Golden Hours: Inside the Warriors' nightlong NBA Finals celebration
CLEVELAND—The season of splash ended Wednesday at 2:18 a.m., on the loading dock at Quicken Loans Arena, 20 feet from the Warriors bus. Stephen Curry raised both arms, let out a triumphant roar, and in a fit of euphoria lost control of the Heineken in his right hand. He tried to catch the bottle, but it splattered against the cement, leaving a puddle of green shards and Dutch hops. A few of Curry’s teammates, waiting for him outside the bus, saw the final splash. They erupted in applause.
They were bound for a victory party at Morton’s The Steakhouse, across the top floor of the Tower City Center from the Ritz-Carlton, where the Warriors were staying. When Curry strode into the wood-paneled restaurant, carrying 2-year-old daughter Riley on a piggyback ride, players, staffers and family members erupted again. Head coach Steve Kerr enjoyed a similar reception. Small forward Andre Iguodala was greeted with MVP chants.
Some Warriors clustered around the ice sculpture in the middle of the main dining room—the frozen cutout read “Strength in Numbers,” inspired by the organizational slogan—and others turned a side room into a nightclub. Power forward Draymond Green, still in his blue practice shorts, hopped up on a chair. Teammates leapt around him, singing in unison, while recording with cell phones. Curry did not join the mosh pit. Sitting at the end of a long table, he dug into a plate of steak, macaroni and mashed potatoes. One man approached and asked Curry to autograph his Polo shirt. “I’ve got a lot of Polos,” the man said. Another tried to slip an unlit cigar into Riley’s mouth. “No,” she replied, shaking her head.
Two Warriors famously abstain from alcohol, Iguodala and Harrison Barnes, and both were under more pressure to drink than college freshmen. “They didn’t get me,” Iguodala claimed. “They got me,” Barnes admitted. When Barnes slipped out the door a little before 3 a.m., saying he needed to shower back at the Ritz, reserve guard Justin Holiday hollered after him: “You’re going to be asleep in 10 minutes.” Barnes, true to his word, returned. The party churned past 5 a.m. Curry was among the last to leave.
The day had started with a film session that was, like many Golden State film sessions, only partly serious. One clip was of WWE heavyweight champion Seth Rollins, who appeared in Cleveland this week for Monday Night Raw. “Take a good look, Cleveland, take a good look because this is what a world championship looks like,” Rollins bellowed in the center of the ring, holding his belt aloft. “LeBron James ain’t bringing a title back to Cleveland. This is the only championship you should be celebrating, so suck it up!” The Warriors were only slightly less confident. “We’re going to close this out tonight,” Kerr told a friend.
Kerr owns five championship rings, all earned as a player, and he displays them prominently in his San Diego home. Not really. His wife, Margot, actually found the rings recently in her bikini drawer. Margot and Kerr’s three children arrived on the family charter Tuesday evening. They hoped to see him before the game. “He usually ignores what I’m saying 50% of the time,” Margot joked. “Recently he’s ignored what I’m saying 98% of the time.”
In Game 6, Curry missed eight threes, Klay Thompson scored five points, the Warriors were out-rebounded by 17—and they still closed the Cavaliers, 105–97, one final testament to all the many ways they can win. The Warriors finished 83–20. They lost four times at home. Curry splashed 286 threes, an NBA record, and 98 in the playoffs, another record. The Dubs weren’t the ’96 Bulls, but they were about as close as it gets. When the dream season ended, Curry and Green kept yelling “What?” at each other, which Green swears was not an inside joke. The Warriors captured their first championship in 40 years. What? Their first championship in 40 years!
Before he left the arena, Curry was fire-hosed with Mumm Napa. “I smell like a frat,” he said. Iguodala ate pizza in a towel. “We’re going to Augusta!” he shouted at Curry’s dad, a fellow golfer. The normally understated Thompson belted out Queen’s, “We Are The Champions.” “So you do smile?” a startled member of the traveling party asked him. In the locker room, somebody chirped, “Now let’s go win summer league!” In the hallway, general manager Bob Myers was surveyed about a pickup game the next day, and the draft the next week. “Pickup?” he said. “Tomorrow?”
On the five-minute bus ride to Morton’s, Kerr and Myers talked about Iguodala, who was sent to the bench in training camp and wound up Finals MVP. “That’s the best part of this,” Kerr said. Michael Silver, an NFL Network analyst and high-school buddy from Pacific Palisades, on the western edge of L.A., also rode along. “Remember how you used to listen to Chick Hearn and Bill King at the same time?” Kerr asked Silver. Hearn was the Lakers’ broadcaster, King the Warriors’, and Silver hooked up two radios at the same time when the teams met. “Chick Hearn would say, ’20-footer no good,’ and two seconds later Bill King would say, ’17-footer no good.’” Silver didn’t remember. Kerr did.
They were still reminiscing on the elevator at the Ritz when associate head coach Alvin Gentry stepped off at his floor and started toward his room, where he was changing for the party. Gentry is the new head coach in New Orleans, charged with finding a way to do what no team this season could: vanquish the Warriors. Just before the elevator door closed, and Gentry walked away, Kerr delivered one poignant parting message to his treasured lieutenant. “I can’t wait,” he said with a playful smile, "to start kicking the Pelicans’ ass."