Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson never played in a Game 7 for the NBA championship, but he did play in several winner-take-all playoff games during his 12-year NBA career.
“Nothing like it,” Johnson said. “You hear all athletes say there’s nothing like it. Those two words, ‘Game Seven,’ that’s when all the marbles are on the table. I’m excited just thinking about it.”
Johnson attended Sunday’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Warriors and Cavaliers at Oracle Arena. The former Phoenix Suns guard said he’d been following the series and called it “a great Finals. One for the ages.”
“Watching the best all-time team in the regular season come back from being down 3-1 against the Thunder to be in a position here to go up 3-1, and then LeBron (James) and his supporting cast to rise up and force a Game 7 – I mean, this is just as good as it gets,” Johnson said.
During the 1993 playoffs, Johnson’s Suns beat the Seattle Supersonics in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals before losing to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. Johnson had 22 points and nine assists in the Suns’ decisive win over the Sonics.
Johnson also played in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals in 1994 and 1995, both losses by the Suns against the Houston Rockets.
Same routine — How did Warriors coach Steve Kerr spend the hours Sunday leading up to the final game of the NBA season?
“You try to keep the same routine,” Kerr said, “so (assistant coach Luke Walton) and I went to yoga, like we always do every game day.”
Kerr said he and Walton do an hour of yoga on game days to “get in the right mindset.”
“I’m guessing Bill Belichick and his staff don’t do that,” Kerr said, grinning, referring to the notoriously prickly coach of the NFL’s New England Patriots.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he, too, kept Sunday as normal as possible.
“Pregame we had breakfast, then we had a walkthrough in the (team hotel) ballroom,” Lue said. “Then I went back and took my nap, like I always do.”
Walton finale – Walton served as a Warriors assistant coach for the last time before assuming his new job as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Kerr said Walton had not let his impending move affect his work with Golden State.
“If you know Luke, you know he handles pretty much everything exactly the same way,” Kerr said. “He’s extremely laid-back and excited about what we’re doing right now, and excited about what’s ahead for him.”
Like father – Entering Sunday’s Game 7 on Father’s Day, Walton and his father, Hall of Famer Bill Walton, were the only father-son duo to win multiple NBA championships. Bill won with the 1977 Trail Blazers and 1986 Celtics, and Luke won with the 2009 and 2010 Lakers.
Sunday, though, Walton was coaching a player, Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who hoped to join him. Klay won his first title last season with Golden State, and his father, Mychal Thompson, won championships with the Lakers in 1987 and 1988.
Et cetera – Both head coaches were trying to carve out a piece of history. Kerr was trying to join the Minneapolis Lakers’ John Kundla as the only men to win titles in each of their first two seasons as NBA coaches. Lue, meanwhile, was trying to win a title in his first season as an NBA coach – which hadn’t occurred for 30 years before Kerr in 2015.
▪ James and Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving also were aiming for rare company. Of the No. 1 overall picks in the last 31 NBA drafts, only two before Sunday had won a title with the team that drafted them: David Robinson and Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs. Cleveland drafted James No. 1 overall in 2003 and Irving first in 2011.
▪ An Oakland A’s game at the adjacent Coliseum ended about two hours before Game 7 began, contributing to heavy traffic around Oracle Arena. By pregame introductions, though, there were only a few empty seats in the arena.