The Golden State Warriors won their 4th title in 8 years on Thursday night, defeating the Boston Celtics 103-90 to win the 2022 NBA Championship in six games.
Amongst the Warriors talented core is former #1 pick Andrew Wiggins, who becomes the eighth Canadian player to win an NBA title, with the most recent being Chris Boucher and the Raptors winning in 2019.
Although things have been up-and-down through Wiggins’ NBA career(Drafted by Cleveland, traded to Minnesota), his talent was never in question. He bounced around in situations that weren’t exactly known for a winning brand of basketball, and was often unable to carry the heavy burden of being a teams go-to scorer.
Things changed for the better when Wiggins joined on with the Warriors partway through the 2019-20 season, settling into a role and being under way less pressure to lead an offence.
With the Warriors healthy and ready to contend again heading into the 2021-2022 season, it was the perfect opportunity for Wiggins to change the narrative around his career, and that’s exactly what he did.
He made his first all-star appearance (a starter at that), played significant playoff minutes and helped steer the Warriors to their first finals appearance since 2019, often times being the second most impactful player on the court behind Steph Curry.
Things were no different in the Finals themselves, where the Thornhill product took on the challenge of being one of the team’s crucial scorers, while also guarding the Celtics’ best players at the other end of the floor. The offence was impressive, but Wiggins was clamping down on the defensive end at a rate that was special to watch. It’s not often that a player can take Jayson Tatum out of a game, but that’s exactly what ‘Maple Jordan’ did in the deciding Game six.
Being guarded by Wiggins for a majority of the game, Tatum only scored 2 points in the second half and committed 5 turnovers. He was almost entirely neutralized, and it’s one of the main reasons why the Dubs were able to close out the series.
The Game 6 performance goes beyond some tough defence though, with Wiggins stuffing the stat sheet from every angle. 18 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 4 steals make up the most impressive performance of his career, with some steady competition in the past few weeks. The small forward had a 26-point game in Game 5, and had a 17-point, 16-rebound double-double in Game 3.
Golden State have cemented themselves as a dynasty, with a fourth ring (and a second without Kevin Durrant), the trio of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will go down as one of the greatest trios in NBA history. What’s exciting about this title though is that Thompson and Green weren’t always at the top of their game; it was a complete team effort with Wiggins and Jordan Poole each saving the day on multiple occasions throughout their run to a ring.
For Canadian basketball fans, the most exciting thing here is that Wiggins was not just an extra in the movie. It still would’ve been a great moment for him to win a title if he had just a minor role on the team, but that’s simply not the case. The wide consensus was that Wiggins was the second-best player on the team down the stretch, and was probably the second-best player in the Finals on either team, which would have been unfathomable about 12 months ago.
After years of harsh and often unfair criticism, Canada’s own is finally getting his flowers and will be looking to make some money heading into the last year of his contract.
Game six tied the bow on what was an incredible 2021-2022 season, and the Warriors climbing back to the top of the mountain makes for some intriguing storylines heading into next year.
For now, it’s time to enjoy the campaign that was, as Warrior fans woke up on Friday morning with a feeling the other 29 fanbases are starving for. Luckily for Canadians, Wiggins’ inclusion brings a pretty great reason to smile along with them