NBA Finals 2022: Stephen Curry cements legacy with MVP performance

By Melissa Rohlin
FOX Sports activities NBA Author

Because the seconds ticked off the clock, Steph Curry grabbed his knees earlier than collapsing onto the courtroom in a seated place, burying his head in his arms. The feelings have been pouring out of him with a lot depth that they bought the very best of him, a feat 29 different NBA groups failed to perform this season.

For Curry, this NBA championship hit otherwise.

Simply a short while in the past, his group was counted out. He was dismissed. The dynasty was left for useless, buried in a graveyard with different legendary groups that collapsed and could not be resuscitated.

Curry heard all the speaking heads who claimed the Warriors’ run was over after Kevin Durant left in free company in 2019. He heard folks chuckle off their possibilities of ever being nice once more after they completed with the worst file within the league in 2020, successful solely 19 video games. He heard everybody name him too previous, too injury-riddled, too previous his prime to guide this group to the mountaintop once more.

That is why because the buzzer sounded on Thursday, Curry bought goosebumps. It is why as he hugged his father, Dell Curry, he was so consumed by the second that he claims he blacked out.

“It was surreal as a result of you understand how a lot you went via to get again to this stage,” Curry mentioned after Golden State’s 103-90 title-clinching win over the Boston Celtics in Recreation 6.

This was Curry’s biggest accomplishment but. These Warriors weren’t alleged to be right here.

The group’s Huge Three are all no less than 32 years previous. Klay Thompson was a lesser model of himself after returning in January from ACL and Achilles accidents that sidelined him for two-and-a-half years. Draymond Inexperienced was accused (unfairly) all through the Finals of being extra serious about his podcast than his play. In reality, in the course of the broadcast for Recreation 6, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy known as this iteration of the Warriors the least gifted group that Steve Kerr has coached, intending it as a praise.

Curry put this group on his again.

On the largest of levels, he stored producing masterful second after masterful second. He was a wizard on offense, whereas additionally enjoying the very best protection of his profession.

In Recreation 1, he had six 3-pointers within the first quarter, an NBA Finals file for a single interval. In Recreation 4, he had 43 factors and 10 rebounds. In Recreation 6, he had 34 factors on 12-for-21 taking pictures from the sphere, going 6-for-11 from past the arc, whereas additionally ending with seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

Performances like these cement a participant’s legacy, and, for no matter purpose, Curry entered the Finals along with his in query. Though he was a two-time MVP and an eight-time All-Star, pundits debated whether or not he was a top-10 participant or perhaps a top-five level guard.

With this win, Curry silenced the noise.

“I feel he solidified himself in the present day — not even in the present day, simply [over] his profession — as the very best level guard of all time,” mentioned Andre Iguodala. “When he is gone, we’re actually going to overlook him and neglect how a lot of an influence [he’s had], not simply on the Warriors or the NBA, however on the complete globe. , like he made the world transfer.”

Curry has modified the sport of basketball as we all know it. He made taking pictures from wherever on the courtroom a risk. He redefined what it means to by no means cease shifting. He is like a painter who created a brand new style of artwork, or an writer who invented a completely new literary assemble.

However Curry usually would not get the credit score he deserves. He is too disarming. His physique is not constructed like a Greek God. You possibly can simply run into somebody along with his body at your native gymnasium. It is laborious for our brains to compute that he is one of many biggest athletes ever when he seems so darn regular.

However this season alone, he set the all-time file for 3-pointers made. He was named MVP of the All-Star sport, MVP of the Western Convention finals and, for the primary time in his profession, MVP of the NBA Finals, with a unanimous 11-0 vote.

As Curry accepted the MVP Finals award, his teammates all waved one hand within the air, up and down. Curry shook his head in humility. His spouse, Ayesha Curry, blotted tears from her eyes. What was lengthy thought-about the one gap in his in any other case impeccable résumé was lastly plugged.

However after the Warriors gained the title, that accolade was the very last thing he needed to speak about. When requested what the award meant to him as he sat on the postgame podium, he pounded his fist on the desk and mentioned, “Neglect that query. Why you begin with that query? We have got 4 championships.”

