The 2015 NBA champion Warriors are full of players who were underestimated, overlooked or counted out at some point during their basketball careers, from baby face-turned-MVP Stephen Curry to Draymond “Can’t-Play-in-This-League” Green.
The most underestimated, overlooked and counted out of them all may have been the young, lanky wing sitting on the end of the bench.
Justin Holiday’s path to becoming an NBA champion took him through four teams in four leagues and three countries during his first three years as a pro — including a full season in the NBA Development League (2012-13). On Tuesday night, the 26-year-old tried to soak in just how far he’d come.
“Even when I did get called up, a lot of people felt like I wasn’t good enough to be in the NBA. Now, the first full year I get in the NBA, I’m a champion,” he said during Golden State’s postgame locker room celebration.
Holiday’s path to Golden State began last July, when he seized an opportunity with their Summer League team in Las Vegas.
His first three years as a pro were marked by uncertainty, including a stellar 2012-13 season with the Idaho Stampede in which he averaged 17.3 points and 2.4 steals per game while shooting 41% from beyond the arc. That led to a brief Call-Up to the Sixers — a reunion with younger brother Jrue Holiday — and a second year overseas in Hungary.
Finally, after averaging 14.8 points and playing standout defense in Vegas, Holiday entered this season with a spot in the NBA secured. He appeared in 59 games for the Warriors, making four starts and scoring a career-high 23 points on March 13 in Denver.
On Tuesday, Holiday credited his time in the NBA D-League with preparing him for the role.
“It helped me in so many ways. One, it gave me a lot of experience. It allowed me to be able to get used to the NBA game and also play against NBA talent. There were times when [players] came down or I played against [players] that should have been in the NBA,” he said.
“To be here and then to experience this, this is one of the greatest experiences of my life. Not even playing as much in the playoffs, I’m still experiencing and learning so much. It will only help me further my career.”