OAKLAND -- In the midst of a Warriors locker room reeking of champagne and sweat and euphoria stood a 6-foot-9, 260-pound preacher gripping a bottle with barely a sip of bubbly and holding a revival meeting.
David West was on fire, thunderous in his deliver, words spilling out of his mouth like hot lava tumbling down a mountainside.
“This feels better than any check I ever signed,” said the man who has made roughly $90 million over his career and, at $1.55 million this season was among the lowest-paid members of the Warriors.
This was West’s first championship moment in a 14-year career and he wanted everyone on the planet, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, to know how it felt.
He had spent the past two years sacrificing salary to pursue the elusive championship that finally came Monday night at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors put away the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
So the muscular veteran known for his steely demeanor broke character, shattering his outer coat of iron and began shouting and shouting like never before.
“We had optional shootaround,” he boomed. “Everybody was in the gym this morning. Everybody was there. Everybody working. That’s what we do. That’s what we do. That’s why we won it. Because even when Coach says ‘Get what you need,’ it’s on you to make the decision, everybody is still working. That’s what this group is about. That’s why we got to the top. Talent only takes you so far. But details and X’s and O’s and committing to one another every single day . . .”
West paused to take his first full breath in about 35 seconds, and then continued.
“We stayed out the streets. We stayed in the gym and won. That’s all it’s about. Straight up.”
West said he was “done, man,” that he had to go.
He stayed. And kept talking.
“I’ve been a part of every single step, and it’s about winning, accomplishing a goal,” he said. “We set a lofty goal for ourselves at the beginning of the year. We talked about just winning a championship. Every single day! So we had no days off. We had no option not to work. Everybody is in the weight room. Everybody is on the court. That’s what it’s about. It’s about the work. Somebody else could have been here. It’s about being a part of a special group and putting together the right type of people. And that’s what we did.”
Acknowledging he may be intoxicated, West was profoundly uninhibited. He did plenty to earn his way with the Warriors, from counseling Draymond Green to zipping adroit passes that resulted in easy passes for a variety of teammates and, here in Game 5, standing chin-to-chin with Cleveland’s big man Tristan Thompson.
West played 11 minutes and totaled 4 points, three rebounds and a blocked shot. He was plus-16 for his time on the court.
His jubilation level was plus-infinity.
Reminded of the financial sacrifice he made by playing for a veteran’s minimum salary, West quickly countered.
“But look: You can’t take it with you,” he said. “The Egyptians learned that. You can’t bury it and take the treasures with you.
So it’s about the small things in life. The accomplishments, man. It’s about winning. And we set a goal and worked every single day toward that goal and nobody can ever take that away from us. Straight up!”
For West, this clearly made it all worthwhile. He has no plans to retire, not yet, but he also has plenty of post-career options already on the table.
For now, he’s content to revel in the moment.
“We won,” West said. “We worked. You see guys with all-world talent sacrificing. You see guys that can do anything they want every single day, yet they come in the gym. Days off were in the gym. No excuses with this group. That’s what I’m most proud of.
“I know how hard these guys worked. Kevin Durant is great because he works. Draymond is great because he works. Steph is great cause he works -- not because it’s given to him. They work. STRAIGHT UP!”
Reminded that he, like fellow 14-year veteran Zaza Pachulia, might have a particularly strong appreciation for the moment, West nodded.
“We’ve been a part of this league for a long time,” he said. “We’ve been a part of bad teams, been a part of good teams that got close. But this is what it’s about. It’s about getting over the hump, getting over the hill, being the last man standing. That’s what makes the NBA worth it, all these years, 14 seasons.”
With that, West’s sermon was over. He grabbed his son and made his way out of the room, leaving behind the wet carpet and cigar smoke and taking his tent with him.