There were numerous moments immortalized in the hearts and minds of Warriors fans in the immediate aftermath of Golden State's 2017 NBA Championship-clinching victory. But for many, the one that sticks out the most is the enthusiastic and heartfelt speech given by David West in that champagne-soaked locker room.
Of all the people celebrating the culmination of that arduous journey to the highest peak of NBA team success, there simply wasn't an individual more capable of putting the accomplishment in perspective than he could.
West announced his retirement from the NBA on Thursday, bringing an end to a decorated 15-year career in which he experienced just about all there is at the highest level of basketball in the world. A two-time All-Star, West appeared in 1,034 regular season and 118 playoff games with the New Orleans Hornets, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and Warriors, finishing as the fifth-highest scorer from the famed 2003 NBA draft class, behind LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
He won two championships, averaged double figures in scoring for 10-straight seasons, posted back-to-back campaigns with 20-plus points per game, and tallied 173 career double-doubles. But his contributions to the teams he played on, the communities he became a part of and greater society at large went far beyond his capabilities on the hardwood, and will continue to do so moving forward. He's been a leader, advocate, role model, mentor, motivator and beloved teammate. Not to mention, one of the more intimidating presences between the lines.
"David was a consummate professional throughout his entire career and was a huge presence in our locker room the last two years," said Steve Kerr on Thursday. "The respect that he commanded was palpable every single day he walked in the door and the leadership that he provided to our team was critical to our success. He had the unique ability to connect with both the veteran and young players and the mentoring he provided our younger group was invaluable."
"The consistency that he displayed at a high level on the court for 15 years was amazing and a testament to his hard work and dedication," Kerr continued. "He is a true champion in every sense of the word."
The Warriors have reached the mountaintop in each of the last two years, and as Kerr related, it's no coincidence that West was a part of it. To win championships requires bountiful reserves of talent and sacrifice, two traits West embodied from the moment he stepped into Golden State's locker room. He didn't always get a ton of minutes, but almost always seemed to make a positive impact when he was on the floor. He was asked to play center – a position he had never played before at the NBA level – and not only accepted the challenge, but played a critical role in facilitating the team's offensive and defensive strategies on the second unit. He led by example, and could always see the bigger picture, beyond what was immediately in front of him and his teammates.
"There should be a picture in the dictionary of David under ‘pro's pro'," said Bob Myers. "He's one of the most decent people I've ever met. His depth of character is unmatched. We are all better for having spent the last two years with him. There is no doubt the best is ahead of him."
As the Warriors prepare to enter a season chasing their third consecutive league title, they'll have to do so without the valuable in-your-face and behind-the-scenes contributions of a veteran who didn't necessarily speak often, but undoubtedly had the attention of anyone within earshot when he did. Whatever West chooses to do in the next phase of his life, there is no question he will be an asset to whatever he applies his time and mind to. He's had a positive impact at every stop along his NBA career, and for many Hornets, Pacers, Spurs and Warriors players, he'll go down as one of their favorite teammates they ever had the opportunity to play alongside.
When it came time to encapsulate the journey of his first championship, attained in his 14th season, and all that it meant, it comes as no surprise that West – a renowned history buff – turned the clock way back to get his point across.
"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. It's about winning."
The Warriors and their fans will miss him. But whereas the Egyptians' treasures were left behind, West's contributions will remain with the Dubs in perpetuity.