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Behold LeBron’s 8 Straight NBA Finals: A 100-1 Longshot Come to Life

May 31, 2018 5:50 PM EDT

The Highlights

  • The likelihood of LeBron James making eight straight NBA Finals was just 0.91% — or in gambling terms, +10,889.
  • How many Finals he’ll see throughout the rest of his career depends on where he plays, how other teams progress and how he ages.
  • Several Action Network analysts worked on a simulation to post a line on how many Finals LeBron should expect to see in the rest of his career. Read below to view the odds.

LeBron James has made it to the NBA Finals eight straight years. The last time he wasn’t in the Finals was in 2010, when Kobe Bryant defeated Boston’s Big 3 for his fifth and final title. Yes, the last time LeBron wasn’t in the Finals, “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha and “California Gurls” by Katy Perry were the top songs in the world, Harry Potter movies were still going in theaters, and flash mobs were the rage on social media. Or, if you want a basketball example, Jayson Tatum was in the sixth grade.

It’s been awhile.

This is crazy stuff, so, naturally, our first question was: What were the odds of this happening?

 

How Unlikely Was LeBron’s Run?

It’s a bit tough to peg just how unlikely his run has been, but we can use historical odds of LeBron’s teams before the season to estimate what his chances would have been to make eight straight Finals. According to the calculations of our in-house oddsmaker Sean Koerner, LeBron’s odds of making the Finals eight straight years was just 0.91% — or, in gambling terms, +10,889. That’s pretty darn impressive.

One interesting question we’ve been discussing internally here at The Action Network is how many NBA Finals appearances we might expect from LeBron throughout the rest of his career. There are many uncertain factors that go into that, of course:

  • Where will he play? As of Tuesday, the Philadelphia 76ers were the favorite in the betting market to land him at +150. Does that change with the crazy Bryan Colangelo scandal? The Cavaliers will certainly do everything in their power to keep him, but LeBron will have his pick of multiple interesting destinations, including Philly, Houston and even Los Angeles.
  • Will he be in the Western or Eastern Conference? Again, where he plays matters a whole lot. The Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors led the NBA with Net Ratings of +8.5 and +8.0 points, respectively. They’re coming off 65- and 58-win seasons, and they are very unlikely to regress. LeBron’s best bet is still through the East, even with some of the young teams looking very promising.
  • How fast will the Celtics, 76ers and Bucks be ready for contention? It seems the Celtics are ready right now, and there’s very little chance for LeBron to go there. They’re certainly the team he’ll have to contend with in the East, although they are still less scary than the two juggernauts out West. With Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returning, Philadelphia adding more talent in this draft and Giannis Antetokounmpo looking like a future MVP, LeBron will have challengers for his Eastern King title.
  • How will LeBron age? He seems to be a cyborg, and it’s hard to dispute that he’s the best 33-year-old basketball player ever. He hasn’t dipped much, but Father Time, as we know, is always undefeated. When does it come for him? And when will he let go?

Our Odds on LeBron’s Rest-Of-Career Finals Appearances

Despite how uncertain the future is, we did our best to set odds and simulate the rest of LeBron’s career. A variety of Action Network analysts predicted series lines for the conference finals through 2026-27 (LeBron’s age-42 season) and the likelihood of any one season being his last in the league. Using that data, Koerner crunched some numbers and set the following line on LeBron’s rest-of-career Finals appearances:

Over 2.5 (+135)
Under 2.5 (-155)

And just because we thought it was interesting, here’s the probability distribution on which season might be LeBron’s last:

What do you think? Are you taking the over or under on 2.5 Finals appearances left for LeBron? Let us know at @ActionNetworkHQ.


More NBA Finals Coverage

Credit:

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: LeBron James

Follow Bryan Mears on Twitter
@bryan_mears

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