With a fourth NBA Finals loss on his resume, LeBron James is going to be the recipient of a lot of scrutiny and criticism – both now and in the future. But the 2015 NBA Finals, believe it or not, wasn’t about James.
No, it was about the Golden State Warriors. Specifically, it was about their selflessness.
Andrew Bogut, a former No. 1 overall pick who started all year, essentially didn’t play in the final three games of the series. Draymond Green, a second-round pick, did all the dirty work for the Warriors. Andre Iguodala, the Finals MVP, came off the bench in the first three games.
This was a selfless bunch.
“Yeah, you’re absolutely right, and sacrifice, I think, was a big part of it,” CBS Sports NBA insider Ken Berger said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “(General manager) Bob Myers deserves a lot of credit for hiring the right coach in Steve Kerr, and I think Steve Kerr deserves a lot of credit just for his demeanor and the way he was able to get his message across and get everyone to buy in, even if it wasn’t necessarily in your best interests in the short term as a player. He was able to get them to understand that there was a bigger goal here.”
That wasn’t by accident, either.
“They listened to him because this was a roster of highly talented players that had never been to the NBA Finals,” Berger explained. “There was an experience gap there, and Steve Kerr filled it because he won five as a player with the Bulls and Spurs, and I think that gave him credibility in the locker room to be able to say to David Lee – who’s a $15-million player in this league and has been an All-Star – that you’re going to come off the bench and there might be weeks at a time when you’re not going to see the floor. Andre Iguodala, who’s been an Olympian and an All-Star and one of the best defenders in the league, started every game he played in the NBA for 10 years, and then this year came off the bench 95 times in a row until Kerr had to go to him in the Finals in the middle of the battle and say, ‘Hey, Iggy, we need you now.’ And he was ready. I think that was really what set this team apart. There were no egos. Everyone was going in the same direction, pulling in the same direction, and it’s nice to see that kind of sacrifice pay off.”
Especially when the franchise hasn’t won a title in 40 years. The only downside for the Warriors is that they didn’t clinch the championship at home.
“It’s old-school,” Berger said of the ORACLE experience. “It’s genuine. You don’t have all these bells and whistles and fire-breathing stanchions and guys with microphones screaming at the crowd to make noise. No, no, no, they don’t need anybody to tell them to make noise. They know how to make noise – and they do it as well as anyone in the NBA.”
Berger is not from the Bay Area and has only spent time there for work, so it’s hard for him to truly understand what being a Warriors fan has been like, to understand what 40 years of futility (more or less) has been like.
Myers, a fan since birth, tried to help him understand.
“He keeps in his wallet a ticket stub from the first Warriors game he ever went to as a fan in 1983 against the Knicks at ORACLE,” Berger said. “(He) sat in the upper deck and he said, ‘You know what? You have to be from there to understand it, but everyone who’s been rotting for this team for the last 20, 30, 40 years really thought that the Warriors (couldn’t win a championship).’”
Well, now they have.
Said Berger, “It’s nice to see that kind of loyalty and that kind of passion rewarded.”