As the final seconds ticked off and the Warriors began bouncing in celebration on their bench, Stephen Curry looked up and saw LeBron James coming at him.
James could do nothing more. He extended a conceding hand shake and congratulations.
Moments later, Curry was hoisting a trophy in the air — one as golden as his team.
Revived by Curry, their fresh-faced shooting superstar, and bonded by first-year coach Steve Kerr who made them believe, the Warriors ended a 40-year NBA championship drought on Tuesday night by finishing off James and the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers 105-97 in Game 6.
Curry and finals MVP Andre Iguodala scored 25 points apiece, Draymond Green recorded a triple-double and the Warriors — using a barrage of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to put Cleveland away — won their first title since 1975 when Gerald Ford was in the White House, disco was in vogue and Rick Barry was flicking in free throws under-handed.
And these Warriors are a lot like Barry and his old crew: fluid, balanced, together. Just like Steve Kerr hoped.
“I’m kind of speechless,” said Curry. “This is special. To be able to hold this trophy and all the hard work we’ve put into it this season, this is special. We’re definitely a great team and a team that should go down in history as one of the best teams from top to bottom.”
Golden State coach Steve Kerr went with revamped lineup in Game 4, giving Iguodala his first start this season, switching Green to center and benching the ineffective Andrew Bogut. The move was as golden as the Warriors, who finished with 83 wins, the third-highest single-season total in history.
The fact that Iguodala, their sixth man, took MVP honors perhaps sums up the Warriors best.
“Strength in Numbers” was their motto as the Warriors used depth and balance to jump from 51 wins to a franchise-record 67 during the regular season.
With Curry, the team’s first MVP since Wilt Chamberlain, leading them, the Warriors outgunned everyone in the rugged Western Conference and entered the postseason as a No. 1 seed. They swept New Orleans, rallied from a 2-1 deficit to beat Memphis and then blew through Houston in five games to make the finals for the first time since ’75.
They then held off James and the Cavs, who just didn’t have enough.