The celebration began with about a minute and a half left in the game. Golden State took its starters out so the crowd could shower them with love. Curry sat on the bench looking almost like he couldn’t believe it, then the buzzer sounded and he jumped up and down waving a towel in the air.
As streamers fell from the rafters, the Western Conference championship trophy was brought onto the court, along with the new Western Conference finals’ most valuable player trophy, which is named after Magic Johnson and was awarded to Curry. Thompson went around giving powerful hugs to his teammates. Green rushed into the stands with a stack of N.B.A. finals hats to give them to members of his family.
After the trophy presentation on the court, Green walked toward the Warriors’ locker room yelling, “We back!”
The core’s first playoff appearance together came in 2013, when they beat the Denver Nuggets in the first round before falling to the San Antonio Spurs in the second. They played in Oracle Arena in Oakland back then — all five of their prior finals series happened there.
“It’s like kind of time stopped there where you kind of understand what real basketball is like in the playoffs,” Curry said. “We were pups at the time, but definitely great memories of playing in Oracle, the Warrior chants 25 minutes before a tipoff, the haze in the building, if you know what I mean.
“To know where we’ve come from that year, everything that’s happened since — I can pretty much drop myself into any series and know what it felt like because we rely on those experiences so much.”
Thompson remembers the 2013 playoffs well, too.
“We were so young. We took an experienced and dynastic San Antonio team to a hard-fought series,” Thompson said. “After that I was like, gosh, we’re going toe-to-toe with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. If we build on this, we could have a great future.”