The Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics in game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday to clinch the franchise’s seventh title. For the core group of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, that’s four titles in the last eight years. If there was ever any doubt, Curry’s legacy is set. He’s an all-time great, four-time champion, two-time MVP, and now a Finals MVP. There is an argument to place him in the top-10 all-time. But someone else’s legacy was bolstered with the Warriors’ win, and his team didn’t even make the playoffs: LeBron James.
LeBron is the only player to defeat a fully intact Warriors team in the NBA Finals. Given what everyone now knows and understands the Warriors to be, that’s a hell of an accomplishment.
This is gonna be a conversation in the next few days so let’s just put it to bed.
3x Finals MVP
That’s the difference between LeBron and Steph. It’s enough to make the Hall of Fame. pic.twitter.com/OyzJV4CQxi
— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 17, 2022
In 2016, the mighty 73 regular season “greatest team of all-time” Warriors had a 3-1 lead over James and the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers won three straight games on their way to a title to become the first team in NBA Finals history to overcome a 3-1 deficit.
Since the 2014-15 season, the Warriors have been the standard for team excellence in the NBA with six NBA Finals appearances over the last eight seasons, winning four titles.
If you ask the Warriors, the only time they failed to win during that stretch was due to health. They talk about the aforementioned 2016 Finals a bit differently. They believe there is an asterisk because Green was suspended for game 5.
In 2019, they lost the NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors in six games as Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both suffered debilitating injuries.
They didn’t make the playoffs in 2020. Durant left via free agency, Thompson missed that season; there was the subsequent recovering from ACL and Achilles injuries, and Curry broke his hand early in the season. At 15-50, they were the worst team in the league.
In 2021, they were incorporating young guys with a championship core and Thompson, as mentioned, was still out. It was up and down but the team finished the season well and qualified for the play-in tournament where they were unable to advance to the playoffs.
This season the Warriors weren’t championship favorites, but with the experience gained by the young players the past two seasons, the championship pedigree of the core, Curry’s brilliance and the imminent return of Thompson, there was a lot of optimism internally.
In the aftermath of Thursday’s win amid champagne and revelry, Warriors’ owner Joe Lacob reflected on the external doubt and internal belief.
“They were doubted,” Lacob, dress shirt drenched in champagne, told The Athletic. “But these guys are not 40 years old. We believed in that core. Not many teams have a core four. A lot of people say core three. I say core four. We’re spending the money to do that. Then, we supplement and surround that team. I know some people thought we could’ve done more, got another star. But who were we going to get? Who was available that would make a difference? We didn’t think there was, and we really wanted these young guys to be developed and learn from these guys. They have learned. We are going to be even better as a result of that in the years going forward.”
What a powerful moment for Stephen Curry.
Embraces his dad on the baseline then completely collapses in tears. pic.twitter.com/F8WGLOOe7V
— C.J. Holmes 🦹🏾♂️ (@CjHolmes22) June 17, 2022
Lacob once said the Warriors were “lightyears” ahead of all the other organizations in the NBA. Many saw it as hubris, but it’s hard to argue with the results.
As long as they have Curry, the infrastructure with general manager Bob Myers, head coach Steve Kerr and some combination of a championship core (that now includes Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole), along with talented youth, this team will have a chance to compete on the biggest stage.