The secret to the Warriors' first championship in 40 years

Yahoo Sports

CLEVELAND – Stephen Curry wore an "NBA Champions" hat and a champagne-soaked T-shirt as he cradled the Larry O'Brien championship trophy early Wednesday morning. He spied teammate Andrew Bogut and asked, "Hey Bogut, Bogut, you want to hold the trophy?"

As yet another champagne bottle was about to be popped behind him in the Golden State Warriors' locker room, Bogut responded with the obvious: "Yes, I do."

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Curry smiled. "You can't have it," he said, dashing away from his teammate in one of the few displays of selfishness from the Warriors all season.

Curry and the Warriors claimed the franchise's first NBA title since 1975 after disposing of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 105-97 victory in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night. Curry was the NBA's Most Valuable Player during the regular season. Andre Iguodala, who came off the bench all season before starting the last three games of the Finals, was the NBA Finals MVP. But what held the team so tightly together from the first game to the last was all of the players' collective unselfishness.

"I've seen [this trophy] on TV so many times," said Curry, who had 25 points in the clinching Game 6 victory. "You dream about what it would be like to pour champagne on yourself. And when that moment comes, holding the trophy and the champagne is falling in my face, that's when it all sinks in.

"This is real. It's the best champagne I ever tasted in my life."

[Warriors' surprising hero: Andre Iguodala named NBA Finals MVP]

The Warriors entered the season with championship hopes, but also more than a few questions. The franchise had not advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 1976. The Warriors also had a rookie head coach in Steve Kerr. But with a strong returning core of Curry, Iguodala, Bogut, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and David Lee – along with a pair of needed guard additions in Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa – they knew they had the potential to become special.

"Everybody has something they want to bring to the table and prove," said Iguodala, who had 25 points in Game 6 while also primarily guarding James. "So guys play for themselves. That's human nature. But when you get all those guys together and say, 'We're going to do it as a team,' that's an awesome formula for what we put together tonight. And that is a championship."

The Warriors could have succumbed to their pride or a clash of egos, but never did. Iguodala lost his starting small forward job entering the season to Harrison Barnes. Lee lost his starting power forward job to Green after coming back from injury and didn't play the majority of the playoffs. Marreese Speights went from successful fill-in early in the season to barely playing in the playoffs. Bogut lost his starting job in Game 4 of the NBA Finals and didn't play at all in the last two games.

Kerr also had no problem taking advice from all of his assistant coaches, everyone from veterans Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams to 28-year-old Nick U'Ren, who made the critical suggestion to move Iguodala into the starting lineup in place of Bogut for Game 4.

[More Finals coverage: Stephen Curry first player to beat other four All-NBA members in playoffs]

There were some grumbles among the players behind the scenes. Some also spoke with a psychologist brought in by Kerr. But if there was an issue, it was nothing that was ever verbalized or became public.

"So many guys made sacrifices," Green said. "David Lee took a lesser role. Andre Iguodala took a lesser role. Andrew Bogut in the Finals took a back seat. Throughout the year, everybody made sacrifices. We sacrificed for each other. Whether it's numbers or anything, nobody cared.

"The only number that mattered was wins. And it continued to show during the course of the season. That's why we're champions."

Five days before the postseason began, Curry said if the Warriors didn't win the title, the entire season would be a disappointment.

"I believed that personally and selfishly," Curry said. "I never finished the season with a win when it mattered. This is important. We had so much potential. For the talent and opportunity to come together to hold this gold trophy, it's what it's about."

There was little adversity during a 67-win regular season for the Warriors, who never lost more than two straight games. The first real test for the Warriors came in the second round of the playoffs when the Memphis Grizzlies took a 2-1 series lead. Golden State responded with three consecutive victories to close out the series. Warriors general manager Bob Myers said that's when he truly believed the Warriors could win the title.

"It takes a great group," Myers said. "It takes more than one person. And I think we have a great group."

During a dinner with his family and friends late Sunday in Berkeley, Calif., after Golden State's Game 5 victory, Green proclaimed there would be no need for a Game 7.

"I'm telling you right now, we ain't losing," Green said then. "We're coming back home for the parade."

Green figured he had every reason to be confident.

"I knew we had taken control of this series and I knew they wouldn't respond to anything that we do," Green told Yahoo Sports. "They wanted to go small. Well, that's what we do. We've done that lineup all year. And I just thought we were better at it and they couldn't counter what we had."

[More NBA Finals coverage: LeBron's epic series ends with more Cleveland sorrow]

From Oakland to San Francisco to San Jose, the Bay Area was rocking with a celebration 40 years in the making. The Warriors' championship came after years of embarrassment: Latrell Sprewell choking P.J. Carlesimo; Monta Ellis getting in a moped accident; draft busts like Chris Washburn; and bad trades that sent away Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Mitch Richmond and Chris Webber. Not to mention decades of losing.

"The fans deserve it," said Myers, a Bay Area native who grew up a Warriors fan. "When I took the job, one of the things I thought about was, 'Why can't we win? Why can't the Warriors win a championship?' It felt like something that was impossible. I think the fans could relate to it.

"They always viewed it as a team that was fun to watch. They supported us. But I don't think anyone believed this was possible. To make that happen for the fan base is tremendous."

Perhaps the most excitement in the Bay Area comes from Oakland, which could lose the Warriors to San Francisco and a new waterfront arena as early as 2018. The NFL's Raiders and MLB's Athletics also could leave Oakland if they don't get a new stadium.

In what could perhaps be the last championship parade in Oakland sports history, the Warriors will ride buses on Friday that will take them on a route through downtown and alongside Lake Merritt before ending at a rally at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, an old relic that used to host big high school hoops games, along with some of MC Hammer's early concerts.

"I can't put this into words," Curry said. "But when I come back and we have this parade, it's going to be a party."

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