The 2017 NBA Finals marks the third straight time the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will tip off for the NBA crown. It’s also the first time the same two teams have faced off for the title in 3 consecutive years. The Cavaliers came back from a daunting 3-1 deficit in 2016 to vanquish the Warriors in 7 games, preventing the Warriors from repeating as champs and beginning a mini-dynasty. When the two teams meet in the latest entry of their unique rivalry, it’ll be the rubber match.
Rubber match is a familiar term to sports fans, especially those who have spent any time playing pick-up games themselves in playgrounds. There,”let’s play a rubber” is commonly used to compel a deciding game when each team has won an equal number. But the phrase “rubber match” probably originates a long way from the asphalt of America’s hoop dreams — with English lawn bowling (you read that right). There’s also the more intuitive notion that a rubber stretches or elongates a series, thus acting much like the substance we call rubber. Of course it could also be Shakespeare’s doing, like so much of our language is. It’s not hard to imagine a worn-out opponent stuck in a tie who, told he has to play another match to settle the superiority score, says, “Ay, there’s the rub.” Of course, just before Hamlet says “there’s the rub” he says “perchance to dream” — which is how every player on the NBA court got there in the first place, following a dream. Steph Curry, LeBron James — rubber time, let’s bounce.