Champions Rebound

Champions rebound.

In the days and years to come, you are going to hear this quoted again and again, but remember folks, you heard it here at first.

In the past decade of NBA Finals match ups, the team with the most rebounds has always become the NBA’s champions.

I repeat: in the modern era, the team with the most rebounds in the NBA Finals has ALWAYS won the NBA Championship.

Check it out:

Winners Losers Rebound differential
2009 NBA Finals Lakers Magic Lakers +12
2008 NBA Finals Celtics Lakers Celtics +30
2007 NBA Finals Spurs Cavaliers Spurs +11
2006 NBA Finals Heat Mavericks Heat +12
2005 NBA Finals Spurs Pistons Spurs +5
2004 NBA Finals Pistons Lakers Pistons +40
2003 NBA Finals Spurs Nets Spurs +20
2002 NBA Finals Lakers Nets Lakers +20
2001 NBA Finals Lakers 76ers Lakers +12
2000 NBA Finals Lakers Pacers Lakers +1
1999 NBA Finals Spurs Knicks Spurs +12

Champions rebound.

Defense may win championships, but rebounding is the most consistent characteristic of NBA champions.

And that makes sense. After all, if you defend very well and force your opponent to put up bad shots, but fail to get possession of the ball, i.e. rebound, then your defense was pretty much for naught.

Let’s take a closer look at the closing moments of game 5 of the 2010 NBA Finals. The series is tied at 2 wins apiece, and the Lakers are visiting Boston.

With just 1:30 left in the game, it was starting to look as if the Boston Celtics could be headed for a fourth quarter collapse.  Ray Allen had just fouled Kobe Bryant beyond the arc, and Kobe sank all 3 free throws and had that look in his eye. Now the Lakers were down 5 points (87-82), the game was the closest it had been in the fourth quarter, and the game’s most lethal closer clearly believed this game was winnable.

The Lakers’ defense clamped down on the Celtics’ following possession and had Boston in trouble. With 1:07 left in the game and just 1 second left on the shot clock, Ray Allen launched a rushed 3 pointer as the shot clock expired.

The shot is a wild one and (make no mistake) the ball missed the rim entirely, however at game speed, the game officials weren’t sure and gathered to discuss it.

For some brainless reason, the NBA doesn’t allow officials to check the replay to get calls like this right, justifying it I’m sure on the basis that they don’t want to delay the game.

Meanwhile, the game *was* delayed, and while everyone waited on the officials to see if they could guess the right call without the aid of slow motion instant replay, the television audience at home was shown the play at least a half a dozen times from all sorts of angles.

“Celtics ball,” they decide.

Now here is where we separate the men from the boys.

If you were thinking that this bad call stole the Lakers’ opportunity to make it a 1 possession game, then you need to learn more about CHAMPIONSHIP basketball.

Had the Lakers grabbed this rebound instead of Kendrick Perkins, their destiny would have been in their own hands, and not in the hands of three fatigued NBA referees.

It is no coincidence that in ALL FIVE of the 2010 NBA Finals so far, the team with the most rebounds was also the winning team.

I repeat: in all 5 games, the team with the most rebounds won.

The Lakers may be the bigger team, but so far, the Celtics are playing with bigger hearts.

Rondo Boxes out Bynum

Take 6 foot 1 inch point guard Rajon Rondo for example. So far this series, Rondo has more rebounds than Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Kobe Bryant… in fact Rondo has personally out rebounded EVERY Laker except for Pau Gasol.

Likewise, both Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins have out rebounded every Laker except for Pau Gasol. I take that back: Garnett has tied Kobe Bryant in rebounds and out rebounded every other Laker but Gasol.

You get the point though.

Champions rebound, and I am DYING of curiosity to see who will rebound like champions in the remaining one or two games of the Finals.

  1. Tom7Tom707-23-2010

    By the way, and I’m sure everyone knows this, all 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals games ended up going to whichever team had the most rebounds.

    Champions rebound.

  2. ismael mendozaismael mendoza04-16-2011

    I was going to ask why you think this is the case for every winner since 1999 and not so much for many of the teams of the 90’s? What do you think has changed from the Bulls Dynasties( it was really two). Is it better defense? The resurgence of the big men( Duncun, Shaq, Ben Wallace’s D, KG post trade, Pau& Drew)? I’d like to read your take on it.

  3. Tom7Tom704-16-2011


    Great question!

    First, I should mention that when I did this rebounding research, out of laziness really, I decided in advance that I would only look back 10 years.

    I just figured that would tell me what I wanted to know.

    Then when I discovered that in all 10 of those years the championship went to the better rebounders, I decided to look back 1 more year. That’s why I write “in the last decade” when really it was an 11 year window.

    In other words, I did not look at the 90s, so maybe the championships were going to the better rebounders in the Bulls era too; I don’t know. I would like to know, but…

    The further we look back, the less relevant that research is, because the rule changes over the years made the game a bit different.

    For example, back when zone defenses were not allowed, and hand checking was… it was much easier for “Bigs” to dominate inside, and harder for guards.

    That’s not the case today. A zone can neutralize a Dwight Howard for example if he isn’t surrounded by outside shooters to keep the defense honest, so what won games back then might not apply today.

    Like you, I am curious and may go look someday to see how rebounds affected the game in the 1990s, but since the important research for winning today is the recent history, I may not.

  4. ismael mendozaismael mendoza06-03-2011

    Looks like the first 2 games of the 2011 NBA Finals are following the same script you mention in your article. For all the talk about bench points, turn overs, FG %, and so forth, it does seem that this years installment will not deviate from the trend starting in 1999.
    It’s funny, but I had to inform a nationally syndicated host of this solid stat. It’s surprising that not even “knowledgeable” radio talking heads knew of this. I went all the way back to Magic/Bird era to see if I could track any other key stat that would also be a prime indicator of the eventual Champion. There was some that won winning the boards and some that didn’t. But clearly, the 1999 Finals started something that every champion needs.
    Already Game 1 went to Miami ( winning +10) and Game 2 went to Dallas (+11). I would not put this past repeating the same formula that determined last year’s winner. Lets see what the middle 3 games can do for Dallas.
    Another indicator is who wins Game 3 when a series is tied at 1-1. Last 11 times this happened(all since 2-3-2 format) the game 3 winner took home the trophy. So strong is this indicator, the last time a team went down 1-2 after a Game 3 loss and still won the Championship was the 1984 Boston Celtics.
    That was 27 years ago.
    Maybe that streak will be broken. But I really doubt it.

  5. Tom7Tom706-11-2011


    Once again I thank you for your comments.

    I would like to make a very important distinction: I am not trying to find ways to predict who will win, I am trying to understand WHY and HOW teams win.

    It may seem subtle at first, but truly, there is a HUGE difference.

    I don’t think I’ve ever cared to predict who will win a series. What I always want to know is how teams win, so I can teach my teams I coach to win.

    I think I’ll write another blog on this topic when I can make the time. In the mean time, remember, I’ve not been saying that whomever gets the most rebounds wins the game, I’ve been observing that every Finals series winner also has more rebounds.

    In my next piece, I’ll try to get people thinking in terms of No Rebound = Turnover.

    In other words, there is another layer to this that I think will be interesting to explore.

  6. Larry BaldwinLarry Baldwin12-05-2012

    have you been able to do the research on this for the last couple years?

    • Tom7Tom712-05-2012

      Larry, I have not looked at the topic since the 2010 playoffs, but I should go
      back and see how things have played out. Thanks for the question.

  7. Tom7Tom712-05-2012

    I have not looked at the topic since the 2010 playoffs, but I should go back and see how things have played out. Thanks for the question.

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