With two seconds left in the game that clinched his fourth — and sweetest — NBA title, Stephen Curry held his face in his hands, almost confused by a flood of emotions. He clasped his father, Dell, in an embrace and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
So he did both.
“I blacked out for a second,” admitted Curry, who shot the lights out Thursday night. He poured in 34 points, went 6-for-11 from 3-point range, and carried Golden State to a clinching 103-90 Game 6 win at Boston.
“It was definitely overwhelming,” he said. “It was surreal because you know how much you went through to get back to this stage.
“I didn’t even know he was down there, to be honest with you. I saw him and I lost it, and I knew the clock was kind of running out. I just wanted to take in the moment because it was that special.”
It was a triumph that earned Curry his first-ever NBA Finals MVP award, and likely moved him even closer to the center of the league’s pantheon of stars. Curry, already the best shooter in history, is now probably one of the league’s top 10 players all-time as well, after leading the Warriors back from the cellar, where they resided two years ago, to the pinnacle.
And that’s when the dam burst.
“These last two months of the playoffs, these last three years, this last 48 hours, every bit of it has been an emotional roller coaster on and off the floor, and you’re carrying all of that on a daily basis to try to realize a dream and a goal like we did,” Curry said. “And you get goose bumps just thinking about all those snapshots and episodes that we went through to get back here, individually, collectively.
“The narratives that you hear going into this season, especially, and coming off the two years prior where we literally had the worst record in the league and we had a lot of injuries. Then scratching and clawing, trying to get to the play-in tournament just to get a playoff berth, we definitely had that mentality that our belief and faith in what we can do.”
Of all the men in the history of the game, the list of those better than Curry is probably in single digits. And at just 34 years old, he has plenty left and can only keep climbing.
Curry changed the game: Little kids heave up 3-pointers as soon as they cross halfcourt now. But in his case, it’s not style, but an ocean of substance. And this Warriors team — arguably the least talented Golden State squad to have won a title — needed him.
“He’s single-handedly changed the [game],” Kevon Looney said. “Since I’ve been here, he’s done some amazing every year. I got to see him win a unanimous MVP. I got to see him break the 3-point record. Won three championships and went back-to-back [league] MVP.
“He’s considered one of the best ever for reason and he’s gonna impact the game. I go back home to Milwaukee and watch my team play and practice. Everybody wants to be Steph. Everybody want to shoot 3s.”
But these Warriors needed Curry to do more than shoot, and that’s why this title may have been his crowning achievement.
He diced up Boston’s league-leading defense with seven assists and seven rebounds. He’s 12th in career NBA Finals scoring. Of the 11 ahead of him, 10 are in the Hall of Fame and LeBron James will join them. And Curry’s latest triumph may put him in the top 10 in league annals.
After becoming the NBA’s all-time top 3-point shooter earlier this season, Curry put on a jump-shooting clinic in this series.
Curry hit a long 3-pointer over a Robert Williams III closeout to give Golden State a commanding 72-50 cushion Thursday, then pointed to his ring finger, where he would soon sport a fourth championship ring.
And when that lead shriveled to 84-75 in the fourth quarter and the TD Garden crowd whipped into a frenzy, Curry responded. With the Celtics pressuring and crowding him, he blew by for a scoop layup to stem the tide and steady his team.
While Curry’s shooting justifiably draws attention and garners highlights, his leadership is an underrated aspect of his game. He doesn’t just shoot, he scores in volume, he is a deft passer and — despite never being a lockdown defender — he has even improved on that end of the floor.
The result? One of the top 10 players to ever pick up a ball.
“I’m obviously thrilled for everyone in that room, and a lot of people had a big hand in this, but I think the thing with Steph, without him, none of this happens,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Steph ultimately is why this run has happened. Much like Timmy [Duncan] in San Antonio. So I’m happy for everybody, but I’m thrilled for Steph. To me this is his crowning achievement in what’s already been an incredible career.”