First ring for Steph Curry, Warriors feels fresh as dynasty reboots

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First crowning of Steph, Warriors feels fresh as dynasty reboots originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The struggle, nearly eight months in duration, had ended in triumph 19 weeks earlier. There was an unforgettable parade through the streets of Oakland, followed by a brilliant summer that never dimmed. Now only the epilogue remained.

The Golden State Warriors, rising from 40 years of despair, would receive the piece of jewelry that authenticates ultimate team achievement.

Five years later, the ring ceremony and banner raising at Oracle Arena on Oct. 27, 2015, still feels fresh and warm.

“I’ll always remember the feeling of that day,” Leandro Barbosa says. “I don’t think many people thought we could make it. But we did it. It was a lot of work. But it was also so special because of that, and because of the friendships we had within the organization, with my teammates – on the court and away from the court.

“It was a special moment, a special time, exciting. I was looking at my watch and counting the minutes before going to the arena to celebrate with my teammates.”

The 2014-15 Warriors were a unified group, forged partly by a bitter seven-game loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. Mark Jackson, who coached his squad in a tight circle, had been dismissed and replaced by first-time coach Steve Kerr, who brought fresh ideas that quickly earned approval.

The nucleus was in place. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the backcourt, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green at forwards, Andrew Bogut at center, Andre Iguodala in the role of sixth man and Marreese Speights as the big man off the bench. Two new faces, veterans Shaun Livingston and Barbosa, were seamless fits into the fabric.

The Warriors won 21 of their first 23 games, 36 of their first 42. They finished 67-15, earning the No. 1 overall seed in the postseason. They swept the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round, dumped the Memphis Grizzlies in six and the Houston Rockets in five to reach the NBA Finals. They beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games to give the franchise its first championship in 40 years.

This night had come after all the sweat and savoring, after everyone has exhaled and absorbed the magnitude of the accomplishment. It’s the one night of the new season that brings guaranteed gratification.

“There was one banner that was hanging up in our practice facility and at Oracle, from the ‘75 title,” Kerr recalls. “So, ring night, the unveiling of that 2015 banner, that's what really makes it real. You know that banner is going to be there forever.”

Kerr on that night was less a head coach than a consultant to interim head coach Luke Walton. Kerr had undergone two back surgeries in the offseason and the aftermath brought even more misery than the initial pain. He would miss the first 43 games of the 2015-16 season.

On this night, Kerr stood among members of his staff trying to ignore the discomfort.

“I wasn’t feeling great, so it was it was sort of a strange night for me personally, just wanting to be out there on Opening Night, and not being able to coach,” he recalls. “That was really rough. What should have been a glorious night -- what was a glorious night for our team -- was much tougher for me, not being out there and knowing it was going to be awhile until I would be.”

The players, by contrast, were floating through the moment. This was for Curry, who during one of the team’s many low points vowed to “figure it out.” This was for Iguodala, who visualized this when he came over from Denver in 2013. This was for Livingston and Barbosa, the two vets that finally were reaping the rewards of perseverance.

Livingston’s path consisted of overcoming a devastating, career-threatening injury and playing for eight different franchises before landing with the Warriors in his 11th season. Barbosa had played 12 seasons, for four different franchises. Neither gotten close to winning it all.

“I could have definitely lost the hope to win the championship, to go to The Finals,” Barbosa recalls. “And each player that plays in NBA, he wants to get to The Finals and get that ring.

"When I was there that night, I was just thinking about all that I've been through, everything that happened up until that time. So, it was a dream come true, a special day.”

Commissioner Adam Silver was in his customary role. After recognizing the three previous Warriors championship teams -- 1947 and 1956 in Philadelphia, 1975 Golden State -- he congratulated these Warriors. He praised co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, along with COO Rick Welts, general manager Bob Myers and Kerr.

“This is a team that in its play on the court is as innovative as this community,” Silver said. “You’re true Warriors and deserving of these championship rings.”

In the years between 1975 and 2015, the Warriors posted 25 sub-.500 seasons, including 13 when they lost at least 50 games. This, though, was the beginning of something. They were 51-31 in Jackson’s final season, 47-35 the year before that. For the first time since the ‘70s, they’d reached the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

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They could not have assumed this would be the first of seven consecutive postseasons, with three such celebrations in a five-year span. They’d not only won their first title in 40 years but had stepped into the pantheon of the elite.

They could not have anticipated all of this, right? Well, even as they enjoyed the moment and rings were presented and the banner was raised, it was in the back of at least one mind.

“You're thinking about the future,” Kerr recalls. “You’re thinking, ‘Can we hang another one?’

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