CLEVELAND – His Golden State Warriors teammates had gathered on the championship podium, and several feet away from them Stephen Curry lingered, embracing his mother Sonya. Curry had poured in 37 points and seven 3-pointers, a 108-85 victory in Game 4 of the NBA Finals punctuating the third championship – in four seasons – on his name. The Finals MVP is an “awesome” award, Curry admitted later, and so the time came Friday night for his.
Only it didn’t. Curry had so desired roaming Quicken Loans Arena with not one, but two trophies. He had gone for the approach of the best impression saved for last – to no avail. It had been Andre Iguodala’s MVP in 2015, and now Kevin Durant winning the award in each of the past two title runs after a sensational 43-point Game 3 performance and a 20-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist, three-block triple-double on Friday. In Game 4, the matchup was not Cleveland against Golden State as much as it became Curry versus Durant for the MVP crown. When his teammates had prepared for the trophy celebration and MVP presentation, Curry embraced his mom and had one word for her: Legacy.
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“This was legacy,” Stephen told Sonya.
“Finals MVP is a great award, but for Steph and for the whole team to sweep the Cavaliers in the Finals, it was a legacy year,” Sonya Curry said. “This one was the most special, more than the first two, because Steph was more emotional and we were feeling his emotions. There is something more special about winning three championships.
“Steph is building his legacy.”
Curry and these Warriors are building legacies in the Bay Area, building a dynasty, but there wasn’t always a smooth pathway toward success. Those around the Warriors believe this was simply the start of the team’s cohesion with Durant, not the 2016-17 campaign that had been so fresh, so fragile. This season, there were injuries and individual goals and aspirations providing natural team chemistry hurdles. The former provides fluctuating rotations and roles; the latter are born out of success, out of the fruits of players’ labor.
Through it all, the Warriors toppled LeBron James and the Cavaliers, a microcosm of Cleveland’s season coming during the finish to a Game 1 in which James scored 51 points and still lost. James later punched a wall area in the locker room after that game and said he essentially played with a broken hand the remainder of the series. That was Cleveland’s best chance for any authority in these Finals, and it slipped behind the blunder of J.R Smith. “The way Game 1 finished,” a Cavaliers assistant said after the sweep, “really took everything out of us.” Now, James’ future awaits the Cavaliers, the fashion in which Durant re-signs is unclear – and one major question remains: How many more championships can these Warriors rattle off?
There’s purity to the Warriors, the collection of homegrown talent such as Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green combined with two of the most significant free-agent signings in NBA championship team history in Durant and Iguodala. But these players have all forged their own creative minds out of this back-to-back championship run – minds that will use the next week to celebrate, once a morning flight to the West Coast touches down on Saturday.
“At the end of the day, I’m not going to let a [Finals] MVP trophy define my career,” Curry said. “Three titles. … Wherever that puts us in the conversation in the history of the NBA … I’m a three-time champ.”
Yes, Curry would have loved to win MVP, but he clutched that third Larry O’Brien trophy, rising it high in the air and in his arms like a newborn. All night, the trophy would rest beside Curry. He had gone to the congested visiting locker room as the clock ticked into Saturday. “We’re celebrating like never before,” he yelled.
His mom Sonya and father Dell, wife Ayesha, agent Jeff Austin and Under Armour executive Kris Stone and other friends awaited him outside. Curry emerged with a cigar in his mouth and the trophy. “Sonya was the most emotional of us all, just watching her pure joy, her hugging every family member,” Austin said.
Behind Curry’s style, his emergence as one of the NBA’s faces, the Warriors have become so much more than relevant in today’s sports world. He’s the player today’s generation of kids want to emulate: the long-distance shooting, the calm shooter’s mentality. He had helped transform the Warriors into what James called the “Patriots” of the NBA – the model franchise.
Curry had been consoled by Iguodala after Game 3, knowing a 3-of-16 performance likely dented his Finals MVP chances. This had been his year for the MVP. Then came early Saturday, and Curry hugged his family, hugged Sonya in the moments before NBA commissioner Adam Silver began speaking during the trophy ceremony. Focus on the growing dynasty, on the highs and lows of this season, and Curry had the word that will carry into this Warriors offseason.
More NBA Finals coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Durant claims 2nd straight Finals MVP honor
• Warriors complete sweep to win championship
• NBA players are already recruiting LeBron
• LeBron: ‘I pretty much played the last 3 games with a broken hand’