As the world watches the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors face off in a historic third straight NBA Finals, the stars of the game will be shining brightly. This year’s Finals feature seven current NBA All-Stars, who comprise 70% of the projected Finals starters. With so many talented players on the floor, we wanted to know who America will be watching the closest.
Using Google search data from the past twelve months, we discovered which player in the NBA Finals is garnering the most interest in each state. Love them or hate them, these are the players your state wants to know more about.
As you can see from the map, the eyes of America will be on these five biggest stars in the series.
What better place to start than with last year’s Finals MVP? Despite being the biggest name in basketball, King James is the most searched player in only one state: Ohio. That’s not surprising, given James grew up in Akron, Ohio, and that Ohio is the home of his current team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. What is surprising, though, is the rest of the states are more interested in other players. Perhaps with this being James’s seventh straight Finals appearance and eighth appearance overall, people feel they have all been witnesses long enough to know everything they need to about The King.
From last year’s Finals MVP we move to last year’s regular season MVP: Stephen Curry. Curry ranked as the most searched player in eighteen states—that’s the second most of any player in the Finals, ranking just one state behind Draymond Green. Most of the interest in Curry comes from states in the South. This might be expected, as Curry hails from Charlotte, North Carolina. Only three states in the West had Curry as their most searched Finals player: Alaska, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Interestingly, none of these states have NBA teams of their own.
Draymond Green carried the most states in this search data for a total of nineteen. People all over the map want to know more about Draymond Green. This could be because to the casual basketball viewer, he’s likely the least known player among the top five we’ve listed here. Despite making himself into a star over the past few years, he first came into the league as a little-hyped, second-round pick.
The fact that Green garnered attention in his home state, Michigan, makes sense, but he also piqued the interest of states where his welcome may not be so warm. The tough defense and edgy play that make him a hero to Warriors fans often make him a villain to fans of opposing teams. Green is the most searched player in Oregon, Utah, and Texas, which makes sense considering the Warriors swept through the first three rounds of this year’s playoffs without losing a single game, knocking off the Portland Trailblazers, the Utah Jazz, and the San Antonio Spurs along the way. Green’s strong contributions in these series likely left NBA fans in these states asking themselves, “Who is this guy?” And they turned to Google for an answer.
With the Golden State Warriors hailing from the San Francisco area and being stacked with stars, we were curious to see who would claim the top spot among Google searches in California. That honor goes to Klay Thompson. Thompson is the top-searched Finals player in eleven states plus Washington, DC. His high level of interest from California makes a lot of sense. He’s from Los Angeles, where his father, Mychal Thompson, backed up Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on some legendary Lakers teams. Thompson played his college ball at Washington State and, naturally, is that state’s most searched player as well.
Possibly the most pivotal player in this year’s NBA Finals, Kevin Durant is the most searched player in only one state: Oklahoma. With his former team, Durant lost to LeBron James and the rest of the Miami Heat in the 2012 Finals. When he became a free agent last summer, he joined James’s latest victims, the Golden State Warriors. In doing so, he broke the hearts of the fans of his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Out of spite or support, the people in Oklahoma clearly still feel a strong interest in Durant.
Whether they’re searching for him by name or not, every NBA fan wants to see if the addition of Durant will be enough to push the Warriors past the Cavaliers in this year’s 2017 NBA Finals.
Too Much Talent
With the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers having split the two previous titles, the 2017 clash of these juggernauts should make for an entertaining third act. Adding to that intrigue is the staggering collection of talent these teams have compiled.
Combined, these teams have eleven players with at least one NBA All-Star appearance: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kyle Korver, Kevin Love, Klay Thompson, David West, and Deron Williams—that’s more than a third of the total rosters. The players in this matchup have made a total of forty-five NBA All-Star appearances, won seven of the last eight league MVPs, four of the last five NBA Finals MVPs, and four NBA All-Star game MVPs.
Curiously, none of these players made the list of finalists for this year’s league MVP. Of the three players that did make the list—James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Russell Westbrook—Leonard was the only one to get past the second round of the NBA Playoffs. His San Antonio Spurs lost to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
Which player are you most excited to watch during the NBA Finals? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to share this map with your friends so they can weigh in on the conversation.