CLEVELAND — The celebration was lit after the Warriors’ 108-85 win against the Cavaliers. And so were the bottles.
The Warriors, always a first-class operation under the ownership of Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, stocked the visitors’ locker room not with a middling California sparkling wine, but with bottles of Moet et Chandon. And each had an LED light at the base of the bottle, casting a glow through the glass. It was a luxury befitting an NBA championship.
And here I expected the excitement on Friday to be a little more muted than what had happened in 2015, and what had happened in 2017.
Most of these Warriors have been here before — literally and figuratively. An important core of six players whooped it up on the floor of Quicken Loans Arena in ’15. It was the franchise’s first championship in 40 years, and the first ever for guys like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. And ’17 was a moment of huge redemption, for a team that had been stunned by the Cavaliers a year earlier, and for superstar Kevin Durant, who finally won a ring with his new team.
This 2018 NBA championship didn’t offer nearly as much drama. The only guys to win for the first time were role players — Nick Young, Quinn Cook and rookie Jordan Bell. Everyone expected the Warriors to capture this title when the season began. I thought that once they delivered, they’d be feeling relief as much as joy.
I was wrong. From the scene on the court to the meet-up with family in a crowded hallway to the alcoholic mist in the locker room, it was pure bliss.
As soon as the game ended, the Warriors gathered on a makeshift stage at midcourt, surrounded by a yellow rope, to receive their championship T-shirts and gray ball caps. They looked just as happy as they had at Oracle Arena a year earlier. Warriors fans had made their way to the lower rows of the bowl here. One carried a sign that read, “SORRY NOT SORRY.”
The Warriors know they wear the target now. When NBA commissioner Adam Silver congratulated them on the win, there was a mix of cheers and boos in the Cleveland crowd. The Warriors didn’t much care.
Center JaVale McGee beamed and took selfies on the stage. McGee, Young, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala brought their children up to share the experience. Klay Thompson gave Durant a little shoulder rub when the legendary Bill Russell presented him with the NBA Finals MVP trophy. General manager Bob Myers took a phone call.
When Thompson got a chance to speak, he said, “Yeah, I passed my dad, so I’m pretty happy about that.”
Mychal Thompson, Klay’s dad, was standing about 30 feet away, talking to NBA super-fan Jimmy Goldstein. Mychal won two titles with the Los Angeles Lakers of the late 1980s. That was the latter stage of an all-time great team. And now the son has passed the father. The Warriors can claim dynasty status, along with the Celtics of the 1960s, the Lakers of the 1980s and early 2000s, and the Bulls of the 1990s.
When they left the court, Curry was carting the Larry O’Brien Trophy. It looked about as big as him. Klay Thompson already had a giant cigar in his mouth.