The Golden State Warriors are still relishing in winning their fourth NBA championship in the past eight seasons. The 2021-22 season brought a pleasant surprise as the Warriors won another title with some new pieces playing more prominent roles.
Without the play of swingman Andrew Wiggins this latest Warriors’ championship doesn’t happen. He was in such a zone of magnificence that his play was in some ways reminiscent of “Big Game” James Worthy, the third piece of Lakers’ triumvirate with Magic and Kareem.
And, no, we’re not saying Wiggins is on that level with Worthy, a Top 75 all-time selection, but Wiggins’ All-Star level production in clutch playoff games was undeniably comparable to “Big Game James” during those Lakers runs.
Andrew Wiggins silenced the haters 🤫 pic.twitter.com/m1GJSH5WH7
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 25, 2022
Wiggins was dynamite all playoffs, but he saved his best for Game 5 of the NBA Finals with the series tied at 2-2. The 2014 No. 1 overall pick went for 26 points and 13 rebounds on 12-for-23 shooting. And his defense on All-NBA first-teamer Jayson Tatum was stellar. Wiggins’ breakout performance had head coach Steve Kerr singing his praises and talking about how indispensable Wiggins is.
“He’s definitely confident, he’s definitely enjoying the playoffs. He loves the challenge, he loves the competition,” Kerr said. “He’s found such a crucial role on this team. I think that empowers him. He knows how much we’ve needed him. He’s been fantastic.”
Why do we say he channeled his inner “Big Game James”?
Let us take you back to Game 7 of the 1988 NBA Finals, when Worthy’s performance propelled the Lakers past the Pistons.
Worthy Wins Finals MVP: Wiggins Would’ve Won It If Curry Didn’t
In Game 7 of the 1988 NBA Finals, “Big Game James,” went nuclear, scoring 36 points, grabbing 16 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists on 69 percent shooting.
June 21, 1988: NBA Finals. Game 7 vs. Detroit Pistons. Big Game James Worthy notches his first and only career triple double on the biggest stage.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 26, 2018
Magic called it the hardest championship they ever won, and without Worthy it doesn’t happen. Sort of the same sentiments Steve Kerr spewed about Wiggins earlier in the playoffs.
Prior to the NBA Finals, Kerr said in a presser that “Wiggs has just been a perfect fit, and we wouldn’t be here without him, that’s for sure.”
And while Wiggins may not have put up the stat line that Worthy did, his defensive impact (holding an explosive player such as Jayson Tatum to 31 percent) more than made up for it.
Wiggins Plays The Worthy Role For The Warriors
When you have leading stars like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, having an efficient and versatile third star is vital. When your main two offensive threats are Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, who lack size and athleticism, a third elite talent is mandatory. Wiggins provided that just as Worthy did when he helped continue a budding dynasty upon his arrival in 1982.
Maybe Wiggins is going to do the same thing in San Francisco. He’s already got one ring. Now let’s see if Wiggins can continue to develop within Kerr’s system and help the Warriors win multiple titles during his time with them. Worthy has three of those things.