Golden State Warriors Beat Cleveland To Win NBA Championship

Jun 17, 2015
Originally published on June 17, 2015 8:31 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The best team in professional basketball during the long NBA season is now the best team at the end. The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, 105-97. And the Warriors won their first championship in 40 years. From Cleveland, here's NPR's Tom Goldman.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: To the impartial observer, it's always a little disappointing when a team wins a title in its opponents house. There's no confetti. There's no, (chanting) we are the champions, no roaring crowd - just a league commissioner, in this case Adam Silver, echoing in a largely deserted building as he awards the championship trophy.

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MARC SILVER: And now, you've been waiting a long time, so I won't keep you waiting any longer. The Golden State Warriors.

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GOLDMAN: The Warriors had no trouble turning their champagne-soaked locker room into a happy home away from home. In the middle of it, 6-foot-11 center Festus Ezeli, born Nigeria, put the championship in a spiritual context.

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FESTUS EZELI: Ever since I was born - this is unbelievable. My name is Ifeanyi. It means, nothing is impossible with God. And nothing is impossible with God. This is unbelievable.

GOLDMAN: Perhaps the Warriors were divinely touched, considering the luck and lack of major injuries during the long and physical NBA campaign. But Ezeli, who contributed 10 important points and four rebounds last night, also acknowledged the earthly reasons why Golden State won everything, a style of play that was on full display in the clinching game.

EZELI: We played like we played all year. We played as a team. We moved the ball. We played defense. We sacrificed. We threw our bodies in the way. We did whatever we needed to do to win.

GOLDMAN: Indeed, there were stretches when Golden State played its best basketball - beautiful, quick passes leading to layups or the Warriors bread and butter, three-point shots. They sank 13, including a barrage of threes in the fourth quarter, that essentially sank the Cavaliers. Veteran shooting guard Andre Iguodala and league MVP Steph Curry each had 25 points. Iguodala's insertion in the starting lineup in Game 4 turned the series, making the Warriors a smaller, faster team that pulled away from the worn-out Cavs over the final three games. Iguodala earned the Finals MVP award for his offense and yeoman defensive work against the practically un-guardable LeBron James. And Iggy, a former All-Star, earned praise from Golden State general manager Bob Myers.

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BOB MYERS: This guy sat on the bench for an entire season, for three quarters of the playoffs, didn't complain, stayed humble, stayed hungry. When he was called to start, all he did was go out and win MVP in the finals. So what a great lesson in life.

GOLDMAN: At the other end of the happiness spectrum, there was LeBron James. He had done practically everything he could - scoring, rebounding, passing, leading. It was enough to earn the Cavs two hard-fought victories. It was necessary because of the injuries to Cleveland All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. James said he enjoyed the competition but not the role into which he was forced.

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LEBRON JAMES: I don't enjoy being as non-efficient as I was - don't enjoy that. I don't enjoy dribbling the ball for countless seconds in a shot clock and, you know, the team looking at me to make a play. It's not - it's not winning basketball, but I gave everything I had.

GOLDMAN: Indeed, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone finding fault with LeBron James today in championship-starved Cleveland. And as far as that 51-year pro sports title drought, which still is a drought, some surprising optimism from Clevelander Eric Vinder as he left last night's game.

ERIC VINDER: I think we've got next year.

GOLDMAN: With a healthy love in Irving, maybe. But today is about 40-year droughts ending and an exciting new NBA reality; small and fast can win the race. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.