A newbie’s guide to understanding the NBA finals

art by Gianne Encarnacion

Whether we love or hate basketball, it’s not going away anytime soon. At some point this week our friends are going to want to watch the NBA Finals instead of that cool new Netflix show we’d rather check out. For friendship we will acquiesce, and watch chiselled grown men fling orange balls into small hoops.

We will attempt to find out who LeBron James is, and why people are so mad at him. We will struggle to distinguish between “three-pointers” and “three-second violations,” and wonder why “travelling” refers to something other than the pursuit of cute Sunnies burn books and lush beaches. It’s gonna be a rough couple of days.

But as always, we’ve got you covered. Presented below are a couple of tips and tricks we’ve gathered to help you make the most out of the rest of your NBA Finals viewing experience.

Tip #1: Spot Beyoncé

You better bet she’s gonna be there.

See the thing is, sporting events such as the NBA Finals serve as meet-and-greets for famous celebrities, and a rare chance for us mere mortals to get glimpses of them outside of the personas they concoct for themselves on TV or wherever else. Keeping count of the number of famous people you see panned to on the screen can’t hurt.

It also helps that quite a few Hollywood A-listers have prominent friendships with a couple of NBA players. Jay-Z and the aforementioned Beyonce get along quite well with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James. Maybe even a little too well, in Beyonce’s case.  

My personal bonus tip for this section is to keep your eyes peeled as well for Rihanna, who was spotted catching Game 1 of the Finals, getting into a bit of a heated back and forth with Warriors star Kevin Durant, and dabbing at rival fans.

Tip #2: Check out the pregame outfits

The NBA’s got some strange rules: one of them being that technically, the league instructs players to keep to a relatively strict dress code. They mostly come to NBA games in business casual, though this is loosely interpreted by a number of players. This usually gives rise to a number of hits and misses in the fashion department, some of the most notable of which you can see for yourself here, here, and here. There is also an NBA fashion Pinterest board, for those of you interested. I don’t even know why this exists, to be honest, but expect the Finals to contain more of the same, especially with players trying to put their best foot forward on the arguably the league’s biggest stage. Who knows? You might even (shudder) find some inspiration for your own getups.

Tip #3: Heckle and redesign team logos and jerseys

Talking trash is essentially to the enjoyment of every sporting event. Players do it. Fans go at it. We should too. Maybe not at the players though, since they’re doing their best and we can’t really get at what they’re doing wrong. Logos on the other hand are perfect, since the league has such a vast history of ugly team jersey designs and logos, and it’s not like your friends are going to be too inclined to take offense at your barbs on the improper application of colour theory. Also because for the love of all good things, someone needs to retire the sleeved basketball jersey and update the Cleveland Cavaliers’ logo.

While we’re at it, I’d also suggest taking a peek as well at players’ signature sneakers. The Nike LeBron 14’s are currently out to highly positive reviews, but generally do not translate well as leisurewear. Same goes for Warriors star Steph Curry’s rather “meh” line of Under Armour sneakers. Shout out as well to whatever the heck this is.

Tip #4: Brush up on your math (and maybe shock a friend or two)

Regardless of the games we play, one thing remains certain: the numbers, when we mine them, often don’t lie. Basketball, as much as it is a game of complex rules and awe-inspiring feats of athleticism, can still be understood through a never-ending trove of percentages and averages. The team with better scoring percentages and averages win.

So get with the stats, and follow the numbers. It’s what makes sports fun for many of us, believe it or not. Sports stats allows us to predict the future and turn heads. So take notice when commentators start commenting on how the Golden State Warriors currently lead the league in points scored per game. It might finally get your snobby friend to shut up. Your knowledge may even win you a little extra, if you catch my drift.

Tip #5: Witness and create history

Fun and games aside, what makes the NBA compelling isn’t necessarily the games, but the stories behind them. Every player that steps on that court has gone to great lengths to get where they are, which alone should make watching them duke it out on basketball’s biggest stage all the more intriguing. Whether it be LeBron’s emotional return home to Cleveland despite greater opportunities elsewhere, or Draymond Green’s rise from pudgy collegiate afterthought to NBA All Star, the point is that each game brings forth a myriad of stories and characters, with the Finals as its climax, so to speak. Reputations are both made and sullied. Legends are born.

So regardless of your affinity for all things basketball, I implore you to hear these stories out. Listen well enough, and I guarantee that there will be a narrative you will heed long after the buzzer has sounded. And if not, no worries. We’ve still got the Netflix shows and K-Drama apps, so head on down.

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