CLEVELAND - Stephen Curry pointed his hands skyward before slapping skin with teammate Draymond Green, knowing they had just accomplished the exhaustive feat they set as a goal in training camp in October.
After a 40-year championship drought, the Golden State Warriors are alone at the top of the NBA and they were basking in the moment, soaking up the remaining seconds.
Behind 25 points apiece from Curry and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors took Game 6 of their best-of-seven Finals series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, 105-97, at Quicken Loans Arena Tuesday night, winning the title for the first time since 1975.
"It makes it so much more special to have gone through some down years and injuries and transition from a roster standpoint," Curry said, "and to be able to sit here six years later from my rookie year and hold this trophy, this is an unbelievable experience."
Iguodala was named the MVP of the Finals, beating out Curry and even James. Cleveland's superstar nearly recorded his third triple double in the series, with 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in 46 minutes. But Iguodala, whose move into the starting lineup in Game 4 spurred Golden State to three straight victories, wouldn't be denied.
"You could make an argument that it could have gone to Steph, it could have gone to LeBron," said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who gave Knicks president Phil Jackson a shoutout during an interview on the post game podium. "But for us, it's really fitting that the award went to Andre because he sacrificed his starting role from the first game of the season. He had never come off the bench once in his entire career, and he sacrificed that job . . . to make our bench better, and that set the tone for our whole season. An All Star, an Olympian saying, 'OK, I'll come off the bench.'
"It set the tone for everything we were able to accomplish, so it feels like full circle to me that Andre received the award. Couldn't happen to a better person."
James simply didn't get enough help, again serving as Cleveland's lone effective offensive weapon. He became the sixth player in league history to score 5,000 career playoff points and averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game in the series. He was hoping to deliver this pro championship-starved city its first title in 51 years, completing a storybook ending to an 11-month odyssey that began with his announcing he was coming home to Ohio after spending four seasons with the Heat.
However, a depleted roster punctuated by Kyrie Irving fracturing his left kneecap in overtime of Game 1 was too much for James ... Co. to overcome.
"I always look at it would I rather not make the playoffs or lose in The Finals?" James said. "I don't know. I've missed the playoffs twice. I lost in The Finals four times. I'm almost starting to be like I'd rather not even make the playoffs than to lose in The Finals. It would hurt a lot [less] if I just didn't make the playoffs and I didn't have a shot at it.
"But then I lock back in and I start thinking about how fun it is to compete during the playoffs and the first round, the second round, and Eastern Conference Finals. If I'm lucky enough to get here again, it will be fun to do it.
"[I] put my body through a lot, you know, but it's the price for your body feeling this way for winning. Did I win? I didn't win a championship, but I've done a lot of good things in this first year back, and hopefully I can continue it."
Said Cavaliers coach David Blatt, "Obviously, we would have loved to have come into the series as a whole team. I feel badly for Kevin [Love] and for Kyrie because they did so much during the course of the season to help us get here. We're not here without either one of those guys, and obviously having had them in this series would have been significant.
"But we never asked for sympathy when they went down. We never made an excuse, and I certainly won't do that now."
The Warriors have every intention of basking in the championship glow. "My mind's just blank, enjoying the moment," Iguodala said. "This has been a long ride. It's been a great season, and we're just going to enjoy the moment."