CLEVELAND—If the NBA had a picture-perfect Cinderella story this season, it wasn’t Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors.
The glass slipper fits perfectly on Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova.
Coming out of St. Mary’s College of California, Dellavedova was far from a well-known NBA hopeful. Despite setting multiple records at SMC, ranging from scoring to assists to free throw percentage, he wasn’t drafted and ended up signing a summer league contract with the Cavaliers.
Two years later, Delly is no longer scrapping to make an NBA roster. He’s living on the front page of every sports outlet and becoming LeBron James’ wingman. He has become nothing short of Cleveland’s X-factor and Golden State’s assassin.
But he isn’t the first ex-West Coast Conference star to make it big in the Finals. There’s a long list of former WCC standouts that went on to play key roles on basketball’s biggest stages, and Delly is just the latest chapter.
In 2013, a St. Mary’s legend ran the point for another Finals squad. Patty Mills played a valuable role behind Tony Parker in San Antonio’s seven-game series against Miami, and although the Spurs ended up losing, Mills again came up big in 2014 when they ousted the Heat in five games.
John Stockton, a Gonzaga alumnus, made multiple trips to the Finals as a member of the Utah Jazz, but fell to Michael Jordan’s Bulls each year. He is a ten-time All-Star, and like Delly, is a fierce competitor and slightly “dirty” player.
Former San Francisco center Bill Cartwright played a decent role on Jordan’s 1991, ’92 and ’93 championship Chicago teams.
Santa Clara’s Kurt Rambis won four titles with the Los Angeles Lakers (1982, ’85, ’87 and ’88) while playing alongside Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Pepperdine’s Dennis Johnson won a championship in Seattle (1979) and two in Boston (’84 and ’85) alongside Larry Bird. Johnson was named the NBA Finals MVP in ’79. His former Celtic backcourt partner, Danny Ainge, also hails from a WCC school, although Brigham Young competed in the WAC at the time.
St. Mary’s forward Tom Meschery started alongside Rick Barry in the Warriors’ 1967 Finals appearance, but fell to Wilt Chamberlain’s 76ers.
San Francisco’s KC Jones won eight championships as a starter in Boston (1959-66). His #25 jersey is retired by the Celtics and he is a member of the Hall of Fame.
Last but definitely not least, Bill Russell–arguably the greatest basketball player of all time—won 11 championships in Boston. He was also a 12-time All-Star, a 5-time NBA MVP and the player in which the NBA Finals MVP trophy is named after.
Although it may seem like Dellavedova is the first WCC hoopster to make a splash in the Finals, he’s far from the only one. Other WCC legends, like Steve Nash, never made it to the Finals, but are still considered in high regard in the basketball world.
So, regardless of whether Dellavedova and the Cavaliers end up taking the trophy home to Cleveland, Delly won’t be the first WCCer to leave a mark in the NBA Finals.
Samuel Benson covers college athletics as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and analyzes mid-major sports for FanRag Sports. Contact him at email@example.com.