The NBA Finals produced the meme that conquered America
Don’t let this data analysis distract you from the fact that the Warriors last year became the first team in history to blow a 3-1 NBA Finals lead.
Just kidding. How could you forget? Since the Warriors snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last June (with considerable help from LeBron James), “blowing a 3-1 lead” has become a touchstone in the American consciousness — or at least in the consciousness of Americans who spend a lot of time online.
Don’t believe us? Consider this: Some five months after last year’s NBA Finals, Hillary Clinton suffered an upset loss to Donald Trump in the presidential election. As election day played out, tweets using the phrase “3-1” were posted 24,950 times, according to data provided by Twitter.
The next day, after the election’s dust had settled, “3-1” tweets were posted 151,334 times.
A year after the Warriors blew that lead, “3-1” memes have transcended sports to politics and bled into pop culture at large. The Chicago Cubs coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series just a few months after last year’s NBA Finals only helped the meme pick up steam.
In February, the New England Patriots completed an epic comeback to to beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl after trailing 28-3. Now, the Super Bowl is one game. The NBA Finals and World Series feature a first-to-win-four-games format — hence the epic failure of losing after going up three games to one.
But no matter; “3-1” tweets were posted 187,227 times in day following New England’s Super Bowl comeback.
Just like Clinton, the Falcons didn’t technically blow a 3-1 lead. But oh, did they blow a 3-1 lead.
Twitter provided the data included herein by scanning for tweets using the phrase “3-1” as well as keywords such as “lead,” game,” “blew,” “Cavs,” and “Warriors” to see just how the meme took on a life of its own since last year’s NBA Finals.
The post-election flood of “3-1” tweets after Trump’s presidential win is the most surreal illustration of a never-earnest meme culture colliding with the deadly serious business of real life. But the running joke has made other appearances over the past year as well.
The phrase was tweeted 18,295 times March 1, which cheeky Twitters users christened “3-1 Day.” When Kevin Durant announced his free agency signing with the Warriors on July 4, Twitter users posted 68,283 “3-1” tweets. The day after Moonlight beat out La La Land for best picture at the Oscars following a memorable moment of confusion, Twitter users celebrated the situation with 18,868 “3-1” tweets.
Of course, like Clinton in the presidential election and the Falcons in the Super Bowl, neither La La Land nor the Oscars had actually blown a 3-1 lead of any sort by any technical definition.
But in the parlance of our times, they’d done just that. Welcome to the discourse in 2017.
Meanwhile, here are some of the most popular “3-1” Twitter posts since last year’s NBA Finals.
Hillary is blowing a 3-1 lead
— Sports Pics (@AmazingSprtsPic) November 9, 2016
Falcons led 28-3.
28+3 is 31.
Warriors blew a 3-1 lead.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 6, 2017
patriots finished the game on a 31-0 run.
Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals
— Meninist (@MeninistTweet) February 6, 2017
The 2017 NBA Finals tip off Thursday.