The 40-year basketball drought finally ended, the Golden State Warriors flush with their first championship since 1975.
Champagne sprayed like geysers in the locker room Tuesday after the Warriors eliminated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, 105-97, continuing the same shoot-at-will style that carried them to 67 regular-season victories and a 16-5 playoff run.
Stephen Curry grabbed the game's final rebound and heaved the ball high into the air as his teammates began celebrating at a quieted Quicken Loans Arena. The Warriors didn't face a Game 7 in their four playoff series and should be considered one of the best teams ever, “top to bottom,” Curry said.
“I wish I had 1,800 more ways to explain this, because this is pretty amazing,” he said with the Larry O'Brien Trophy perched next to him on a table.
The Cavaliers, on the other hand, claimed in their plastered-everywhere-in-Ohio mantra they would be “ALL IN,” but missed a key component, the “ALL” part.
The Warriors were the ones with contributions from many players, Curry and veteran Andre Iguodala each scoring 25 points Tuesday while Draymond Green had 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Iguodala didn't start once in the regular season but was promoted from the bench last week for Game 4. He played tough defense against LeBron James throughout and received the Finals MVP award after averaging 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and four assists.
James tried his best with an unimpressive cast of characters.
It wasn't his fault injuries took out Kevin Love in April and Kyrie Irving in the Finals opener.
He acted accordingly, taking a lot of shots and missing plenty but also creating breathtaking stats such as accounting for 26 of his team's 32 field goals in Game 5. He had 32 points on 13-for-33 shooting, 18 rebounds and nine assists in Game 6.
For dragging along a damaged team, he deserved much respect. Cleveland fans booed when he wasn't chosen as the Finals MVP, which would have made him the first from the losing team since the Lakers' Jerry West in 1969 (against Boston).
James finished with numbingly impressive stats (35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists) but fell to 2-4 in the Finals, further away from the king of the '80s (Magic Johnson, 5-4 in NBA Finals), the '90s (Michael Jordan, 6-0) and infant years of the 2000s (Kobe Bryant, 5-2).
“I've been on the short end of this four times,” James said. “I'm a guy who just tries to be successful in everything I do. When you fall short, it hurts. It eats at you. I wish I could have did better and done more. It just wasn't our time.”
For Curry, it was the first championship of a 27-year-old's burgeoning career. If he's not the best player in the world right now, to steal James' self-proclamation from a few days ago, he's very close.
For Steve Kerr, it was an unimaginable run in his first season as an NBA coach after ditching TV analyst headsets to turn the Warriors into a force at Oracle Arena (48-4) and, really, anywhere.
For West, a Warriors consultant and sounding board, it was the first championship he'd been part of since leaving the Lakers' front office after the 2000 season.
For former UCLA player Bob Myers, it meant the completion of a wildly successful transition from up-and-coming player agent to Warriors general manager in 2011.
For the Golden State players themselves, already record-setters for three-pointers per game in a playoff season, there was a huge ascension from just one year ago, when they finished sixth in the Western Conference and lost in the first round.
They quickly became the first team since 1991 to win a championship with no players with previous NBA Finals experience.
Cleveland Coach David Blatt scrapped his one-game trial of matching the Warriors' small lineup, allowing center Timofey Mozgov to return to quasi-prominence Tuesday (17 points and 12 rebounds).
But the Cavaliers' guards were off the mark, Iman Shumpert, Matthew Dellavedova, J.R. Smith and James Jones making only seven of 29 shots.
The Cavaliers' championship drought continues, 45 years and counting now.
“I've been watching basketball a long time, I'm a historian of the game. I don't know any other team that's gotten to the Finals without two [injured] All-Stars,” James said before adding double-double threat Anderson Varejao, who went down with a season-ending Achilles' tendon rupture in December. “We had three playmakers in suits.”
Not that the Warriors were preoccupied by the Cavaliers' injuries or missed shots. The Bay Area had itself a basketball champion, four decades after the last one.