Unsung Hero's
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Three Unsung Heroes From Recent Championship Runs.

Championships are remembered forever but sometimes some of the players that made it possible don’t get the credit that they deserve in the history books. The Final’s MVP will always be in the record books right at the top and Any Star player will be brought up first in conversation. But there are players that made major contributions in pivotal moments that led to parades and banner-raising celebrations. Winning a Championship is often the biggest accomplishment a player can have in their career and for these three guys, they had a huge impact to make it possible for their teams to be enshrined in NBA history forever. Unsung Heroes are defined as ones who do great deeds but receive little or no recognition for them And while they did not win Finals MVP and they aren’t All-Star Caliber players, they remain unsung heroes for their teams during the championship run.

J.R Smith – 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers

The 2016 NBA finals was one of the best finals matchups in NBA history filled with iconic moments from both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. While everyone remembers Kyrie Irving’s big shot, LeBron James’s signature Chase down block on Andre Iguodala, and even Kevin Love’s defense on Stephen curry in the fourth quarter. But there is a chance that none of this would have been possible without J.R. Smith’s big-time contributions at the beginning of the third quarter. It was a very low-scoring game with intense defense being played on both sides as the Cavaliers entered the third quarter down seven. Momentum was fading until J.R. Smith caught fire and scored 8 straight points in three minutes to cut the lead down to two. While smith only finished the game with 13 points, without his game 7 heroics the Cavaliers very well could have lost that game.

Fred VanVleet- 2019 Toronto Raptors

It’s very often the 2019 Toronto Raptors team does not get the full credit they deserve for what they accomplished in that year. There were narratives formed that Kawhi Leonard did it all by himself or that the Golden State Warriors would have won with a healthy Kevin Durant on the court. The Raptors deserve full credit for the dominance they displayed in 2019 and Fred VanVleet was a huge part in their road to a championship. As each year passes, outside of raptor’s fans people will forget the absolute scoring tear he went on when the team needed him the most.

The undrafted guard had one of the biggest shooting turnarounds in postseason history, which he gives credit to the birth of his child. In the nine games played before his son was born, Fred was a 6-42 from the field in an awful shooting slump that almost caused him to be cut out of the rotation playing only 7 minutes in a pivotal game four versus the 76ers & only 15 minutes in their game 7 win. However, soon after his son was born, and in the next nine following games, Fred shot 53% from three for a total of 30 threes on 57 shots. He became the guy that the Raptors would look to when things got tight and they needed a bucket in the clutch. Fred went from an Undrafted G-league player to a key part of an NBA Championship team and that should never be forgotten.

Boris Diaw – 2014 San Antonio Spurs

The 2014 San Antonio spurs were labeled as one of the most beautiful-to-watch teams in the NBA due to every player on the roster completely buying into the system that fit the team perfectly. No one on the team averaged over 30 minutes in the regular season and it was clear they were on a mission for revenge after their heart-breaking finals lost in 2013. While the team consisted of four future and current Hall of Famers such as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, and Manu Ginobili.

Boris Diaw was a central piece that made everyone’s life on the team much easier. He led both teams in total assists with 29 and was second in rebounds to only Tim Duncan. The spurs were 22.7 points better with Diaw on the court versus the heat, His passing and defense made them unstoppable. In other situations, Diaw was a castoff but with the spur’s he turned into a legitimate contributor that helped them dominate the Miami Heat en route to the 2014 NBA Championship.

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