Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry believes this NBA Finals appearance has a deeper significance than his previous trips, heading into Thursday's series opener against the Boston Celtics.
The Warriors booked their sixth NBA Finals berth in the past eight seasons after defeating the Dallas Mavericks in five games, with Curry also taking out the inaugural Western Conference Finals MVP.
With long-term injuries to Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, as well Kevin Durant's departure for the Brooklyn Nets, the Dubs finished with the NBA's worst record in the 2019-20 season. This campaign has seen them rejuvenate the fluid ball-movement and intelligent basketball on both ends that propelled them to the 2014-15 title, however.
Given the journey back to the top of the NBA landscape, after that Game 6 loss in the 2019 NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors without Durant - and in which Thompson sustained his ACL injury - Curry insisted this run feels different to the other five.
Asked what separates this appearance from the other at the NBA Finals media day, Curry said: "The context of the past four years – from Game 6 of the 2019 Finals to now – what we've been through as a team.
"With injuries, obviously the pandemic that's happened over the last two-and-a-half years, everything that we've all been through – with this as the ultimate goal. Getting back on this stage with a chance to play for another championship.
"Then you look up and all the work you've put in over the last two years has paid off. They built on the experience, and the veteran presence we have. All that stuff is built into the context of what's happened since Game 6 of the 2019 Finals, and we're back here, so it's pretty special."
The end of last season was a precursor of sorts as the Warriors went all-in on their distinct brand of basketball, with Kelly Oubre Jr. only playing five of the final 20 regular-season games, where they went 15-5.
After adding Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica and giving more scope to Jordan Poole, the Warriors flew out the gate this season with an 18-2 start, before injuries to Curry and Green halted momentum.
Coming out of the Western Conference again this season, the former unanimous MVP said it spoke to the Warriors' core organisational values and identity.
"I shared similar sentiments with Draymond on options of what could happen last off-season, and what we should, or shouldn't do," Curry said.
"It also speaks to the culture of our organisation, and who we are, and what it takes to win at the highest level. However the young guys can learn that, and however they have learned that, it has been amazing to watch."