Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five NBA predictions that ended up being way off.
Here it is, the first Friday Five of 2020! It’s been a while since I’ve covered a topic related to the real NBA rather than the virtual hardwood, so I thought that I’d tip off the year (and decade) with a change of pace. Don’t worry, I’ve still got plenty of topics related to basketball video games that I’ll be covering in my features, but this week, I’d like to talk about NBA predictions. After all, we’re rapidly approaching the midway point of the 2020 season, and we’re starting to get a clearer picture of the top teams and how they stack up against one another.
It’s as good a time as any to start throwing out some midseason predictions, but keep in mind that there’s a lot of basketball left to play. A lot can change very quickly in the NBA, and while we can make educated guesses in our picks, a seemingly likely outcome can be denied by a twist of fate. At the same time, some people – including supposed expert analysts – will make wild predictions. Some may be trying to get ahead of the curve by expecting the unexpected, while others are relying on sources that are less than reliable. Whatever the case may be, we’ve seen some bold and crazy predictions over the years, with these five examples turning out to be quite wrong.
1. Jalen Rose: LeBron James & Chris Bosh to the Knicks
Former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose clearly considers himself an authority on the inner workings of the NBA. That’s not to say he has no knowledge of the sport or the league, but he likes to make bold claims, such as the time he insisted that Michael Jordan’s famous “Flu Game” was actually the result of MJ nursing a killer hangover rather than the flu. Considering that the official story has always been that His Airness was suffering from food poisoning and his symptoms line up with that – the description of them as “flu-like” has just led to the aforementioned moniker sticking – it seems like Rose was making it up, or repeating a rumour for attention.
It wouldn’t be the first time. Five years earlier in 2008, Rose looked directly into the camera on ESPN and confidently declared that LeBron James would be leaving Cleveland and Chris Bosh would be leaving Toronto…to join the New York Knicks. Well, he was right about them leaving and planning on playing together, but needless to say, his sources were way off when it came to the destination! Look, we’ve all made incorrect predictions when it comes to free agency, but it’s Rose’s confidence bordering on smugness that makes it so funny in retrospect. Given that we now know Miami was always the plan, he either received some bad info, or was just guessing.
2. Jalen Rose Again: Michael Jordan Returns at 50
Jalen Rose and Bold Predictions: name a more iconic duo! (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce). Undeterred by his wide-of-the-mark proclamation in 2008, and just a few months after he floated the idea of the “Hangover Game”, Rose suggested that Michael Jordan would suit up and play at least one game for the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2013-2014 season. In discussing the prediction, many noted that MJ himself had alluded to never saying never about playing in the NBA at 50, an age he reached in February of 2013. Obviously that didn’t happen in 2014 or any season since, nor has there been any further talk of a third comeback for the legendary six-time champion.
The suggestion was always an absurd one. As an owner, MJ isn’t permitted to play for Charlotte or anyone else. He could sell his stake in the team, much as he transferred his share in the Wizards to his first wife during his stint with the team, but given that he’s a majority owner now, it wouldn’t be nearly as simple to do. Considering the rule preventing it, not to mention that MJ supposedly regrets making that comeback with the Wizards, it stands out as an odd prediction. It’s possible that Rose was just joking and throwing out a crazy suggestion for levity as he and Bill Simmons discussed their predictions, but even so, it’s not a very well thought out one, given the circumstances.
3. Nick Wright’s Fanboy Predictions
Professional LeBron James fanboy Nick Wright – I’m not affording him the dignity of calling him an analyst or even a talking head – earns what I’m sure is a comfortable living by blurting out nonsensical rhetoric. In his continued efforts to dump on the career of Michael Jordan and lavish praise upon LeBron James, he’s been known to cherry-pick stats, and even flat out lie. I’m convinced that MJ must have snubbed him for an interview or autograph at some point, because he’s way too invested in bashing him. Some say it’s just an act, which it may be. If so, he’s still sacrificing credibility to contribute to the watering down of basketball discourse, and shame on him for that.
Naturally, his LeBron bias has led him to make some predictions that were way off. In December 2016, Wright declared that there was no way that the Warriors would beat the Cavaliers in the 2017 Finals. The teams would indeed meet in the Finals that year, with the Warriors prevailing in five games. To his credit, he didn’t pick them in 2018, a series that Golden State swept. He then went on to predict the Lakers would win 50 games in 2019, suggesting that a LeBron-led team could never win fewer than that (despite three of his Cavs teams indeed doing so). Sure, LeBron missed 27 games, but Wright still has to eat his words there, the same as with his other fanboy predictions.
4. Stephen A. Smith’s NBA Finals Predictions
When it comes to bold predictions and outlandish statements, analyst Stephen A. Smith has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind and going against the consensus if he disagrees with it. That can be an admirable trait, but when it comes to his predictions for the NBA Finals, it’s put him on the wrong side of history year after year for more than half a decade. From 2010 through 2016, the team he picked to win it all at the beginning of the NBA Finals ended up losing the series. Stephen A. did originally pick the Cavs to win it all in March 2017, but perhaps mindful of his streak, ultimately predicted a Warriors victory when the NBA Finals actually rolled around.
That proved to be the right call, since as previously mentioned, the Warriors did take home the Larry O’Brien trophy that year. He also correctly picked them to win in 2018, though he also suggested that the Cavaliers would win one game due to the presence of LeBron (once again, they were swept). Third time wouldn’t be the charm for Stephen A. Smith’s predictions however, as he picked the Warriors to threepeat in 2019, only for the Toronto Raptors to win their first NBA Championship. For those keeping score at home, that’s eight incorrect predictions on the decade, including the first seven in a row. Bottom line, if Stephen A. picks your team to win: be worried!
5. Most of My Predictions for the 2016 Season
Since I’ve mocked some erroneous predictions of former players and well-known members of the media, it’s only fair that I put my hand up and admit to making my own predictions that were wide of the mark. Before the 2016 season, I wrote a Friday Five column detailing my predictions for the upcoming campaign. I revisited those predictions at the season’s midway point in February, and then tallied up my score in June. My predictions were that the changes to seeding wouldn’t matter, the East would balance out somewhat, Anthony Davis would win the MVP, the Clippers were primed for a deep run, and that the Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins wouldn’t be broken.
Where to begin? Well, the East improved, but was still easily the weaker of the two conferences. I was right in that progress was made, but it wasn’t much. The changes to seeding didn’t really matter in the end, which didn’t mean they were a bad idea, but the impact was negligible. I was way off on everything else. Stephen Curry was the unanimous MVP that year, while Davis didn’t have a standout season. The Clippers were bounced in the first round, and the Warriors won 73 games. I’ll admit that last prediction was mostly wishful thinking on my part, out of a desire to see the Bulls hold onto the record. With that being said, 72-10 still does have a better ring to it…
Do you remember these predictions? What are some of the boldest predictions that you’ve made that turned out to be way off? Let me know in the comments section below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.