For the past six years, basketball has accounted for around 30% of money bet on sports in the United States, which translates to billions of dollars in revenue. In 2017 alone, the money wagered on basketball was more than double what was bet in 2011. For most NBA and NCAA fans this is a strong indication of the love for basketball North Americans share.
But for certain teams, like, say, the New York Knicks, these data points are likely a sore spot, with few bets placed in their honor. Still, it should be noted that everyone loves an underdog. For the Knicks, they’ve been treading the line between underdog and ‘hopeless venture’ for decades. Their last win, a 2013 division title, won’t be enough to sustain fans in New York City, especially considering the rise of the Brooklyn Nets.
However, Knicks fans are loyal. The team has never left its home in New York City, and the team’s performance in the 1970s is unforgettable. To this day, fans show up for games—albeit some wear paper bags over their heads out of embarrassment. If the projected 6.03 billion dollars to be bet on sports in 2023 is going to be placed on the Knickerbockers taking a championship, they need to start striking down multiple Goliaths—and quick.
However, NBA pundits may look at the recent rise of the LA Clippers as a silver-lining for Knicks fans about to go over the edge. What was formerly a hopeless franchise since its inception in 1970 may now peak at the 2020 NBA championship.
But diehard fans for both teams know the facts: the Knicks have lost more games than any other team this century, and the Clippers have never won an NBA championship. In Nevada sportsbooks alone, 500 million dollars are bet on sports in a single given month, which begs the question why basketball fans wager on the underdog—though it may be more important to consider how. By consulting expert analysis before placing a bet on an NBA team, fans have access to important stats that inform the odds of an underdog team like the Clippers or the Knicks, ranked 3rd and 13th respectively, taking the championship.
The Clippers: West Coast Team-in-Waiting
The days of East Coast and West Coast basketball rivalries may have passed due to the decline of the Knicks and Celtics play. The rise of the Golden State Warriors and the ongoing domination of the Lakers are also contributions, though the debate between styles of play continues. In the past, entire teams fueled the rivalry between East Coast and West Coast, though today people are apt to judge and critique the style of play of an individual athlete based on their origin.
In general, the East Coast has more massive urban centers, which means there is less access to public basketball courts. For East Coasters that find a spot to play, there are more people and less space, which produces players with better technical skills in close quarters. On the West Coast, there is more space, and players can develop their shooting skills more easily.
However, any NBA fan knows that star athletes rarely remain in their hometown to become the star of their associated NBA team. In fact, such a thing is a rarity. But, for all-stars of the Clippers 2019-20 season, small forwards Paul George (from Palmdale) and Kawhi Leonard (from Riverside) are close to home—and close to victory for their team.
Much like the Knicks on the other side of the country, the Clippers haven’t performed well since taking a division title in 2014. But, unlike the Knicks, they have no championship or conference titles to back their recent failures up. However, since the Clippers acquired Kawhi and George in 2019, the team has become a strong contender in the Western Conference and, for the first time in the team’s history, are ranked high in title odds. Kawhi especially is a player to watch, who recently helped take the Toronto Raptors to their first championship win in 2019 and who won the finals’ Most Valuable Player award.
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