The Golden State Warriors are NBA champions once again, which should come as no surprise as long as they have three future Hall of Famers in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on their roster. But one of their biggest stars this postseason was Andrew Wiggins, who served as a model of consistency on both ends of the floor en route to winning his first NBA Finals. Whether he was scoring, attacking the glass, or making life miserable for opposing teams’ superstars, Wiggins woke up a lot of people with his play this entire season with the Warriors.
“When they talk it’s all motivation,” Wiggins told Complex. “When I first got here, everyone had something to say, now everyone is quiet. It’s good to just make those guys kick rocks.”
Fresh off his first NBA title and the Moët & Chandon (the official champagne of the NBA title) showers in the locker room, Wiggins took the time to sit down with us in an interview to discuss the celebration, the feeling of being a champion, proving his doubters wrong, and his belief that this is only the beginning of another historic run for the Warriors.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
The immediate feeling of you all winning the championship, being on the podium, going in the locker room, the Moet flowing. Can you take us through what you were feeling in that particular moment? Was it excitement, or even relief?
Ah man it was excitement, definitely relief that we don’t have to go to a Game 7. So I was excited to win the championship. I feel like it didn’t really hit me until we got into the locker room and we were popping that Moët. It was a crazy feeling and something that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.
You win a championship, and the celebration doesn’t stop in the locker room. You all got on a plane to Vegas, then had the parade, what has this last week and full experience been like for you?
I’ve been soaking it all in as we are living in the moment. As you said, the celebration was nonstop this week, if you could see the behind the scenes of how much work that we have put in, how much blood, tears, sacrifice all of that that we put in. This is what makes the celebration so much more worth it, because we have been doubted. People didn’t expect us to make it as far as we did, and win the whole thing. So we had to celebrate like there is no tomorrow, because a lot of people don’t get the chance to experience this feeling, they don’t get a chance to win a championship. So it has been amazing to be able to just enjoy this moment with my family, with my friends, my teammates which I went to war with all season. So there is nothing better than celebrating.
You all were doubted, when you got traded to the Warriors, there were people who said that the Warriors window was closed, they would never win a championship again, let alone get back to the Finals. Does that make it even more gratifying to prove the naysayers wrong, the doubters wrong? Or do you not even pay much attention to that?
When they talk it’s all motivation. When I first got here, everyone had something to say, now everyone is quiet. That’s the best feeling, when people doubt you, and people sleep on you, and don’t think that you can do something that you know you can do, that you’ve been doing your whole life. It’s good to just make those guys kick rocks.
When you’re drafted with the first overall pick, that comes with high expectations. You produced in Minnesota, but for whatever reason people didn’t feel like you lived up to that billing. Now fast forward to this year, you make the All-Star Game, and you not only win a championship but you are a key part in the team winning it. Before getting to this point, did you ever have any self-doubt about not becoming what you were projected to be or listening to the doubters? Or did you always know you just needed to be in the right situation to fully show your potential?
To be honest, since I was in Minnesota, I always felt like I was one of the best. I always felt like I could defend, I felt like I could score as well as anybody. So I just knew my time was up here [Minnesota], we have reached the end of our journey, and that was a new chapter opening up in Golden State. So now it’s a bigger stage and it’s really time to showcase what I can do.
You said you knew you could defend and knew you could score, but I think a lot of people who might not have had the chance to really watch you in Minnesota really had their eyes opened up this Finals with the work you did as the primary defender on Jayson Tatum. And not only that, when you guys went small, being able to consistently make an impact on the glass, as well as your scoring which we all knew you could do. What did you take the most pride in this Finals? Was it the fact that you could wake people up with how elite you can be on the defensive end of the floor, your work rebounding, or just showing you are an all-around complete player?
Just showing that I’m a well-rounded player. A lot of people were like he’s scoring a lot but he’s scoring on a bad team, or he’s doing this but his team is not winning. So to be able to come over here and do it on a championship level has been great, just showcasing exactly what I can do. What I take most pride in, especially in the championship, was defense. I know that we have a lot of people that can score the ball, we have a lot of guys that can go on the court and make something happen, so I really took it upon myself to defend and try to lock up whoever I was guarding and rebound, especially when we were playing small.
For the majority of the playoffs, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were able to have their way through the Eastern Conference and getting to the Finals. Did you all know that you could slow them down to the extent that you did, or was it even a little bit surprising on your end with how effective you all were in guarding them when nobody else really seemed to have an answer for them?
We were confident, I was confident. Before Draymond [Green] got hurt, we were the number one defense in the whole NBA. And then when Draymond was hurt, we slid down to number two. We knew that that’s what we could do, we have a lot of good defenders on our team. Gary Payton, Draymond is the anchor, a very intelligent basketball player, especially on the defensive side. He teaches guys and he helps guys and he gets us right.
Speaking of Draymond, after you all won the chip, he spoke about you in partIcular and said something to the effect of he always knew when they got you that you could be this type of piece for a championship team. What type of impact has he had on you as a player in your time in Golden State?
He has had a big impact. His intensity, he’s a great leader, and he’s very motivational. So he has had a great impact on me personally as a player while here in Golden State.
You spoke a little bit about your time in Minnesota, and immediately upon winning the championship, two of your former teammates in Karl Towns and Zach Lavine shouted you out on Twitter. Do you ever look back on that time now and feel like that group didn’t get a chance to reach its full potential together before you were split up?
You can’t help but to think about it, those are my guys and we were all young when we came into the league. I feel like that team that we had was really talented, we just needed some time. But everything happens for a reason. Zach went to Chicago, he’s having a hell of a career, multiple All-star Games. KAT is doing his thing in Minnesota, and I’m over here, first All-Star appearance, and winning a championship. I wouldn’t change nothing, I love the story and I love the journey but I am really happy with where I am at.
Speaking of not changing anything, your teammate Jordan Poole is eligible for an extension this offseason, you have one more year left on your deal. If you all are able to keep this team together, how dominant do you think this team can continue to be? Even though Steph [Curry], Klay [Thompson] and Draymond might be seen as older, yourself, Poole, even young guys like Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, James Wiseman and Gary Payton provide youth to the team. How do you see this group continuing to progress as the years go forward?
If we get everyone back I don’t see why we can’t do this whole thing again. We have the leadership, we have the veterans, we have the young guys who are getting better everyday, every practice, every moment that are willing to learn and be coached. So why can’t we run this thing back again?
You also made history yourself, becoming just the eighth Canadian player to win an NBA championship. What type of pride do you take in representing your country in that way?
Man, it feels amazing. Canada has loved and supported me throughout my whole career, before the NBA, before college, back in high school. There was a lot of love in my country, so I’m really grateful for that. Winning this championship is big, obviously it’s for Golden State, but at the end of the day I’m Canadian, and no matter what I do with my life, that will never change, so I take great pride in that.
Do you have any other plans to celebrate this championship this summer?
Man, just travel, vacation and have fun and then get back in the lab.