2009 NBA Finals Predictions
Below you will find the text of an article published in ESPN The Magazine last April, which includes my take on the upcoming 2009 NBA Finals. The interviews were actually conducted in March, 2009. Since that time, the finals have ended with a Laker victory. Phil Jackson now has 10 Championships to his name, securing his position as the most successful coach in NBA history. Kobe Bryant has won his first championship sans Shaq, (4th overall) along with the Final's MVP award, while demonstrating impressive focus, determination and leadership throughout. LeBron James, Mike Smith and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the early favorites, started strong, sweeping both Detroit and Atlanta in the first two playoff rounds, and capturing both the Regular Season MVP and Coach of the Year honors, before bombing out in the Eastern Conference Finals, where the Cavs followed the Celtics in losing to the eventual Eastern Conference Champions, the suprisingly brilliant Orlando Magic.
At the end of the article, which only contains brief summaries of my predictions for the general reader, you will find a more detailed breakdown of my analysis and the methods used.
You can access the original article here:
Queen of NBA Picks
by Chad Millman
From ESPN The Magazine April 23, 2009
The stars are aligned. Or the planets. Whenever Courtney Roberts uses the A-word, this is what happens: "Eye rolls," she says. "A lot of expletives from hardcore science types. I prefer not to use the phrase 'astrology' when I collect data for research." I'll be honest—mine rolled too.
My mom is an astrology nut. She once handed me a horoscope for my life that predicted I'd either be president, or a serial killer. No joke. So I was skeptical when readers emailed me about Roberts, whose website, courtneyrobertshome.com, has a nice following among amateur wise guys. Still I wanted to know: Is there really a system here?
Roberts is mapping the heavens, turning random clusters of stars into crystalline answers. She is communicating with the planets; speaking with Saturn, jiving with Jupiter, negotiating with Neptune. She is combining celestial planes and angles with dates on a calendar to come up with predictions. Who will win the NBA Finals? The Super Bowl? She's got the answer.
If there is any group of people that should buy what Roberts is selling, it's you, the degenerate sports bettor. Crunch all the numbers you want, but certain things defy mathematical explanation. Some bad beats just happen because Neptune and Chiron and Jupiter are in a massive stellian. Don't you think it would be nice to know that kind of thing before you lay 10 dimes on the Lions to cover against the Bloomfield Hills Pee Wee Giants? Of course you would. Turns out, she's not some flea market tarot card reader. The woman has an undergrad degree from Florida State and a Masters in cultural astronomy and astrology—earned at a legit college in England. And she's been compiling research for more than a decade that'll make you re-think your opinion of stargazing.
"I calculate exact birth planetary positions of players and where the planets are right now, we call that transiting planets," says Roberts. "They form geometric patterns and I measure those angles. Certain geometric relationships are helpful and others are more difficult." Roberts isn't trolling Wikipedia for player birth dates. She calls the city where the most important players and coaches—from Derek Fisher to Paul Pierce to Phil Jackson—were born and sends away for their birth certificates, getting not just birthdays but birth times, down to the minute. Roberts probably has the largest collection of famous athletes' birth certificates in the world, easily beating the Stahl brothers' mom.
Back in the days before Internet machines, if Roberts got the Heisman from a city's public records office—Chicago is tough—she wrote actual letters, on paper and everything, to teams. She'd explain she was doing research to improve athletic performance, ask for a player's birthday and include a self-addressed stamped envelope. "A lot of people responded to that," she says, without a trace of shock. Of course, she never mentioned the A-word.
Roberts, who was raised in Florida, became a sports fan living in Boston after college and now works out of her apartment in Queens, has been stargazing since she was a teenager. She layered in sports in 1995, after seeing a demonstration at an astrology convention in Monterey. "I was always looking for a way to show how astrology works because it is so misused and plays to people's lowest expectations," says Roberts. "I wanted to prove it can make lives better. And it dawned on me that sports was the way to do this because it was completely objective."
Once Roberts has the birthdays for a team's top three players and its coach—her specialty is the NBA and the NFL—she starts charting. First she maps how the planets were aligned when the key players were born. Then she looks at the planet alignment for the last day of the regular season, and then she does the same for the last day of the finals. That's when the math kicks in, and she starts diagramming angles and shapes, aspects to astrologers, like some string theory mad man. The tighter the angles between the current planets and a player's birth planets, the better he does. "That's when their charts light up like a Christmas tree."
And who's lit up right now?
I spoke with Roberts in late March, before the NBA playoff seeds had been settled, but after the Lakers, Cavs and Celtics had established themselves as the class of the league. "The fact of the matter is that Phil Jackson was born in a very tight Jupiter, Neptune, Chiron conjunction in Libra and that particular alignment is singling him out," says Roberts. "If he wins it will be record breaking. Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach both had sun and mercury in Virgo. They are great strategists and teachers and pushing the stars forwards.
"Kobe has good aspects, too. He is a Virgo and last year Saturn was sitting right on his sun and it hurt him. But now Kobe is highly efficient and super charged. That should last."
If you don't have your astrology to English dictionary, Roberts likes the Lakers in the west.
"In the east I don't see the Celtics repeating, which is too bad. They got me into basketball years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter and living there and couldn't really move around. But I think Cleveland looks really strong. I'm not sticking my neck out, obviously the Lakers and Cavs are the top two teams, but I can see a lot of planetary reasons why they are they way they are. Ultimately, though, I see frustration for Lebron. Again, because of planetary reasons."
