Stephen Curry has it all.
He became the NBA Finals MVP and some consider this trophy to be the last part of his legacy.
In the Bay Area, we saw some amazing performances with a championship on the line. You might argue that Curry’s performance against the Boston Celtics puts him right on top of those who did their best when it mattered most.
After 40 years in the business, I’ll put Curry in 3rd place in my mythical Mount Clutchmore along with three others whose heroics have paraded through the postseason with crazy fans.
Here’s how they are ranked:
1. Madison Bumgarner, Giants 2014
The mere sight of Bumgarner walking to the mound in the fifth inning of Game 7 against the Kansas City Royals was unprecedentedly high drama. He then shut out the Royals for five innings on just two days of rest and even survived a poor outfield game with two strikeouts in the ninth.
When Boomgarner forced Salvador Pérez to foul third baseman Pablo Sandoval, he completed a five-inning save, giving up just two hits. Having beaten the Royals twice in the series, Bumgarner became the most valuable player in the World Series.
If that wasn’t enough, Bumgarner also won the National League Championship Series MVP against the St. Louis Cardinals and started the Giants’ post-season run with an outright victory in Pittsburgh in a wildcard game.
Bumgarner’s postseason final line: 4-1 record with one memorable save and 1.04 earned run average per 52 innings, giving up 45 hits on six walks and 45 strikeouts.
2. Ricky Henderson, track and field, 1989
Henderson crushed both the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS and the Giants in the World Series with a show of strength that could only be created by Henderson and no one else.
Surprisingly, Henderson’s heroism was somewhat overshadowed by Will Clarke’s own huge championship streak against the Chicago Cubs and the earthquake that interrupted the Bay Bridge World Series against the Giants.
ALCS MVP, Henderson hit .400 with a .609 slugging percentage on base 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 percentage on base over four games.
The damage Henderson did to the Blue Jays and the Giants as a whole: .441 batting average with one double, three triples, three home runs, 11 stolen bases, and a .545 on-base percentage.
3. Stephen Curry, Warriors, 2022
In truth, Curry’s postseason was not statistically a cut above the other two Warriors’ Finals MVPs – Rick Barry in 1975 and Kevin Durant in 2017-18.
Leading the Warriors to a 16–6 playoff record, Curry averaged 28.0, 26.0, 23.8 and 31.2 in four series wins.
What gives Curry the nod is a career-defining Game 4 in Boston, where the Warriors appear to be in a tight spot against a younger Celtics team and trail 2-1 in the Finals. Curry scored 24 points in the second half and finished with 43. He had 10 rebounds. He fired threes when he needed them most.
“He wouldn’t let us lose,” said forward Draymond Green.
“This man’s heart is incredible,” security guard Clay Thompson said.
Curry turned the streak in favor of the Warriors forever. They didn’t lose again.
4. Joe Montana, 49ers, 1989
Montana’s biggest moment actually came a year earlier, when he led the 49ers in a 92-yard win that culminated in a 10-yard touchdown on John Taylor 45 seconds to go against the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII in Miami.
But for Montana at his best, it’s impossible to match the 49ers’ postseason performance next year. Montana was as good as any other quarterback, 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 146.4 passer rating.
Against Denver, Montana was 22 of 29 for 297 yards and five touchdowns to win his third Super Bowl MVP award.
Steve Young, 49ers, 1994: Set a Super Bowl record with six touchdowns against the San Diego Chargers and step out of Montana’s shadow. In three postseason wins, Young completed 59 of 81 passes for 623 yards and nine touchdowns, rushing for 128 yards and scoring two goals.
Jean Tenas, Athletics, 1972: After going 1 of 17 in the ALCS, Tenas became the only player to hit a home run in his first two World Series matches. Taking four of seven from the highly successful Cincinnati Reds, Tenache hit .348 with four home runs and nine RBIs to become the World Series MVP.
Rick Barry, Warriors, 1975: Not only did the Warriors upset the highly successful Bullets in the Finals, they defeated them with four straight wins. Barry was the Finals MVP, averaging 29.5 points per game and averaging 28.4 points per game over Chicago in the Western Conference Finals.
Brandi Chastain, US women’s football, 1999: Whatever you think of the penalty to determine the winner, Chastain scored the decisive shoot-out penalty over China in the FIFA World Cup final at the Rose Bowl in front of 90,185 fans – an international record for a women’s tournament. The San Jose native also scored in the quarter-final win over Germany. Following her sports bra celebration, a statue depicting her is erected outside the Rose Bowl.
Jerry Rice, 49ers, 1988: Rice was the Super Bowl MVP against the Bengals in Miami and caught 21 passes for 409 yards during three postseason wins, averaging 19.5 yards per catch, with six touchdowns.
Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scoutaro, Giants, 2012: The Venezuelans were the Giants’ most consistent hitters during the World Series title run. Sandoval hit .364 with five doubles, six homers and 13 RBIs in 16 playoff games. He hit three homers off Justin Verlander and won the World Series MVP against Detroit. Scutaro hit .328 with four doubles and 14 RBIs in the postseason to become the LCS MVP against St. Louis.
Reggie Jackson, track and field, 1973: After missing the 72nd series with a torn hamstring, Jackson was named World Series MVP after the “A” beat the New York Mets in seven games. In Oakland, after winning games 6 and 7, Jackson hit two doubles and a home run.
Kevin Durant, Warriors, 2017, 2018: Choose. Durant was the Finals MVP both seasons, averaging 25.3 points in 2017 and 26.1 points the following year, winning eight times and losing only once to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jim Plunkett, Raiders, 1980: Led the Raiders to four wins, becoming the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl MVP against Philadelphia went to linebacker Rod Martin (three interceptions), but Plunkett completed 13 of 21 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns in the Raiders’ 27–10 win.
Ken Stabler, Raiders: Amassed 104.1 passer ratings in three postseason wins over New England, Pittsburgh, and finally Minnesota as the Raiders finally clinched a big win. The Raiders pulled hard that postseason, but Stabler was 12-of-19 for 180 yards and a touchdown in a 32–14 win over the Vikings.