OAKLAND, Calif.—As a fresh NBA champions cap sat a tad off-kilter on his head, Kevin Durant embraced his mother, Wanda.
Then he moved across the podium and hugged Stephen Curry before accepting his shiny MVP trophy—holding out his arms and hoisting it for everyone to see.
From the Bay all the way to OKC.
Durant capped his spectacular first season with the Warriors by bringing home that coveted NBA championship he joined Golden State last July so determined to get, scoring 39 points in a Finals-clinching 129-120 victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 last night.
“You can talk about whatever you want to talk about, but nobody comes in and cares about the game or loves the game as much as I do or works as hard as do I at the basketball game,” Durant said.
“You can talk about whatever happens on the outside but inside those lines, I come to bring it every day,” he added.
“I work hard, I believe in myself, I believe in the game, I respect the game, I love the game, and I knew at some point in my life that it will come around for me.”
Stephen Curry added 34 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds as Golden State closed out its second title in three years after squandering a 3-1 lead a year ago.
That stung ever since—and even Durant understood because he gave up the same lead to the Warriors a round earlier with Oklahoma City.
James, who in 2012 with Miami beat the Thunder in Durant's only other Finals, wound up with 41 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists.
“I left everything on the floor every game,” James said after averaging a triple-double in his eighth Finals.
This time, King James gave way to “KD,” who was the NBA Finals MVP 10 years after being picked second in the NBA draft behind Greg Oden.
Durant drove left, right, and down the middle, knocked down three-pointers, dished, and dunked.
He hit a 17-foot fadeaway over James early in the fourth quarter, then assisted on a three-pointer by Andre Iguodala the next time down as the Warriors pulled away.
Iguodala, the 2015 Finals MVP, came up big again with his 2017 post-season-best 20 points off the bench in a testy, tightly-called finale to this trilogy Finals that everyone had stamped on the calendar from the moment Durant departed Oklahoma City to join Curry and Co. last July.
The Warriors won in 2015 before the Cavs made their historic comeback last year.
Then it was Golden State's time again, with Durant as the prized addition.
Sure, the Warriors missed becoming the first undefeated champion, but 16-1 still gave Golden State the best winning percentage of any title team at .941.
The Warriors became the first Bay Area team to capture a championship at home since the A's finished the L.A. Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1974 World Series.
A year ago, these Warriors fell short after a record-setting season that included a 24-0 start and 73 victories at the end to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' wins mark.
Then they got Durant who, after the buzzer sounded, did a little shake with Curry on the court before they slapped hands several times.
Two playful superstars who found a way to co-exist through all the questions and constant scrutiny, together and smiling as champions.
“I'm happy for him," Curry said. "You've got to call Kevin Durant a champ now.”