In July 2021, several news outlets and social media posts reported that a Wisconsin man had correctly predicted the 2021 NBA Finals line-up of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns — five years earlier.
For example, WTMJ, a Milwaukee NBC affiliate, reported that:
The Bucks are playing for their first championship in 50 years. The Phoenix Suns have never won an NBA title. So who would have predicted this NBA Finals match-up? Jarrett Plahmer did. The UW-Madison student sent out this prediction all the way back in 2016: “2021 NBA finals Bucks vs Suns game 7 Bucks win 123-115.”
Plahmer’s tweet was entirely authentic, and his five-year-old prediction was real. We are therefore issuing a rating of “True.”
Plahmer posted the prediction to Twitter on November 3, 2016. An archived version of his tweet can be found here.
Twitter has in the past confirmed for Snopes that it is not possible for users to edit or change the timestamp on a tweet, so Plahmer’s prediction most certainly came in November 2016.
In some senses, Plahmer’s prediction is remarkable. Firstly, setting aside the relative strength and quality of the teams, their past records, and so on, the basic probability of correctly predicting the two finalists in any given year is one in 225, or 0.44% (since there are 15 teams in the Eastern conference, and 15 in the Western, and one finalist must come from each conference).
Furthermore, Plahmer appears to have only ever made one NBA Finals prediction, based on our search of his Twitter account, which he started in 2016. Some people, especially sports fans, are pathological predictors, and make multiple incorrect forecasts for every one they happen to get right. That isn’t the case with Plahmer, who appears to have a 100% record in correctly predicting NBA Finals line-ups.
What’s more, the two teams he picked hardly looked like contenders at that point. The Suns had the second-worst winning record in the Western conference in the 2015-16 season, and the Bucks had the fourth-worst in the Eastern. At the time Plahmer sent his tweet, the Suns had a 1-4 winning record in the 2016-17 season, and the Bucks a more respectable 3-2.
In an interview with CNN in July 2021, Plahmer outlined the simple but sound logic behind his predicted match-up, explaining that, although sub-par back in November 2016, the Suns and Bucks (of which Plahmer is a fan) each had two especially promising players who, he thought, could lead their respective franchises to glory after five years of maturation and improvement:
“The Suns had Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe, and the Bucks had Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and Khris Middleton, and I said ‘You know what, in five years maybe they’ll both be there [in the NBA Finals].'”
Even then, though, Plahmer had to get the year right. He didn’t predict the Suns and Bucks would meet in the 2020 finals, or in 2022, or in 2019 or 2023. He used his knowledge of two of his favorite teams’ rosters, saw some potential, and correctly predicted the NBA Finals line-up in exactly five years’ time. Whether the series reaches a seventh game, and whether the Bucks ultimately emerge victorious, as he also predicted, was yet to be seen as of this writing on July 16.
In another sense, though, it’s perhaps not surprising at all that someone, somewhere, correctly and publicly forecast the 2021 finals line-up, even from a distance of five years. Sports fans love to make predictions, and basketball aficionados are no different. What’s more, there are millions of them active on social media platforms like Twitter.
With that in mind, it’s actually not that unlikely that, hidden among reams of incorrect calls, a handful of correct predictions would float to the surface. Searching only Twitter, we found the following examples relating to the two most recent sets of NBA Finals: