sixth and final title with the Chicago Bulls in 1998. Expect Game 5 ratings to be through the roof as well. The star-laden Finals matchup was a plus after regular season ratings dipped 5% on ESPN/ABC in the first year of the league’s nine-year, $24 billion media deal with Walt Disney and Time Warner.
The banking giant was in a win-win situation with ties to both Stephen Curry and LeBron James, but the Warriors were definitely the preferred choice by JPMorgan Chase. Chase secured naming rights last year to the $1 billion arena the Warriors are set to open in 2019. The 20-year deal worth an estimated $300 million is the priciest naming rights deal ever for a U.S. arena. Curry is a key component of the bank’s “Mastery” ad campaign as well.
Joe Lacob, Peter Guber
Lacob and Guber led a group that paid $450 million for the Warriors in 2010 at a time when the Warriors had one playoff appearance in the previous 16 seasons. Good timing. The Warriors are a juggernaut on and off the court. They set the record for regular season wins with 73 in the one year they did not win the title over the past three seasons. The Warriors were worth $2.6 billion in Forbes’ latest NBA franchise valuations and the on-court dominance will goose demand and pricing with the Warriors set to move into the Chase Center in 2019. Look for the Warriors to challenge the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers in years to come for the title of the NBA’s most valuable team.
Steve Kerr becomes just the 14th head coach to win two NBA titles. A third would put him alone in sixth place. Kerr missed 11 straight wins by the Warriors during the postseason as Mike Brown took the reins while Kerr recovered from complications from a 2015 back surgery. Kerr’s career regular season winning percentage as a head coach over three seasons is .841, a mile ahead of second place Phil Jackson at .704. Kerr’s playoff win percentage is also tops for head coaches at .758. The Cavs’ Tyron Lue ranks second for playoff performance.
James was competing in his seventh straight NBA Finals, and he proved once again that he is the best player on the planet. He wrapped his Finals run with another monster game with 41 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. James arguably deserved the Finals MVP award. He is the first player to ever average a triple-double in the Finals and the Cavs played the Warriors to a draw with LeBron on the floor, but were outscored by 28 points in the limited time James was on the bench over five games. The Cavs would have ranked among the NBA’s two worst teams with James on the bench by one metric.
James finishes on both sides of the ledger. The Warriors were huge favorites to win the 2017 NBA Finals, but the loss still hurts James in his quest to eclipse Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history. His Finals record now stands at 3-5 and the LeBron-haters will point to the huge disparity compared to Jordan, who won all six of his NBA Finals.
Teams Outside Cleveland & Oakland
This year’s matchup made it the first time in league history the same two teams met three straight years in the NBA Finals. We are likely looking at four straight in 12 months. The Warriors and Cavs are already overwhelming favorites in Vegas to win their respective conferences during the 2017-18 season. Golden State is the favorite at 2/3 to win the title with Cleveland next at 3/1. The Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs are well behind at 12/1.
NBA and network execs got the Finals they wanted, but none of the games came down to the wire outside of Game 3. It concluded a dud of an NBA playoff where five of the 15 series ended in a sweep and three others lasted five games. Only two went the max seven games.