That is the factor about Curry. He is probably the most humble famous person you will ever meet, this era’s Tim Duncan. In reality, Kerr not too long ago instructed me that each time he goes out to dinner, he makes a toast to Curry, one thing he picked up from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who toasts Duncan earlier than every meal.

Kerr is aware of that with out Curry, there would not be any bottles of champagne within the locker room on Thursday. There would not be a fourth ring. There would not be a dynasty.

“Steph, in the end, is why this run has occurred,” Kerr mentioned. “To me, that is his crowning achievement in what’s already been an unimaginable profession.”

You possibly can inform how badly Curry needed this. He was speaking greater than regular to the group in the course of the Finals. As an alternative of enjoying with pure pleasure, he was enjoying with pure depth. Curry wasn’t shimmying, he was roaring.

He even engaged within the trash discuss. After a bar close to Fenway Park in Boston posted an indication in chalk that learn, “Ayesha Curry Cannot Prepare dinner,” he responded by carrying a T-shirt after Recreation 5 that mentioned, “Ayesha Curry Can Prepare dinner.”

And whereas speaking about his feelings after Recreation 6, he held his hand over his eye within the form of a zero, mocking a gesture that a couple of ESPN analysts made final August when predicting what number of extra titles he’d win.

Curry at all times believed in himself. When he suffered a damaged hand 4 video games into the 2019-2020 season, he used that as a possibility to work on his sport, a luxurious he did not have in the course of the group’s five-year Finals run from 2015-2019.

He spent hours within the gymnasium every day along with his coach, Brandon Payne, turning into sooner and stronger, doing drills that continually pushed the boundaries of what both man thought was potential. He’d do a 90-second taking pictures drill in 85 seconds, then 80. He’d stare at a lightweight fixture as he dribbled, doing totally different strikes with every hand primarily based on what shade the sunshine turned, with rising pace.

And when the Warriors have been eradicated by the Lakers within the play-in event final season, Curry turned much more decided. He was relentless in his pursuit of greatness. Dogged.

“It has been a 12 months and 6 days that I began the method of preparing for this season,” Curry mentioned with shocking exactitude. “All of it paid off.”

The excellent news for the Warriors is that the 34-year-old Curry is not exhibiting any indicators of slowing down. If something, he is getting higher with age. His sport is turning into extra full.

Warriors basic supervisor Bob Myers has watched Curry completely shatter everybody’s expectations of him, remodeling from the seventh total choose within the 2009 draft right into a participant who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of basketball lore.

“When he got here into the league, he was not this man,” Myers not too long ago instructed me, including that all through the years Curry has was one of the vital aggressive, expert and high-character athletes on the market. “You would be hard-pressed to surprise why anyone would not wish to play with him.”

It is one thing the Warriors do not take with no consideration.

After successful the championship, his teammates hugged him as he cried. They chanted “MVP” for him. Thompson danced with him on the stage whereas he held his trophy.

For Curry, it was all the pieces he dreamed about when successful one other championship appeared like nothing greater than a ridiculous impossibility to everybody — besides him and a few of his teammates.

So, on Thursday, Curry savored each second of this.

After the sport, he held a cigar in his mouth as he sprayed bottles of champagne across the locker room with unbridled happiness.

This evening belonged to him. Curry turned a group that was on the cellar of the league simply two years in the past into champions, one thing that has by no means been executed earlier than within the historical past of the league. He refused to surrender. He refused to imagine what everybody else mentioned about him and his group.

New gamers? No downside. Accidents? So what. Everyone seems to be getting older? Who cares.

Curry did not let any of these hurdles get in his manner. He dug in more durable. He impressed everybody round him. He stored producing extra masterful masterpieces.

And in doing so, he proved that he is in a category of his personal, a participant so expert that he can by no means be underestimated.

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA author for FOX Sports activities. She beforehand coated the league for Sports activities Illustrated, the Los Angeles Instances, the Bay Space Information Group and the San Antonio Categorical-Information. Comply with her on Twitter at @melissarohlin.

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