NBA Finals: Warriors win ‘most meaningful’ championship thanks to unprecedented trio of selfless stars

Stephen Curry couldn’t hold back the tears. Klay Thompson couldn’t leave the stage. Draymond Green can’t wait to get his kids to the podium.

Golden State won its fourth NBA title in eight seasons with a 103-90 Game 6 victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night, but the game felt a little different . It’s all the more impressive given the ups and downs of this team over the past three years and its relative lack of star power compared to previous titles, for sure.

But there is also something deeper and more introspective.

“You get goosebumps, you know, all these snapshots and episodes we’ve been through to get back here, individually, collectively,” Curry said after the game, sitting next to his first Finals MVP trophy . “That’s why I say I think this championship is going to be different. That’s why I have so many emotions and still will, just because of what it took to be back here.”

On the stage to accept the team’s seventh championship after the game, Warriors owner Joe LaCobb said the 2022 championship “may be the most meaningful one.” Considering the uniqueness of the 2015 team and the otherworldliness of Kevin Durant’s ’17 and ’18 teams, that says a lot. While it’s not hard to see why Lacob and the Warriors might value their fourth championship more than anyone else — after all, everyone loves a good redemption story.

About 36 hours before he lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy, Green recounted an unremarkable incident that shed light on the origins of the Golden State dynasty. He mentioned that on the plane to Boston before Game 6, he, Curry and Thompson sat at the same table (yes, their plane had tables). Warriors general manager Bob Myers came over and, in Green’s words, “You’re all fun. You’re 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 still get along well enough to sit together.

The trio is made up of three historically unique players who complement each other on the court in a way that cripples opponents, and also off the court over the past 10 seasons, allowing them to elevate, surpass and persevere go down. All selected by the Warriors. Because of their draft positions and myriad other reasons, rational or fabricated, all have chips on their backs. Above all, all have an insatiable, supernatural desire to compete and win.

“I can’t imagine sharing this journey with anyone else,” Green said of Curry and Thompson after practice Wednesday. “You know, we build this thing from the ground up, and when you build something from the ground up, that’s your child. I think for us, we all appreciate each other and we understand what each of us brings. It’s far Way beyond what we’ve achieved on the basketball court. You’re talking about bonds. Those bonds will last forever. We’re forever connected.”

Those bonds made the Warriors the first team in NBA history to win a championship just two years after setting the league’s worst record. Those bonds have allowed Thompson to recover from back-to-back season-ending surgeries and put on a retro performance throughout the playoffs, even though he has only played in 32 regular-season games over the past three years. Those bonds made Green the favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year award at the start of the season before recovering from a serious back injury that forced him to miss nearly 30 games. Those ties also make Curry the unquestioned smuggler, facing a defense the NBA has never seen on a team that lacks offensive options.

“Stephen, Klay, Draymond, everything they’ve done in this league and the foundation they’ve been able to build on, you have to give them a lot of credit,” Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said. He fought all four titles alongside the trio. “A hundred years from now, you’re going to be talking about some of the best players, teams and foundations, and these three guys, they’ve made a template for how you build a championship pedigree.”

When these Warriors won their first championship, no one had seen a team quite like them — a team composed of two of the best shooters on the planet and a defensive monster with one of the highest basketball IQs of all time led team. They had never been there before, so they were relieved from the burden of expectation. Then, starting with the 2017-19 season, Golden State has basically been named a champion every year thanks to Durant and the historically beautiful basketball that came with him. This weight is its own burden, but it’s certainly preferable to alternatives.

This year, expectations have fallen everywhere but the Finals, at least externally. Most projections put the Golden State Warriors at the top of the Western Conference playoff standings. Some let them miss the playoffs entirely. There are questions about how the core players will cope with all their mileage and injury history, how the younger players will develop, and how new acquisitions will adapt themselves to the Warriors’ system, quickly exposing players 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’s probably the least likely, just from what we’ve been able to do over the past few years.”

Kevon Looney and Otto Porter Jr. said Thursday night that they know this team has what it takes to be great when it returns to training camp. As they started 18-2, Thompson — who has yet to make his debut — said he called the season “champion or bust.” Doubts from the outside world are just motivation, sweetening this recent title.

“A lot of chatter. A lot of doubters,” Thompson said after the Game 6 win. “But you know what, you just put it in your gas tank and you can move on. And it does make a difference.”

It’s easy to say that this championship means more to Thompson because of what he’s been through over the past three years. However, it was evident from the Warriors’ remarks that the title also means more to the organization as a whole because of what Thompson has been through. When asked about Thompson’s journey back to the championship podium, nearly every Warrior was dumbfounded, looking at the ceiling and shaking their heads in equally disbelief and unsurprised.

“The pain Clay has felt over the past three years — one can guess what it was like, but we saw it up close,” Kerr said Thursday after his win. “Between the second year of injury and losing what he loved to do most of his life, you know, playing the game was a tough one for him. So his return is special for us on and off the court. , because he means to the organization what he has done for this team and of course his performance.”

Throughout the playoffs, Curry, Thompson and Green kept saying they wouldn’t take the game for granted. They took pictures. They enjoy the media frenzy. They are known to sit side by side on the plane. After a five-year trip to the Finals is all but guaranteed, the insecurities of the past two seasons have made them realize the ephemeral nature of their eventual success.

Green didn’t say how many more championships he thinks the Warriors can win with this core, and front office is sure to make some big decisions down the road this offseason. But given their combination of established star power and emerging youth, the Warriors are sure to move into the top spot next season. No matter how far they go, whether they make it back to the Finals, you can expect Curry, Green and Thompson—the one-of-a-kind, selfless triumvirate of superstars—to appreciate every moment along the way.

“To get through this up-and-down season, even these playoffs, I’m just speechless at times,” Thompson said after his championship win on Thursday. “I know it’s possible, but to be here in real time, man, I don’t want to leave. I want to enjoy every second. I know how fleeting it is.”

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