Another year, another NBA Finals appearance for LeBron James. More specifically, it’s another NBA Finals appearance in which James’s team is an underdog, this time a heavy one.
According to the Westgate sportsbook in Las Vegas, the Cleveland Cavaliers are +650 money line underdogs (bet $100 to win $650) against the Golden State Warriors this year, the longest odds one of James’s teams has faced in his nine NBA Finals appearances. The previous high was his first Finals trip in 2007, when James’s Cavaliers were +350 underdogs against the San Antonio Spurs, who swept Cleveland in four games. In his nine trips to the NBA Finals, James’s teams have opened as favorites only twice: The Miami Heat was a -220 favorite to win in 2013, and it did, while Miami entered the 2011 Finals as a -175 favorite, losing to the Dallas Mavericks in six games.
Overall, James’s teams are 3-5 in the NBA Finals.
The Warriors are listed as -1000 money line favorites to beat the Cavs in their fourth straight Finals meeting (bet $1,000 to win $100), which equates to an implied probability of around 91 percent. Golden State is the biggest NBA Finals favorite in at least the last 16 years, per historical data compiled by SportsOddsHistory.com. The previous high over that span was in 2002, when the Los Angeles Lakers opened as -750 favorites against the New Jersey Nets (Los Angeles won in a sweep).
Golden State also is a 12-point favorite in Thursday’s Game 1. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that ties Game 1 between the Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers in 2001 as the biggest point spread in an NBA Finals game over the last 25 years (underdog Philly scored a six-point upset win in overtime, its only victory of the series). The Action Network says it’ll be the fifth time that James’s team has been a double-digit playoff underdog; his team covered the spread in three of the previous four but won only one of those games outright.
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