Steve Kerr most emotional Warrior after NBA championship

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OAKLAND — On the stage and in the locker room, there was spraying champagne, hugs, and tears from the Golden State Warriors. After a long season, their emotions overflowed upon winning an NBA championship.

None more than coach Steve Kerr.

He wasn’t sure he would be on that stage with Adam Silver just a couple weeks ago — not because of the team, but because his health kept him off the court. The back problems that sidelined him last season had resurfaced and forced him back on an operating table to stop a slow leak of spinal fluid. He loved coaching this team so much, he loved this group of players so much, he had endured a lot of pain to stay on the sidelines with them, until it got to be too much. When he stepped away two games into the playoffs he wasn’t sure if or when he could return.

Did all that make him more emotional after winning?

“Yeah, yeah, for sure,” Kerr said from the podium. “Winning is… winning is fantastic. I’ve been so lucky to be part of so many championship teams as a player and now as a coach, and it never gets old. But tonight was a little different, just based on the things I’ve had to go through during this time.”

Cameras caught Kerr crying and collapsing into the arms of Warriors GM — and Kerr’s good friend — Bob Myers. It was a personal moment, one that showed the depth of emotion and how much this seventh ring (five as a player, now two as a coach) meant to Kerr. This one was harder, and almost taken away from him.

The Warriors’ players, to a man, respect Kerr.

“Well, Steve is just, he’s got a great brain,” said Andre Iguodala, the man Kerr calls the adult on the team. “It’s always working. He’s trying to figure everything out like, okay, I know what I got, I know how to get the best out of each one of these guys. But we’re going to take it to the next level. He’s always trying to take it to the next layer, the next layer. It’s like an onion, keep peeling it back. It’s so intricate.”

Veteran NBA coach Mike Brown had slid into the big chair and kept it warm for Kerr while he was sidelined. Kerr was the architect of the Warriors, he built the home, Brown saw himself as the renter just trying not to get a big stain on the carpet so he got his deposit back. But Brown also learned something about Kerr through all of this.

“The one thing I didn’t realize — I coached Steve as a player. I didn’t know he was as competitive as he is,” Brown said. “He is a fiery, blond-haired, blue-eyed, All-American dude. But he is fiery. To see his passion and to feel his passion all year and then to be able to have him lead us these last games was unbelievable. An unbelievable feeling for him, an unbelievable feeling for me and an unbelievable feeling for the team.

“This is how it should’ve ended. Just like this.”

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute

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LOS ANGELES — The 2018 Dunk Contest went retro.

And it worked.

The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.

Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.

“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.

“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”

Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.

“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”

For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).

It was a fun contest all night long.

Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.

Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.

Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.

Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.

Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”

Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)

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LOS ANGELES — Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. immediately motioned for the replay to be shown of this dunk. It was necessary to properly appreciate it.

Best dunk of the night.

Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest, though.

Larry Nance Jr. plays tribute to father — rock-the-cradle dunk in Suns uniform

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LOS ANGELES — Back in 1984, high-flying Larry Nance Sr. won the first NBA All-Star Dunk Contest with this set of dunks — most famously a rock-the-cradle move.

Larry Nance Jr. came into the 2018 Dunk Contest and went nostalgic — all the way back to the Suns’ throwback uniform and the same dunk.

That and a good second dunk got him into the Dunk Contest finals. In that round, Nance Sr. threw an alley-oop to his son for the windmill.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.