Sorry Cavs fans. At least she didn't use the A-word.
Got a betting story for Chad? Email him.
Read more Behind the Bets.
Chad Millman is a Senior Deputy Editor at ESPN The Magazine, and once wrote a book called The Odds. His column takes a close look at the culture surrounding the bet.
Chad Millman did a great job of toning down the math and all the technicalities, and making my line of reasoning accessible to the layman. However, for those of you who actually want all the details, (God love you!) I will explain below. I believe that it is important to follow up on successful predictions - not because I think I'm such a great astrologer. I certainly manage to make my fair share of boneheaded predictions, but there's always something to be learned when we get it right; when we are able to focus in on the most relevant factors. It is in that spirit of seeking to constantly upgrade and improve the art, that I offer the following:
The No. 1 reason I opted for the Lakers: The reigning triple conjunction in Aquarius between the planets Jupiter and Neptune and the planetoid Chiron. That stellium in Aquarius is still the biggest thing happening in the sky. I tend to believe that if you can't find the answer in the big stuff, there's no point messing around with all the little details. It was certainly true in this case.
Phil Jackson was born with a very tight Jupiter-Neptune-Chiron conjunction in the early degrees of the sign Libra. It's hard-wired into a trine with his Aquarius ascendant and Moon. It's a big part of who he is: a supremely gifted mentor and teacher, who is as skilled at relating one-on-one as he is at melding a disparate group of hardened individuals into the consummate team. Jackson's Chart & Birth Data
While the current conjunction in the latter degrees of the sign Aquarius doesn't strictly aspect Jackson's natal conjunction, it's still in his natal first house. That's pretty personal - at least, that's what I thought back in March.
What I didn't realize until quite recently is that Jackson even looks the part of the proverbial 'wounded healer' these days. He's hobbled by two hip replacements and continuing back problems that make it hard for him to stand erect or move about freely. He hasn't lost a step as a coach though, and he's still the guy that the best athletes
seek out as a teacher..
These are the two charts I used when talking with Chad. You'll notice that the transiting Sun in both these charts aspects the Aquarius stellium, which again emphasizes its relative importance in this contest.
The No. 2 Reason that I opted for the Lakers: The trine from transiting Pluto in Capricorn to Kobe Bryant's natal Sun-Saturn conjunction (at 0 and 3 degrees Virgo, respectively Aug. 23, 1978). Last season at this time, transiting Saturn was moving back and forth over those degrees and Kobe had some painful back problems. That's all changed now. He's supercharged now, and even a little scary - e.g.. that 'game face.' In all fairness, he looks a lot happier now that he's won.
The Reason I knew the Celtics wouldn't repeat: Easy - Kevin Garnett's injury. All kidding aside, last year, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers both benefited from a strong planetary emphasis on the 20th degree of the air signs. There was nothing even remotely approaching that in the 2009 planetary lineup. Ergo, no chance.
The No. 1 Reason I knew Cleveland wouldn't win: This one took considerable prayer - and I don't recommend practicing astrology without it. The Cavs were the hottest team in the NBA through April and May. They swept both Detroit and Atlanta in the first two rounds of the playoffs, while garnering the league MVP and Coach of the Year honors. Meanwhile, the Lakers struggled against Utah, and the Houston Rockets' bench! But that all changed when the Cavs met the surprisingly brilliant Orlando Magic.
LeBron James was born with Venus at 24 degrees Aquarius, exactly square Saturn at 24 degrees Scorpio. Both planets aspect his natal North & South Lunar Nodes, at 26 degrees Taurus/Scorpio. In April and May, transiting Jupiter in Aquarius moved up to conjunct his Venus. He was terribly popular, and seemingly invincible. But Jupiter kept moving, and by the end of May,the massive Aquarius stellium was now forming a square aspect to Lebron's natal Lunar Nodes; specifically to his natal Saturn conjunct the South Node in Scorpio. It was that aspect that lead me to predict that even though the Cavs looked strong, ultimately, this championship series would prove disappointing for LeBron James.
The No. 1 Reason to Believe in Magic: Take a good, long look at the chart above. It's pretty volatile, with the transiting Gemini Sun trine the Aquarius stellium and square Uranus in Pisces. I was strongly tempted to predict a shocking upset in the finals, and some bizarre underdog triumph. The reason I didn't? Reason No. 1 above: Phil Jackson.
As you can imagine, I had plenty of opportunities to doubt myself throughout the series. Still, when all was said and done, we did see something shocking happen in the finals when the upstart Orlando Magic overthrew the presumptive champions. After all, it was common knowledge that the prime-time Kobe-LeBron matchup was a done deal. Throughout the Final series, ABC continuously ran those Kobe and LeBron puppet commercials, even though LeBron wasn't even playing.
So how about a little respect for this terrific team? Dwight Howard, AKA Superman, received a real boost from that prominent Aquarius stellium. He was born on Dec. 8, 1985, with Mars at 26 degrees Libra, in an exact trine aspect to the current Aquarius stellium when he bested the Cavs. Magic Head coach Stan Van Grundy, was born Aug. 26, 1959, with his natal Sun and Pluto at 2 and 3 degrees Virgo. He was receiving the same supportive trine aspects from transiting Pluto in Capricorn as Kobe Bryant. Obviously there are many factors involved in winning a championship. Planetary aspects aren't everything - but they are something. When combined with a good knowledge of the game, a healthy dose of common sense, a little bit of luck and a lot of prayer, we can read the signs of the times and gain some extra insight into the meaning of the future.