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Warriors’ David West says taking less money was worth it to win a title

For the veteran forward, winning a championship was 14 years in the making

OAKLAND, California — Fourteen seasons later, Golden State Warriors veteran forward David West had a lot to say after winning his first NBA title.

West and the Warriors claimed the 2017 NBA championship after eliminating the Cleveland Cavaliers with a deciding Game 5 win in the Finals on Monday night at Oracle Arena. The title was a long time coming for West, who was the 18th overall pick by the New Orleans Hornets in the 2003 NBA draft. The two-time NBA All-Star was very emotional after the Warriors won the championship, considering his humble North Carolina background, his draft selection outside of the lottery and the criticism he received for taking a lot less money than the Indiana Pacers offered in pursuit of a championship.

The 36-year-old West talked with The Undefeated about breaking his championship drought, the haters, Finals MVP Kevin Durant’s sales pitch, and more.

How does it feel to be an NBA champion?

It feels great. I’m sorry. It feels great. It feels better than I thought it would, honestly. I thought I was going to be happy, but I feel, man, I can’t, I can’t … We just won, dog. We just won. We set this lofty a– goal out front. K.D. hit me up in the summer: ‘Yo, West, man. Come grind one with your boy.’ ‘I’m with you K, straight up,’ I told him. ‘I got your back, we’re out here and we’re going to do it.’

What were your emotions when the time ran out on the game and you were officially a champion?

Man, we were on the floor before the damn time ran out. I’m telling you, man, I was ranked 99th out of 100 in the state of North Carolina. I had a 14-year NBA career, man. C’mon, man. I got coaches telling me you can’t play in the college level, man. You’re too little. I’ve been hearing that s— my whole life.

Fourteen years, man. I’ve been in the pros for 14 years, fam. C’mon, they’re telling me, ‘You ain’t better than this, you ain’t better than that’ my whole career. I got drafted 18th, and they’re telling me I could be a second-round pick. There are different options at 18. All that s— out the window, man.

Fourteen years in the NBA. And they had me ranked 99th out of 100 in North Carolina. All of this, man. You just put your mind to it. It doesn’t matter what is happening. Just put your mind to it. Take your ego out of it. Put your ego in the back room somewhere, man, and figure out a way to be a part of something special.

S— means more. It feels better than all this other crap.

What can people learn from your journey?

Keep fighting. Be your greatest believer. You and your family. Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe what your family believes in you? And that’s it. Nothing else, man. Straight up.

I wasn’t no McDonald’s All-American. Tom, Dick and Harry were better than David West. Coming out of college, the whole fluke idea is that I’m at Xavier because of this and that. F— all that. I’ve been in the league 14 years, man. They can’t take this from me now. And that’s it.

How did championship champagne taste?

Great. And I ain’t drank in four months.

Will you take the trip to the White House to visit President Trump?

I don’t know. I probably won’t. But I’m going to enjoy this. They’re going to have to get me down from this cloud. I can’t describe it. I’m not supposed to be there. Everybody was better than David West. Everybody.

You tracked down former Hornets teammate Steve Smith to take a picture with him. Why is that?

That’s my vet. I came in the league with eight guys over 33 years old with the Hornets in 2003. George Lynch, Steve Smith, Stacey Augmon, Sean Rooks, Shammond Williams, David Wesley, P.J. Brown. These are all the guys. Everything they told me I kept to my heart. I broke down and kept it to myself.

These guys were 33 years and older at the point that I’m a rookie. And they gave me anything.

What do you think about people who have ridiculed you for taking a smaller salary than was offered to stay with the Indiana Pacers in hopes of winning a title with the San Antonio Spurs and Warriors?

That s— don’t matter. You put material wealth or material riches over things that will change you as a human being. And at the end of the day, we’re human beings. Everyone is caught up in this material world and the things and the things and the things. The Egyptians couldn’t take those things with them. You can’t take it with you.

So, you need moments that later in life that no amount of money will overvalue it. Taking that money in Indiana wouldn’t feel like this. I’m just telling you. It wouldn’t. It’s not even close. With my background from where I’m coming from, I tell people all the time about my story. Nobody really knows it fully, but it’s the truth, man.

I’m not supposed to be here. Everybody was supposed to be better than David West. Fourteen years, man.

Are you contemplating retirement?

I don’t know. I feel good. That’s why everyone keeps asking me. I don’t know. I just feel great.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.