sports gazette

Five Things We Learned from Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Published: 2 Jun 2017

In the highly-anticipated opening game of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors routed the Cavaliers 113-91. Here are five things we learned from Game One.

1. The NBA is dominating the NFL internationally

Despite record-breaking Super Bowl ratings, despite the 18 NFL regular season games being held outside of the United States, in both Mexico and the United Kingdom, and despite talk of a possible London NFL franchise, as google trends shows, outside of the United States; NBA is king.

The NBA talent boom in recent years has played a big part, establishing a significant advantage over the NFL in terms of globally recognisable superstars.

In the ESPN Fame 100 list just published, which uses a formula based on endorsements, social media following and Google trends scores.  13 NBA players found themselves on the list, compared to just 8 for the NFL.

Five of those names - LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Dwyane Wade, James Harden - made their way into the Top 30, and the only NFL player that can say the same? Tom Brady. Ranked 21st.

As Kevin Seifert at ESPN wrote, the NFL still dominates in the United States, but it lacks widespread appeal on the international stage.

He said: "Football is king in America, but fans around the world are more likely to identify with top stars in soccer, the NBA, cricket, track and field, golf, tennis and even MMA."

Analysing Google Trends further, the global disparity between the two sports becomes increasingly obvious.

The NBA, which is clearly dominating interest at a time when its just started one of the most anticipated NBA Finals of all-time, whilst the NFL is in its off-season, is generating significantly more attention throughout the year.

During the Christmas holiday period, a point at which both the NFL and NBA are in full-swing, the NBA is dominating. 

Undoubtedly interest was spiked by the NBA's five-game slate on Christmas day, but at that same time, the NFL was building up momentum heading into the playoffs.

As Bill Simmons said on a recent podcast: "They [The NFL] don’t want their players to be individuals, and it’s one of the reasons that people don’t really feel a connection with the NFL. They connect with their teams, but they don’t like the league."

Looking at interest in the NBA in just the past week, the United States only places fifth in terms of interest by region, behind the Phillipines, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Taiwan. 

Football is king in America, but fans around the world are more likely to identify with top stars in soccer, the NBA, cricket, track and field, golf, tennis and even MMA.

What was interest like in the week leading up to the Super Bowl? Dominated by the United States.

It placed first, with countries such as Canada, Australia, Mexico and Germany trailing behind with less than half the google index score.

The NBA, with its wealth of young stars is inspiring a younger generation of fans, and with the NBA Finals in full-swing, global interest is only going to get stronger.

2. Kevin Durant announces his arrival

Any doubts remaining about Kevin Durant's decision to abandon the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Warriors were eradicated last night, as Durant led the way in the Warriors' dominant victory. Durant was under severe pressure with the majority of the talk heading into the season, criticising Durant for his decision to switch allegiance to a roster that was already heavily stacked. Durant scored 38, and added eight rebounds and eight assists to put all of those douubts to rest. Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors may be here to stay, for a very long time.

3. The Golden State Warriors are exactly who we thought they were

As soon as Kevin Durant announced his decision to sign for the Golden State Warriors in free agency, everyone declared the 2016-17 season over. It was an inevitability that we would have the third part of the Cavaliers-Warriors finals trilogy, and it was inevitable that the Warriors would win this time. They may have been right. With Durant's arrival, the Warriors aren't only afforded the luxury of having four of the best 12 players in the league on their roster, it also means they can have either Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant on the court for 48 minutes. In game one, it proved too much for the Cavaliers. The Warriors' offence was unstoppable, and their swarming defence affected the Cavaliers offence on every shot. People will suggest that the Cavaliers 34% shooting percentage was a result of sloppy offence, but really, the Warriors forced them into bad shots, and it is difficult to see how that won't be replicated for the remainder of the series.

4. Turnovers the key for the Cavaliers

There are, of course, areas which the Cavaliers can address. The disastrous defence is clearly a major problem, but the 20 turnovers committed by the Cavs might be even more alarming. The Cavaliers commited an astonishing 12 turnovers in the first half alone, with 7 of those coming from LeBron James. This was due, in part, to Golden State's defence, but this needs balancing out if LeBron wants to have any shot at a fourth ring this year.

5. Kevin Durant may have started a feud

Durant didn't realise (or care), but he may have inadvertently started a feud with pop star Rihanna, and Steph Curry had some pretty good advice for him.

Roll on Game Two.

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