Iman Shumpert Relived a Crucial Missed Basket That Led to the Beginning of the Golden State Warriors Dynasty: ‘If I Hit That, Then Basketball’s Different Forever’

2015 was a very different time in the NBA landscape. LeBron James was in his first season back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, leading them to the Finals for the second time in franchise history. About 2,500 miles away, first-time MVP Stephen Curry was guiding his Golden State Warriors to their first Finals appearance in 40 years.

The Cavaliers and Warriors were set to embark on the first of four consecutive championship matchups, three of which were won by Golden State. However, former Cavs guard Iman Shumpert relived a pivotal turning point in the first game of their first Finals matchup that ultimately defined the next several years of basketball history.

The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 NBA Finals

Although they were new faces, few were shocked seeing the Warriors and Cavaliers go toe-to-toe for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Golden State finished the 2014-15 season with an NBA-leading 67-15 record, thanks in large part to a revolutionary 3-point shooting attack that led the league in scoring. Meanwhile, the 53-29 Cavs were title contenders thanks to James, who appeared in each of the last four Finals with the Miami Heat.

The series began with multiple nail-biting finishes. Both Game 1 and Game 2 went to overtime, with the Warriors winning the first and the Cavaliers taking the second. Cleveland then managed to take a 2-1 series lead after winning Game 3 by five points. However, the Warriors answered right back with victories in Games 4 and 5, thanks in large part to dominant fourth-quarter efforts.

Despite a 32-18-9 stat line from LeBron in Game 6, Cleveland wasn’t able to send the series to a seventh and final game. Golden State’s eight-point victory secured its first title since 1975. Andre Iguodala, who didn’t enter the starting lineup until Game 4, won Finals MVP.

With all due respect to the Warriors, it’s fair to point to the absence of both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love as to why the Cavaliers lost the series. Love, who was in his first season with Cleveland, suffered a dislocated shoulder in Game 4 of the first round that ended his postseason. As for Irving, the All-Star point guard fractured his left kneecap during overtime of Game 1 against the Warriors.

Iman Shumpert cites his missed shot as the reason the Warriors dynasty began

Shumpert, a 10-year veteran, joined the Cavs midseason after over three years with the New York Knicks. He ended up becoming a well-regarded 3-and-D player for Cleveland and started all six games of his first-ever Finals series.

In a 98-98 tie during Game 1, James fired a step-back jumper near the left corner over Iguodala with approximately four seconds left in regulation. The shot hit the back of the rim but bounced to Shumpert in the other corner. With less than a second remaining, Shumpert caught the ball off a bounce and fired a desperation shot in mid-air, narrowly missing the potential game-winner.

The 31-year-old recently did an interview with The Bootleg Kev Podcast and relived that particular miss against the Warriors. From there, he asserted how that shot led to Irving’s injury minutes later and an eventual Finals defeat.

“When that missed shot came off in Game 1 … if I throw that shot back in, it’s a different series because Ky never [hurts] his knee. … If I hit that, then basketball’s different forever. Because y’all wouldn’t be running around here shooting all these threes.”

Iman Shumpert

The 6-foot-5 guard, who last played for the Brooklyn Nets in 2020-21, also inferred to Cleveland becoming the dynasty instead of Golden State. And eventually signing Kevin Durant as a result.

“KD probably come over there and play with us [in Cleveland] as opposed to them because we won,” Shumpert explained. “KD would have been like, ‘They won over there, I’m going to go over here and shake with them. Me and Bron gonna play together and y’all be mad.’ But that would’ve ruined basketball too.”

The Cavaliers-Warriors rivalry made NBA history

For Cavaliers fans who felt slighted after losing in 2015 with a shorthanded team, revenge was exacted in 2016. For Warriors fans who felt dejected after seeing their 73-9 team collapse, Durant and company had the last laugh a year later. And add one more Finals duel for good measure, just before the King departed for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018.

Even though the rivalry will forever be owned by the Warriors and their three victories, there’s no denying the history these teams made. Cleveland and Golden State’s four Finals matchups set the record for the most consecutive championships featuring the same teams in the four major North American sports.

Still, Shumpert’s points bring up some interesting “what-ifs”. If the Cavaliers win Game 1, do they win the 2015 NBA Finals? How does that impact the following year? Do the Warriors ever win a title? Where does Durant actually end up signing? And how many rings does LeBron end up with to further enhance his GOAT credentials?

In the end, we’ll never know. But it’s an entertaining discussion at the very least.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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