Not all NBA championships are equal. With the final seconds dwindling off the clock inside Boston’s TD Garden and the Golden State Warriors on the way to their fourth title in eight seasons, you could tell this one meant a little more to Steph Curry.
Tears cascaded down the face of the 34-year-old and eight-time All-Star as Golden State defeated the Boston Celtics 103-90 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Curry’s teammates surrounded him with celebratory hugs after his 34 points, seven rebounds and seven assists led the Warriors to a 4-2 series victory.
At the end of the night, Curry was awarded his first-ever NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award. He averaged 31.2 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals per game in the six-game series.
Curry’s emotions were the result of three years of baggage that, at times, overwhelmed one of the league’s biggest stars.
“This one is definitely different because of the three years of baggage we carried coming out of that Game 6 in 2019,” Curry said, per ESPN. “I can say it now, I don’t know how many teams could carry that as long as we have with the expectations of comparing us now to teams of past and make it to the mountaintop again.”
Golden State’s NBA title was its first in the post-Kevin Durant era. The Warriors appeared in five-consecutive NBA Finals from 2015-19, winning three championships (2015, 2017, 2018). It was the 4-2 series loss in 2019 to the Toronto Raptors that had weighed heavily on Curry and the rest of the organization.
Finally, on Thursday night, Curry and the Warriors got redemption.
“The conversations about who we were as a team and what we were capable of … we hear all that, and you carry it all and you try to maintain your purpose, not let it distract you, but you carry that weight. And to get here, it all comes out. It’s special.”
Golden State Goes Worst to First
Go back to the 2019-20 season and you’ll find the Golden State Warriors on the opposite end of the NBA standings. With a 15-50 record in the pandemic-hindered year, the team posted the worst winning percentage in the association.
Thursday night’s NBA championship-claiming victory marked the first time in league history that a team went from worst to first in a three-year span. Plenty of doubt was cast over Golden State’s chances to win a fourth title in eight years. Klay Thompson brought a different mindset to the table entering the season.
“People called me crazy. I said championship or bust because I saw how we came out of the gates,” Thompson said. “I knew we had a chance to do something special, and here we are. It’s so incredible.”
Thompson’s play was critical in Golden State hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy once again, averaging 17 points per game. Draymond Green, the third piece to the Warriors’ “Big Three,” posted 6.2 points, 6.2 assists and eight rebounds for the series.
This One’s for Steph
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr put it pretty simplistically following Thursday’s victory. This was a championship he wanted desperately for Steph Curry.
“Andre Iguodala and I have been talking the last week, and all we could say to each other is, ‘We gotta do this for Steph.’ This is for Steph,” Kerr said, according to Insider. “Which is ironic because he’s the one doing it for us.
“But we wanted it so badly for Steph because as great as the organization has been — ownership, front office, great talent on our roster, amazing players — Steph is the reason for this decade. He really is.”
Kerr was complimentary of Curry’s performance in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. After dropping the first contest in San Francisco, Golden State used the All-Star’s big third quarter to get a much-needed win, tying the series at 1-1 before shipping off to Boston.
When Golden State needed an answer throughout the series, Curry stepped up. That’s why he’s now a four-time NBA champion and can finally add “Finals MVP” to his impressive resumé.