Panthers' NBA Finals predictions

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It's a matchup almost anyone who follows basketball has been anticipating since before the season even started.

The wait finally ends Thursday night.

Cavaliers vs. Warriors.

For the first time in history, the same two teams will battle in the NBA Finals for the third consecutive summer.

LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry.

In one corner, you have James, a three-time NBA MVP who last June brought a trophy back to his long-suffering hometown.

In the other corner, it's a two-time MVP who still obsesses about his hometown football team.

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After months of buildup following the Warriors' offseason addition of superstar Kevin Durant, it seems like everyone has an opinion going into the series. And you could hear plenty of those opinions inside the Panthers locker room this week.

Now, if you took a poll of that locker room, you'd think Curry's football fandom would be reciprocated by his peers. Take defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, for example:

"I've got to support Steph since he supports the Panthers."

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Plus, NBA legend Jerry West, a Warriors executive who helped build the team that's won three straight Western Conference title, has ties to the Panthers and owner Jerry Richardson.

So predictions like, "Warriors, duh," from running back Jonathan Stewart, weren't at all surprising.

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But it's not that simple for guys with multiple alliances. Like linebacker Thomas Davis, whose appreciation of Curry is outweighed by a deeper admiration for James.

"I'm a Cavs fan," Davis said.

Some Panthers like quarterback Cam Newton and defensive end Julius Peppers didn't want to put their picks "in print." Others rebelled with teams whose seasons ended much earlier this spring. And one didn't even want to stick to the same sport.

"Pens," answered center and Pittsburgh native Gino Gradkowski, whose Penguins are playing for their fifth Stanley Cup.

But over a two-day period, 78 players and head coach Ron Rivera revealed their picks in a poll that's more about who they think will win versus who they want to win.

The consensus?

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"Sheesh, I'm from Ohio. Cavs. I've got to go with my hometown roots," said safety Kurt Coleman, echoing sentiment shared by linebacker Luke Kuechly and guard Andrew Norwell.

"It's going to go seven, though. It's going to be a great series. This is what you look for. This is like Celtics-Lakers. It's everything that you want in the Finals."

Other Opinions

  • Receiver Kelvin Benjamin: "I'm going to go with the Warriors because I'm a big (Kevin Durant) fan."
  • Cornerback James Bradberry: "I want LeBron to get it, but the Warriors are too stacked. It's going to go seven, no doubt."
  • Receiver Devin Funchess: "I've got the Cavs in six. Kyrie (Irving) and Kevin Love, but the darkhorse is Kyle Korver."
  • Defensive end Charles Johnson: "Team Curry in five. And after Curry wins, we start a petition for him to come back to Charlotte."
  • Tackle Matt Kalil: "Warriors. I don't know how you beat them. LeBron has to play perfect every game. Yeah, they blew a 3-1 lead last year, but Draymond (Green) was out (in Game 6) and now they have Durant. So they're even better."
  • Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn: "C'mon, man. LeBron James."
  • Linebacker Shaq Thompson: "I'm going with the Warriors. I'm from California. Of course the Cavs have LeBron James, but the Warriors have been strong throughout the playoffs. They just have to make sure Draymond stays hot, and I think they'll pull it out."
  • Quarterback Joe Webb: "Warriors. I've been a Curry fan ever since he was at Davidson."

PANTHERS NBA FINALS PREDICTIONS
Cavaliers
WarriorsOthers
FB Alex ArmahS Mike Adams
DE Mario Addison (abstained)
RB Cameron Artis-PayneQB Derek AndersonWR Brenton Bersin (Hornets)
LB Ben BoulwareWR Kelvin BenjaminT Blaine Clausell (Knicks)
CB James BradberryLB Zeek Bigger
C Gino Gradkowski (Penguins)
K Harrison ButkerS Brian Blechen
C Ryan Kalil (abstained)
DE Vernon ButlerLB Jeremy CashRB Christian McCaffrey (n/a)
WR Damiere ByrdWR Kaelin Clay
QB Cam Newton (abstained)
S Kurt ColemanTE Ed Dickson
T Michael Oher (n/a)
DE Bryan Cox
WR Austin Duke
TE Greg Olsen (abstained)
DT Eric CrumeCB Corn ElderDE Julius Peppers (abstained)
LB Thomas DavisWR Mose FrazierG Chris Scott (abstained)
DE Ryan DelaireK Graham Gano
RB Fozzy Whittaker (Rockets)
S Travell DixonQB Garrett Gilbert

T Dan FranceLB Ben Jacobs
WR Devin FunchessLS J.J. Jansen
WR Keyarris GarrettDE Charles Johnson
DE Daeshon HallS Colin Jones
DE Wes HortonT Matt Kalil
TE Wyatt HoustonP Andy Lee
WR Charles JohnsonDT Star Lotulelei
DT Toby JohnsonDT Gabriel Mass
LB Luke KuechlyLB David Mayo
C Tyler LarsenLB Jared Norris
DT Kyle LoveWR Fred Ross
CB Cole LukeWR Russell Shepard
TE Chris ManhertzDT Kawann Short
S Dean MarloweG Amini Silatolu
S L.J. McCrayRB Jalen Simmons
DE Zach MooreRB Jonathan Stewart
T Taylor MotonLB Shaq Thompson
CB Captain MunnerlynG Trai Turner
G Andrew NorwellQB Joe Webb
P Michael PalardyT Daryl Williams
CB Jeff RichardsG David Yankey
WR Curtis SamuelHead Coach Ron Rivera
CB Zack Sanchez
TE Scott Simonson
S Dezmen Southward
T Tyrus Thompson
TE Eric Wallace
DE Larry Webster
CB Teddy Williams
CB Daryl Worley
FB Darrel Young

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