Before I get to my NBA Finals prediction (and ask you for yours), I want to tell a not-unrelated story...
I associate the NBA Finals with what, quite possibly, was one of the worst predictions in the history of sports-TV punditry.
In 2004, I enjoyed a brief yet brilliant career on Around The Horn. Some of you might even remember when I was on the show. (Yes, I still plan to put my highlight reel -- um, "highlight" reel -- on YouTube at some point, which will be tons of amusement for everyone.)
On one of my appearances (06/02/04 episode) the topic on the table was "Who will win the NBA Finals?" Pretty standard sports-TV debate fodder: Lakers or Pistons, and in how many games?
Let me pull back the curtain a smidgen: In the pre-production meeting, we went "around" the panelist group to determine everyone's angle on that topic (and all of the others) for the show.
As the rookie, everyone declared their take before me. Like a nightmare fantasy draft, I watched all the "good" picks get taken:
Lakers in 7... Lakers in 6... Lakers in 5...
I knew I couldn't "repeat" a pick, because that would make for bad TV. I certainly couldn't ask one of the other panelists to give up their pick so that I could use it. And, like all of my esteemed "expert" colleagues, I wasn't about to stupidly say the Pistons would win. So, instead, I blurted:
"Lakers in 4."
It felt like I was outside my body, watching some idiot. Did I really believe that? Or did I just SAY I believed it? Was I making the bold claim simply to... make the bold claim? I'm sure you are shocked that sports-TV pundits might say wild things just for the sake of their wildness.
(Believe it or not, in the Quickie, I sincerely tried only to post opinions that I actually believed in -- or COULD believe in, given the half-baked nature of most of my arguments -- not just for the sake of saying something provocative. Being on TV turned me into my Mr. Hyde.)
And so through the rest of the morning, I worked out my argument, right up until the show taping. I got on the air and proclaimed it, not quite faking confidence -- but not quite exuding it. (Believe me: I was doing enough schvitzing as it was.)
In writing this post, I sincerely intended to go back to the tape and transcribe my argument, but I simply can't bring myself to watch it. I don't have THAT much self-loathing.
Anyway, I defended "Lakers sweep." I figured: If nothing else, it was bold. And isn't that what they're looking for to make "good" TV?
Again, in hindsight, I'm not quite sure why I didn't think it was provocative enough simply to pick the Pistons when everyone else was picking the Lakers.
Believe it or not, I maintained the sincere belief that there was a better chance of the Lakers sweeping than the Pistons winning at all. After all, none of the other panelists gave the Pistons a chance, either.
And so, even as I bankrupted my soul to say something I didn't believe (sweep) for the sake of my interpretation of "good" TV, I still maintained the kernel of integrity to want to get the overall pick right (Lakers).
I'd like to think that sports' governing karmic forces were tracking my muddled morality and decided to screw me as substantially as possible:
Not only did the Lakers not sweep, they didn't even win the series. Hell, they barely came away with a single win in a shocking 4-1 shellacking at the hands of your 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons.
In hindsight, the smart play would have been to pick the Pistons AT ALL. Given the other panelists' predictions for
I wanted to be good on TV. I wanted to be right.
It turns out those two things aren't necessarily compatible.
From "Lakers in 4" surreality to Pistons-in-5 reality, I can say without hyperbole that it ranks right up there in the history of sports punditry as one of the...
Worst. Predictions. Ever.
(Comment Question: Do any of you remember making an outrageously bad prediction? What was it and why do you still remember it?)
Meanwhile, have I learned anything? Well, with all 8 possible Finals outcomes to choose from and without the likes of Woody Paige or Jay Mariotti or Bill Plaschke boxing me in, here's where I come down on the 2007 NBA Finals:
Spurs in 5.
I waffle back and forth on how I feel about LeBron, I would like to see him lead the Cavs to a title in this Finals. But this Cavs team isn't constructed like that type of "shock the world" 2004 Pistons team. These Cavs are more like that 2001 Sixers team: One brilliant player surrounded by mediocrity, on a wonderful run together.
And, in the same way that Sixers team had no answer for Shaq, this Cavs team has no answer for Tim Duncan.
The NBA's "LeBron Era" must wait; the NBA's "Duncan Dynasty" continues: Spurs in 5.
Feel free to add in your own NBA Finals prediction in the Comments.