NBA Finals: Stephen Curry’s fourth championship puts him in even rarer historical air, and he’s far from done
I never know quite where I stand on the whole ring culture. Championships are not won by one player. They are total organizational victories, and they can be highly circumstantial. That said, Stephen Curry winning his fourth NBA championship, tying him with the likes of LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal, on Thursday night feels highly significant.
Curry’s four is one more than Larry Bird and Dwyane Wade, and one shy of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan. Leave all your “he needed Kevin Durant” narratives in the trash where they belong. First of all, Curry won a title before Durant and now he has won one after him. Besides that LeBron needed Wade and Chris Bosh, Shaq needed Kobe and Wade, Magic needed Kareem. That’s how it works, particularly with the depth of talent that exists in the modern NBA. Nobody does it alone.
That said, Curry has always been the eye of this Warriors storm that has torn through the NBA over these last eight years. He is the guy defenses fear the most, and guard accordingly. He’s the guy that keeps everyone together in the locker room, the selfless star who plays without the ball and makes room for others to shine. You hear Steve Kerr talk about Curry as the shorter version of Tim Duncan, and he’s right. The rare superstar blend of humility and downright arrogant confidence in his own abilities that, as Steve Kerr told Scott Van Pelt after the win, “makes everyone in the locker room want to fight for him.”
“Without him, none of this happens,” Kerr said. “And that’s not taking anything away from Joe and Peter’s ownership, because they’re amazing owners. They’ve built an incredible organization. Bob Myers, hell of a GM. Our players. We’ve had so many great players. But Steph is ultimately why this run has happened. Much like Timmy [Duncan] in San Antonio. I’m happy for everybody, but I’m thrilled for Steph. To me, this is his crowning achievement in what’s already been an incredible career.”
I agree with Kerr. There is something different, more definitive, about this title. This Warriors team was not super. Klay Thompson deserves major love for the way he returned this season and contributed big time to what is also his fourth title, but he is not the player that everyone remembers before the injuries. Neither is Draymond Green, who halfway through this series was starting to look like an actual detriment. Andrew Wiggins was by far and away Golden State’s second-best player.
Like Kerr said, credit to Myers for pulling all the right roster strings, and for not pulling a few others that plenty of people thought he should’ve pulled. Credit to a long list of players who stepped up in their roles. But this was Curry’s title, plain and simple. He gets his first Finals MVP by averaging 31.2 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals on 48-42 shooting splits against one of the best defenses we’ve seen in a long time, maybe ever, but of course, when asked about this individual honor, he wasn’t at all interested in talking about himself.
“Forget that question. Why you start with that question?” Curry responded when asked how it felt to get the Finals MVP monkey off his back. “We’ve got four championships. God is great. The ability to be on this stage and play with amazing teammates against a great Boston Celtics team that gave us everything to try to get to the finish line.
“This one hits different for sure, just knowing what the last three years have meant, what it’s been like from injuries to changing of the guard in the rosters, Wiggs coming through, our young guys carrying the belief that we could get back to this stage and win, even if it didn’t make sense to anybody when we said it, all that stuff matters.
“And now we got four championships. Me, Dray, Klay, and Andre, we finally got that bad boy. It’s special. It’s special. Just all the work that went into it, the faith and belief and everybody in that locker room that’s getting to spray champagne around the locker room, everybody mattered in that process. So I’m just proud of everybody.”
indeed, Curry is never going to sing his own praise. That’s what his teammates are here for. Andre Iguodala said this title solidifies Curry as the greatest point guard ever. Draymond called Curry “absolutely amazing.”
On Thursday, Curry put up 34 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, knocking down six 3-pointers. That makes him the first player in NBA history to make at least five 3-pointers in five games of a single Finals series. He’s also one of just five players to win multiple regular-season MVPs, multiple scoring titles and Finals MVP, and he’s just the third guard in history to average at least 30 points in two separate Finals. We’re running out of room on a resume that is becoming pretty tough to keep out of any all-time-great conversation worth its salt.
This eight-year run Curry is currently on is something you might never see again in your lifetime. LeBron required nine years between his first title and his fourth. Shaq needed seven. If Kevin Durant doesn’t go down in 2019, if Draymond Green doesn’t get suspended in 2016, Curry probably has at least five titles in these eight years, and very possibly six, with a record-breaking 73-win season on the card as well.
Curry is, quite simply, among the surest bets for championship contention that has ever existed. That’s what distinguishes the great ones. You need a great team, you need some things to fall your way, to actually win the whole thing. But it’s the guys who have their teams in the hunt year after year that go down as the greatest. Give Curry a decent roster, and he’s taking you a long way.
And the thing is, he’s far from done. Did you watch these Finals? Did that look like a guy who’s anywhere close to a meaningful decline? I’ll admit, I let myself believe, on more than one occasion, that this was the beginning of the end of Curry’s prime as he slogged his way through the worst shooting season of his career, but he was brilliant in the postseason. Boston deploying drop coverage all series was a nice boost but, man, did he look great. Fast. Strong. Confident. The video-game shots were back to looking routine. His defensive commitment, to whatever extent his size and abilities allow, nothing short of inspiring. His conditioning a marvel.
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Curry is 34 years old and you have to wonder if he’s got another five LeBron-like years in him, where age doesn’t seem to have nearly the same impact it does on most. He takes care of his body in the same way as LeBron, and his shooting gravity will be impactful almost beyond description probably for as long as he plays.
Give Thompson a full, healthy offseason to rediscover the consistent two-way form we only saw in stretches this season. Give Jordan Poole another year and you might not be too far from an All-Star. Green remains an elite defender and won’t remain the offensive liability he was for much of this series because not very many teams are going to guard Curry the way the Celtics did; Green’s playmaking will be back. Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody are coming. James Wiseman might be, too. Wiggins is solidified in this ecosystem. Kevon Looney is a godsend. Gary Payton II is for real. Vegas already has the Warriors listed as the championship favorite next season.
Also, don’t rule out Myers pulling off a big trade to make this team even better. He’s resisted the urge so far, but perhaps that’s only because the right deal hasn’t presented itself. Myers believed that as long as the Warriors had Curry they had what it took to win another title without compromising the future, and he was right. But those assets are still there, and Myers has proven he knows what to do with them, one way or another.
But that’s all down the road. Right now, this is a time to reflect on not only one of the greatest, and increasingly most accomplished basketball players this world has ever seen, but also one of the most unique. Chances are, you’re never going to see another Steph Curry. Not the way he plays. Not the way he leads. He is truly one of a kind. The kid that basically nobody recruited, who got drafted by the long-rotten organization and nearly lost his career to tissue-paper ankles before it even really started, has turned this league upside down in less than a decade. If I didn’t watch almost every minute of it with my own eyes, I’d still have a hard time believing it.
Warriors NBA championship gear now available
The Golden State Warriors have won their fourth NBA title in the last eight seasons. Now, you can celebrate with championship hats, shirts, hoodies, and more. See the entire collection here.
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