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No matter how many injuries or poor performances occur along the way, every NBA champion must overcome adversity and challenges to win a title. While the structure of the lengthy NBA playoffs plays to the strengths of favorites, even the best teams face some degree of heavy competition or take an unlikely loss that throws a title run into question, even if just for a moment or two. For instance, while the 67-win Golden State Warriors were favored to win the championship way back in mid-April, they had to overcome 2-1 deficits to both the Memphis Grizzlies in the conference semifinals and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy on Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena. What looks inevitable in retrospect was once very much in doubt.
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Reasonable minds can differ on exactly how difficult the Warriors' road to the championship was, but either way the team and its superstar just pulled off an unprecedented feat. In defeating LeBron James and the Cavaliers, NBA MVP Stephen Curry became the first player in league history to beat all four of his fellow All-NBA First Team members. Curry (and, you know, his teammates) bested Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans in the opening round, Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies in the conference semifinals, James Harden and the Houston Rockets in the conference finals, and LeBron and the Cavs in the finals to complete the impressive, if also somewhat random, achievement.
It's clear that Curry's achievement depended on many factors beyond his control. It's rare enough for a player to meet the other four All-NBA members in the first place. For that matter, it's unlikely that Curry would have meet the four other players among one team each from the bottom tier of playoff teams, the middle of the pack, another conference title contender and the opposing conference champion. Curry just happened to be lucky enough to play in the league at the same time as when Davis was coming into his powers, Gasol stood out among a diminishing supply of centers, and James served as the clearly dominant figure in the downtrodden East. Plus, this is an individual achievement that depends on the relative quality of the entire team.
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Qualifications aside, the accomplishment stands out as another incident in a charmed season for Curry. The MVP has been a star for several years now, but 2014-15 saw him top fan voting for the All-Star Game, win the MVP as part of the NBA's best team, and take his first championship as the most celebrated player of the playoffs up until the finals. No matter what happens over the rest of Curry's career, this is the season in which everything came together for him. Few players ever see such a confluence of success and popularity.
Despite all that Curry did this season, LeBron James solidified his position as basketball's leading superstar over the course of a remarkably dominant NBA Finals. Yet LeBron still took the time to congratulate Curry in the waning moments of Game 6:
Now all Steph needs to do is beat all these same players, plus a few more superstars (remember Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook?) next year. No matter how many stars you dismiss, there will always be more to rise up in their place.
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