NBA Finals: Warriors win ‘most significant’ championship thanks to unprecedented trio of dedicated stars

Steph Curry couldn’t hold back her tears. Clay Thompson couldn’t leave the stage. Draymond Green was itching to take his kids to the podium.

The Golden State Warriors won their fourth NBA championship in eight seasons by defeating the Boston Celtics 103-90 in Game 6 on Thursday night, but something about it was different. Certainly more impressive given the franchise’s ups and downs over the past three years and the relative lack of star power compared to previous games.

But also something deeper, more introspective.

“You get goosebumps just thinking about all the snapshots and episodes we went through to get back here, individually, collectively,” Curry said after the game, sitting next to his first Finals MVP trophy. “That’s why I said that I think this championship will be different. That’s why I have so many emotions, and they’ll still be just because of what it took me to get back here.”

On stage after the game to accept the franchise’s seventh overall NBA title, Warriors owner Joe Lacob said the 2022 title is “probably the most significant.” That’s saying a lot, given the uniqueness of the 2015 team that started it all, and the otherworldly grandeur of the ’17 and ’18 teams with Kevin Durant. While it’s not hard to see why Lacob and the Warriors might value their fourth championship a little more than others – after all, everyone loves a good redemption story.

About 36 hours before he was scheduled to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy, Green spoke of a banal incident that sheds light on the origins of Golden State’s dynastic rule. He mentioned how on the plane to Boston before Game 6, he, Curry, and Thompson sat at the same table (yes, there are tables on their planes). Warriors general manager Bob Myers walked by and said, according to Green, “You’re all funny. You are still sitting together.” Green then mentioned how rare it is for three players to be on the same team for 10 years, not to mention they still get along well enough to sit next to each other.

The trio of three historically unique players who complement each other on the court in such a way that opponents are paralyzed have also achieved an off-court balance that has allowed them to rise, thrive and persevere over the past 10 seasons. All drawn by the Warriors. Everyone carries a chip on their shoulder because of their position in the draft and countless other reasons, both rational and contrived. Most importantly, all with an insatiable, supernatural yearning for competition and victory.

“I couldn’t imagine sharing this journey with anyone else,” Greene said of Curry and Thompson after training on Wednesday. “You know, we built this thing from scratch, and when you build something from scratch, it’s your creation. And I think that for us we all appreciate each other and understand what each of us brings to the table. This goes far beyond what we have achieved on the basketball court. You are talking about bonds. These bonds will last forever. We are bound and bound together forever.”

These connections allowed the Warriors to become the first team in NBA history to win a title just two years after the worst record in the league. These bonds allowed Thompson to return from consecutive late-season surgeries and post classic performances throughout the playoffs, despite appearing in just 32 regular season games over the past three years. These connections allowed Green to start the season as the clear favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, and then return from a serious back injury that saw him miss nearly 30 games. Those bonds also allowed Curry to thrive as the undisputed head of the snake, facing defenses never seen before in the NBA on a team that didn’t have the offensive options it once had.

“As far as Steph, Clay, Draymond, what they’ve done in this league and the foundation they’ve been able to build, you have to give them credit,” said Warriors forward Andre Iguodala, who was with the trio for all four title. “In a hundred years, you’ll be talking about some of the best players, teams and funds, and these three guys have set the pattern for how you build a championship pedigree.”

When these Warriors won their first title, no one saw anything quite like them – a team led by two of the best shooters on earth and a defensive monster with one of the highest basketball IQs of all time. They had never been there before, so they played free from the burden of expectations. Then, from 2017 to 2019, Golden State was a champion almost every year thanks to Durant and the historically beautiful basketball that accompanied his arrival. This weight is a burden in itself, but it is certainly preferable to the alternative.

This year, expectations were justified, at least outwardly, everywhere except for the final. By most predictions, Golden State finished in the middle of the Western Conference playoff standings. Some have missed the postseason entirely. There were questions about how the core players with all the mileage and injury history would behave, how younger players would develop, and how new acquisitions would adjust to the Warriors’ system that quickly identifies those who can’t keep up.

“They’re all unique, they’re all special,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of his four coaching titles. “I think that might have been the most unlikely, just in terms of where we’ve been the last couple of years.”

Kevon Looney and Otto Porter Jr. said Thursday night they knew this team was capable of greatness from training camp. As they started 18-2, Thompson, who had yet to debut, said he called the season “champion or flop.” The doubt that came from outside served only as motivation and made the last game even sweeter.

“A lot of chatter. Lots of doubters,” Thompson said after winning Game 6. “But you know what, you just put it in your fuel tank and keep going. And it definitely ends up somewhere else.”

It’s easy to tell that this championship means more to Thompson because of what he’s been through in the past three years. However, from what the Warriors are saying, it’s clear that this title also means more to the entire organization because of what Thompson has gone through. Nearly every warrior clouded their eyes when asked about Thompson’s return to the championship podium, staring up at the ceiling and shaking their heads in equal measure in disbelief and unsurprised.

“The longing that Clay has been experiencing for the last three years – people can guess what it’s like, but we’ve seen it up close,” Kerr said on Thursday after the victory. “Between his second year of injury and the loss of what he loves to do most in life, you know, games, it has been a tough journey for him. So his return was special for us on and off the court because of what he meant to the organization, what he did for this team, and of course his game.”

Throughout the playoffs, Curry, Thompson, and Green kept saying they wouldn’t let themselves take this run for granted. They took photographs. They enjoyed the media hype. As you know, they sat next to each other in airplanes. After five years in which reaching the finals was almost guaranteed, the unreliability of the last two seasons made them realize the ephemeral nature of their ultimate success.

Green wouldn’t say how many more titles he thinks the Warriors can win with that core, and the front office definitely has big decisions to make this offseason. But given the combination of established star power and young youth, the Warriors are sure to enter next season at the top of the pecking order. No matter how far they go, whether they make it back to the finals or not, you can expect Curry, Green and Thompson – a unique, dedicated triumvirate of superstars – to treasure every moment along the way.

“To get through this season of ups and downs, and even these playoffs, I just can’t find the words,” Thompson said after Thursday’s victory. “I knew it was possible, but to be here in real time, man, I don’t want to leave. I want to enjoy every second of it. I know how fleeting it can be.”

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