Warriors ‘Steph Curry worthy of Bay Area’ Mt. Clutchmore ‘status

Stephen Curry has it all.

He won the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals, the trophy thought by some to be the final piece in his legacy.

In the Bay Area, we’ve seen some pretty amazing performances with a championship on the line. You could make the argument that Curry’s performance against the Boston Celtics vaults him right to the top of those who went above and beyond the call when it mattered most.

Having worked in the business for 40 years, I’ll place Curry at No. 3 on my mythical “Mount Clutchmore” alongside three others whose heroics throughout the postseason was cause for parades from a delirious fan base.

Here’s how they rank:

Madison Bumgarner, left, celebrates with Buster Posey after the last out of the 2014 World Series in Kansas City. Jose Carlos Fajardo / Bay Area News Group

1. Madison Bumgarner, Giants, 2014

The mere sight of Bumgarner striding to the mound in the fifth inning of Game 7 against the Kansas City Royals was unparalleled high drama. Then he proceeded to shut down the Royals for five innings on just two days ’rest and even survived an outfield misplay with two outs in the ninth.

When Bumgarner got Salvador Perez on a foul pop to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, he completed a five-inning save, giving up just two hits. Having beaten the Royals twice in the series, Bumgarner was World Series MVP.

If that’s not enough, Bumgarner was also the MVP of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Louis Cardinals and kicked off the Giants ’postseason run with a complete-game win in Pittsburgh in the one-and-done wild-card game.

Bumgarner’s final postseason line: A 4-1 record with one unforgettable save and 1.04 earned run average over 52 innings, giving up 45 hits with six walks and 45 strikeouts.

OAKLAND, CA - 1989: (FILE PHOTO) Rickey Henderson # 22 of the Oakland Athletics warms-up for a 1989 season game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  Major League Baseball announced January 12, 2009 that Henderson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame during his first chance on the ballot.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images)
Rickey Henderson was the dominant figure at the plate and on the bases during the 1989 postseason. Getty Images

2. Rickey Henderson, Athletics, 1989

Henderson laid waste to both the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS and the Giants in the World Series with the kind of tour de force that could be authored only by Henderson and no one else.

Amazingly enough, Henderson’s heroics were overshadowed to a degree because Will Clark was having his own huge championship series against the Chicago Cubs and by an earthquake that interrupted the Bay Bridge World Series against the Giants.

The MVP of the ALCS, Henderson hit .400 with a .609 on-base percentage with two home runs and five RBIs, eight runs and eight stolen bases in five games. Then against the Giants, Henderson hit .474 with a double, two triples and a .524 on-base percentage over the four-game sweep.

The damage Henderson inflicted upon the Blue Jays and Giants overall: A .441 batting average with one double, three triples, three home runs, 11 stolen bases and a .545 on-base percentage.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 16: Golden State Warriors 'Stephen Curry (30) goes up for a lay up past Boston Celtics' Jaylen Brown (7) during the second quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Finals at TD Garden in Boston, Mass. , on Thursday, June 16, 2022. (Jose Carlos Fajardo / Bay Area News Group)
Warriors guard Stephen Curry rescued the NBA Finals with a 43-point effort in Game 4 in Boston. Jose Carlos Fajardo / Bay Area News Group

3. Stephen Curry, Warriors, 2022

Truth be told, Curry’s postseason wasn’t head and shoulders statistically above what two other Warriors did as Finals MVPs – Rick Barry in 1975 and Kevin Durant in 2017-18.

In leading the Warriors to a 16-6 postseason, Curry averaged 28.0, 26.0, 23.8 and 31.2 in the four series wins.

What gives Curry the nod is a career-defining Game 4 in Boston with the Warriors appearing to be on the ropes against a younger Celtics team and trailing 2-1 in the Finals. Curry scored 24 points in the second half and finished with 43. He had 10 rebounds. He rained step-back 3-pointers when they were needed most.

“He wouldn’t let us lose,” said Draymond Green.

“The heart of that man is incredible,” said guard Klay Thompson.

Curry flipped the series for good in the Warriors’ direction. They didn’t lose again.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana passes the ball during a game at Candlestick Park in 1990. (Bay Area News Group Archives)
Joe Montana won four Super Bowls for the 49ers and was virtually flawless in the fourth one against Denver following the 1989 season. Bay Area News Group Archives

4. Joe Montana, 49ers, 1989

Montana’s biggest moment actually came a year earlier when he led the 49ers on a 92-yard game-winning drive culminating in a 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor with 45 seconds left to beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII in Miami.

But for Montana at his best, it’s impossible to match the 49ers ’postseason performance the following year. Montana was as good as any quarterback has ever been, outscoring the Vikings (41-13), Rams (30-3) and Denver Broncos (55-10) in Super Bowl XXIV in New Orleans.

Over three games, Montana completed 78.3 percent of his passes (65 of 83) for 800 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 146.4.

Against Denver, Montana was 22 of 29 for 297 yards and five touchdowns in winning his third Super Bowl MVP award.

The Warriors 'Rick Barry drives against the Knicks' Phil Jackson.  (Ron Riesterer / Oakland Tribune photo file)
Rick Barry (24) led the Warriors to a sweep of Washington in 1975 and was the NBA Finals MVP. Ron Riesterer / Tribune file photo

The contenders

Steve Young, 49ers, 1994: Set a Super Bowl record with six touchdown passes against the San Diego Chargers and emerged from Montana’s shadow. In three postseason wins, Young completed 59 of 81 passes for 623 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 128 yards and two scores.

Gene Tenace, Athletics, 1972: After going 1-for-17 in the ALCS, Tenace became the only player to hit home runs in his first two World Series at-bats. In taking four of seven from the heavily favored Cincinnati Reds, Tenace hit .348 with four home runs and nine RBIs and won the World Series MVP.

Rick Barry, Warriors, 1975: The Warriors not only upset the heavily favored Bullets in the Finals, but swept them with four consecutive come-from-behind wins. Barry was the Finals MVP averaging 29.5 points per game and averaged 28.4 in beating Chicago in the Western Conference finals.

Brandi Chastain, US Women’s Soccer, 1999: Whatever your feeling about penalty kicks to determine a winner, Chastain delivered the decisive penalty kick in a shootout win over China in the FIFA World Cup final at the Rose Bowl before 90,185 fans – an international record for a women’s event. The San Jose native also scored in a quarter-final win over Germany. There is a statue of her likeness after her celebration in a sports bra outside the Rose Bowl.

Jerry Rice, 49ers, 1988: Rice was the Super Bowl MVP against the Bengals in Miami and over the course of three postseason wins caught 21 passes for 409 yards, averaging 19.5 yards per catch, with six touchdowns.

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