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Holy Cannoli! Warriors' Unlikely Win; My Father's Day Memories

The Golden State Warriors proved a lot of skeptics wrong by winning their fourth NBA championship in eight years, beating the league’s most iconic franchise, the Boston Celtics, in the process.

Only two years ago, the Warriors had the worst record in the league. To get back to the top, they had to overcome a series of devastating injuries—Klay Thompson’s torn ACL and Achilles, Steph Curry’s broken hand, and then, after Thompson returned from a near three-year rehab, a lower back problem that sidelined Draymond Green for over two months and an ankle injury that forced Curry to miss the last 12 games of the season.

So coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors’ core threesome re-adjusted and improved as the playoffs progressed. Kerr, who described this as his team’s most unlikely championship, did a masterful job of mixing and matching his rotation against the strengths and weaknesses of the various opponents, and different players stepped up as needed, including Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney, Jordan Poole and Gary Payton Jr.

But these playoffs, and these finals, belonged to Curry. He was magnificent. No other word applies.

Curry averaged 31.2 points on 48.5% shooting (43.7% from 3-point range), 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.8 steals per game to lock up his first Finals MVP trophy. In the closeout game 6 Thursday night, he had 34 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.

The 34-year old superstar carried the team with his trademark 3-pointers, dazzling drives and dribbling displays, mastery of the pick and roll, precision passing, height-defying rebounding, and surprisingly effective defense.

Some other observations:

· Green was at his best in game 6 with 12 points, 8 assists, 12 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He even made a couple of 3s. Green’s thread-the-needle passes, steals at key moments, and defensive intensity were crucial.

· Wiggins would’ve been the runner-up choice for MVP. He had 18 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals in game 6. He shut down Jayson Tatum when it mattered most.

· Kerr has to be the classiest guy on the planet. In his post-game interview accepting the championship trophy, the first thing he did was credit GM Bob Myers for assembling the team. Then, asked about his record of nine NBA titles as a player and coach, he said the secret to his success is "I like to hang around superstars." Priceless.

· With this win, in my opinion, Kerr has also moved into the top five NBA coaches of all time, behind Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich and Pat Riley.

· Memo to Warriors' owner Joe Lacob, my old ABL investor. Sign Andrew Wiggins to an extension. No matter what it takes.

· This probably won’t be the Warriors' last rodeo. Their future looks bright. Wiggins is only 27, Curry/Green/Thompson have at least a few good years left, Looney is 26, Poole is a rising star at 23, rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody showed great potential this year. And there is still the chance James Wiseman will materialize.

· With this championship, Curry established himself as one of the game’s all-time greats. He’s now a member of an exclusive club of seven players who have won four titles and two regular-season MVPs; the others are Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan and Lebron James.

· There was a lot of talk during the finals, particularly after the Celtics took a 2-1 lead, that Boston was bigger, stronger and more athletic. Don’t know about you, but to me the Warriors looked stronger and more athletic in games 4, 5 and 6.

· Some of the critics also credited the Warriors’ wins to Joe Lacob’s “checkbook.” In reality, they’ve won with mostly homegrown talent. The core three were all Warrior draft choices—Curry was the No. 7 pick in 2009, Thompson No. 11 in 2011 and Green No. 35 in 2012.

· Best line in post-game interviews came from Klay Thompson: “I knew it was possible, but holy cannoli, seeing it in real time, it’s crazy!”

· My favorite foot-in-mouth quote: from the always-annoying Stephen A. Smith, “I’d give Andrew Wiggins away for a box of cookies.”

· We watched the games en espanol in Puerto Vallarta. Somehow it was refreshing not to have to listen to all the announcers’ blather. I do miss Doris Burke, though.

My Dad: Yesterday was Father’s Day, and as I do every year, and on most days, I spent some time thinking about and reminiscing about my dad.

I was blessed to have a father who loved his family above all else, who cared little about material possessions or keeping up with the Joneses, and who devoted his life to taking care of his wife and three sons.

Dad grew up in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he was a childhood friend of Frank Sinatra. I always say that Sinatra grew up to be a great singer; my dad grew up to be a great man.

Dad was always interested in numbers and finance. He worked in a bank and entered business school before World War II intervened, then spent the war years building instruments for airplanes.

After the war he worked in his parents’ restaurant and later had his own place before the long hours and the time away from home became too burdensome. So he sold the restaurant and went into sales, where his personality, charm, enthusiasm and integrity made him a natural. Dad sold everything, from paint to automotive additives to pet supplies, and did it well.

Some of my fondest memories are going with him on his “route” in New York City, delivering pet products to stores like Woolworth’s and Kresge’s. I remember that when my dad walked into the stores, he was greeted like a hero. Afterward, we’d always find time to hunt down our favorite treat, Italian ice.

In 1963, his company, Aquarium Supply, asked him to open a branch in Northern California, so our family drove across the country and settled in Cupertino.

After he retired, I helped him get a job in the Stanford Athletic Department, running the gym store, which began a love affair with Stanford sports that continued until the day he died.

Even now, anytime I run into a Stanford coach or athlete from that era—people like Dick Gould, Mark Marquess, Paul Wiggin or Jim Harbaugh (who got to know my dad when he was attending Palo Alto H.S. and his father was Stanford’s defensive coordinator)—the first thing he will say to me is, “I loved your dad” or “I miss your dad.”

That’s because my dad was such a unique, engaging, unforgettable man. He always had a joke, a story, a piece of music, a recipe, a mutual fund, or a sports team he wanted to tell you about.

He had such enthusiasm for life. He made people feel welcome and comfortable and special. He loved to make people laugh, to help people, to share some important piece of information, to show them the right way to do something.

I used to tell my dad that the older I got, the smarter he got. The little pieces of wisdom that initially seemed to be trite sayings turned out to be great insights. He words of wisdom were, in fact, words to live by.

He showed me what was really important in life. How to be a good husband and father. How to love a woman and honor her and take care of her. How to support, advise, and guide my children—demand a lot of them, set high standards, but love them unconditionally and back them up at every turn.

I just hope I’m half the man he was.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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