As Steve Kerr recalled the meeting in the Hamptons in the summer of 2016 when the Golden State Warriors wooed Kevin Durant during free agency, he remembered the conversation focusing on winning championships. No one discussed individual accolades.
That’s why he knows Stephen Curry doesn’t care that he’s never been named NBA Finals MVP, the honor going to Durant last year and again Friday after Golden State won its third title in four years.
“I can go in the locker room right now and look at every one of my teammates in the face and have that sense of pride of what I was able to do out there on the floor and how I can help my team win a championship. That’s all that matters to me,” Curry said. “K.D.'s been amazing these last two years, especially in the Finals, and so deserving of back-to-back Finals MVPs. I’m going to be his biggest fan.”
That mentality by Curry, and by all the principle players, is why the Warriors have been able to remain this unbeatable super team. Their expiration date might come eventually, likely as a casualty of rising salaries, but so far they have avoided the pitfall that can rip apart championship teams — a fight for individual glory disrupting harmony.
“We all want something that’s bigger than ourselves,” Durant said. “I think we love to see each other succeed. We love to come together and figure stuff out on the basketball court.”
Seven of the 11 Finals MVP voters, most of whom were members of the national media, chose Durant while the other four votes went to Curry. There was an argument for either player.
Durant dominated Game 3, scoring 43 points and delivering the dagger to the Cavaliers. Cleveland played the Warriors tough that day, and a win would have given the Cavaliers life. After Durant’s game-sealing three-pointer, Curry rushed toward him screaming with delight. Durant also scored 72 points combined in Games 1, 2 and 4, finishing with a triple-double in the series-clincher.
On the other hand, Curry set a Finals record with nine three-pointers in Game 2. While he didn’t shoot well in Game 3, he made seven threes in Game 4 and scored 37 points.
“Being on a team with four All-Stars is unheard of,” center JaVale McGee said. “The fact that [I’m] being a part of it, being behind the scenes and seeing how unselfish these guys are, is amazing. I’m just so happy I got to be a part of two back-to-back championships with four All-Stars who are as unselfish as they are.”
This year’s Finals seemed easy for the Warriors, but this was the first time in their championship run that Kerr even had doubts about whether or not his team would make it that far. The Warriors often were unfocused and allowed their defense to slip.
There were times when they got bored and had to search for ways to motivate themselves. Houston, a team built to beat them, proved a worthy challenger. The Rockets took the Warriors to seven games, and were it not for an injury to Chris Paul at the end of Game 5, they might have beat them.
But as the championship neared, their focus intensified as they all remembered how much fun it was to win these together. Curry is a big part of that.
“It’s an appreciation of everybody that you get to play with out there on the floor and what they all mean and the value they bring to winning a championship. So I don’t think any of us take ourselves too seriously.”
Curry’s contract goes through the 2021-22 season, while Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala are signed through 2019-20. Klay Thompson has one year left on his contract. The only potential question mark is Durant, who can opt out after this season. Durant has indicated he’ll be back, but Curry doesn’t even want to think about that.
“I know K.D. said what he said, and we know what contract situations are, but I really just am happy to be a champ again,” Curry said. “So it’s kind of hard to put myself in any other kind of mental space right now.”
When the Warriors’ championship celebration ended, Curry walked through a crowd of Golden State supporters and into a tunnel that led him away from the court. In his arms he cradled the only thing that matters to him in his basketball career, then he lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy high into the air.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli