He had just knocked down his second 3-pointer of the fourth quarter in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, giving his Warriors an 11-point lead they would not relinquish en route to a 105-97 win and the franchise’s first title in 40 years.
When we first met him, he was Dell Curry’s son, a skinny Cinderella kid who didn’t just crash March Madness, he kidnapped the Big Dance’s DJ and ripped the tablecloth off of the set-ups while leaving the dishes sitting there.
But on the way back down the court after his dagger doomed Cleveland, Curry had cemented his place as a basketball legend with no buts. He’s not just Dell’s kid, not just a great shooter, and not just a Drake lyric.
Now, Steph Curry is an NBA champion.
“It makes it so much more special to have gone through some down years and injuries and transition from a roster standpoint, and to be able to sit here six years later from my rookie year and hold this trophy, this is an unbelievable experience,” Curry said.
“It just makes it so much more special to have gone through some lows, gradually work your way up every year, learn some things, and it all came into fruition with the championship trophy.”
Curry certainly deserves it. After a slow start to the series and a dreadful Game 2 in which he shot 5-for-23 from the field, Curry turned things around in Games 5 and 6. He poured in 37 points on 7-of-13 shooting in Game 5, then put up a game-high tying 25 with eight assists and six rebounds in the clincher, flashing his remarkable floor game.
The MVP of the regular season, Curry didn’t win Finals MVP. That went to Andre Iguodala, who also scored 25 points in the clincher and is unlike any other Finals MVP we’ve ever seen. Iguodala didn’t even start a game during the regular season or playoffs until Game 4 of this series.
But that’s perfect, because these Warriors are unlike any other champion we’ve ever seen. They won it all with a rookie coach in Steve Kerr and a roster that included exactly zero players who had previous Finals experience.
Oh, and they won it all by living by the three, and thriving by it (never dying). So take that, Charles Barkley.
For the Cavs, though, the magnificent dream did die on Tuesday night.
A dejected LeBron James sat in the locker room for more than an hour after the game, collecting his thoughts before heading to the interview room.
He was surrounded by a bunch of friends including former teammate Damon Jones, a bunch of the Cavs’ signature bananas and plenty of sushi.
When he finally got to the interview room, he didn’t have too much to offer.
“There’s just not much you can say really. I mean, you get to this point, and I’ve been on the short end of this four times. It’s really no great feeling when you lose,” James said. “When you fall short, it hurts and it eats at you, and it hurts me to know that I wish I could have done better.”
There wasn’t much else James could have done to carry Cleveland. He finished the series averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists, dragging a ragtag squad whose third-best active player was J.R. Smith to the brink of a title.
But he was made at least somewhat more human by Iguodala, who held him to 13-of-33 shooting in Game 6. Amid the desperation of the fourth quarter, James missed five of seven shots during one stretch. He was on the bench watching as Smith missed a three that could have cut the deficit to three with 21 seconds left.
“We had many chapters in the season,” James said. “For me, it’s never a success if you go out losing. But I think we put ourselves back where this franchise needs to be, being a contender. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
There’s no doubt that the injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love also had an impact on the series, which Cleveland somehow led 2-1 before Kerr inserted Iguodala into the starting lineup.
“Obviously, we would have loved to have come into this series as a whole team,” Cavs coach David Blatt noted. “But we never asked for sympathy when [Love and Irving] went down. We never made an excuse, and I certainly won’t do that now.”
Blatt may not do it, but plenty of Cavs apologists and people around the NBA will. As Kerr readily admitted after the game, his team was lucky that it didn’t have to face the Cavs at full strength, and didn’t have to wrestle the Larry O’Brien Trophy directly from defending champion San Antonio’s death grip.
“Somebody has to win, and this was a year where LeBron left Miami, so getting to Cleveland with a brand-new group, they didn’t have the continuity they had in Miami,” Kerr said. “Things went our way, but we took advantage of that. The only thing that matters is we got the job done.”
Yes, we’ll remember that the Warriors were fortunate in 2015. But we’ll also remember that they won 67 games, ranked as the league’s best offensive and defensive team, and ran through the playoffs like one of Kerr’s championship Bulls teams.
We’ll remember LeBron’s Herculean performance in the Finals, and the fact that he nearly dragged this shell of a team to the title.
But most of all, we’ll remember just how fun it was to watch a boy become a man.
Wait, that came out wrong.
We watched a man become a legend, earning everlasting validation in just his sixth year in the NBA.
“They can’t take this away from us,” Curry said during the Warriors’ after-party at Morton’s Steakhouse in downtown Cleveland.
No they can’t, Steph.
All they can do is try to come and take it next year.