Warriors' McKinnie, an original Windy City Bull, enjoying Finals experience
Alfonzo McKinnie's official "welcome to the NBA Finals" moment probably came during the first media session.
The Chicago native and original member of the Windy City Bulls was ambushed by Guillermo from the late-night "Jimmy Kimmel Show." McKinnie laughed off questions about what he'll miss most about Kevin Durant when he's playing in New York next season, and his thoughts on the Warriors completing a "threesome" of NBA titles.
When Guillermo moved on and a reporter started asking a more normal question about Golden State's supporting cast, McKinnie asked him to pause and said, "Wait a minute. What just happened here?"
The true test came Thursday in Toronto when McKinnie knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in Golden State's Game 1 loss. During the playoffs, the 6-foot-8 forward has averaged 3.5 points in 10.9 minutes, but he's been on the floor in some critical moments, including overtime in the clinching game of the Western Conference finals in Portland. With both Durant and Iguodala sidelined, McKinnie started that game and scored 12 points in 26 minutes.
"It felt great. Words can't even describe it. I was ecstatic," McKinnie said of taking the floor in a Finals game. "All my friends and family were excited. Got a lot of text messages, a lot of DMs and people sending me pictures of them watching the game. It was a very happy moment for me."
What's crazier is McKinnie has spent two seasons in the NBA -- this year with Golden State and last year with Toronto. He was back at home, in a way, for Game 1.
McKinnie said he's good friends with most of the Raptors, particularly former G-League rivals Pascal Siakam and Rockford native Fred VanVleet.
So McKinnie has obviously come a long way since attending the very first Windy City Bulls open tryout in 2016 on the recommendation of Randy Brown. But actually, that was a nice step up from where McKinnie started, on a second-division team in Luxembourg. He caught Brown's attention while preparing for the World 3-on-3 championships in China.
McKinnie averaged 14.9 points and 9.2 rebounds during the Windy City Bulls' inaugural season, which led to a guaranteed spot on the Raptors' roster the following year. He still talks occasionally with Bulls assistant coach Nate Loenser, who headed Windy City that season.
"The best memories for me, it's not even basketball, it was the first time my mom and the rest of my family were able to come out and watch me play in a professional game," McKinnie said of his season in Hoffman Estates. "I was in Luxembourg the year before and Mexico, so they weren't able to come out. For me, that was the best part of playing for Windy City."
When the Warriors visited the United Center early this season, McKinnie signed the papers to buy his mother a house, then went out and set two career-highs with 19 points and 10 rebounds in a blowout win over the Bulls.
"Besides making it to the Finals, probably one of the best days of my basketball career, just the fact of being back in Chicago, getting to see my family and friends," he said. "Me being able to sign off on getting my mom a house, then having the game that I had, probably one of the best days I've had in my career."
Spending a full season with the NBA's most famous team has been eye-opening in a couple different ways.
"The hype around the team, just being outside in the Bay Area, a lot of people show a lot of love," McKinnie said. "Everybody loves the Warriors. No matter what city we're in, you go out, people know who you are. People root for you. It's a great experience.
"We've got a bunch of great guys. But to see the elite guys, just to see them in the gym every day, before practice, after practice, getting a lot of extra work in, that was something I noticed early. You see them on TV and stuff and they've got natural talent, but to see them put the work in and work on the stuff they do in the games, it was something I was excited to see."
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