Festus Ezeli’s final game as a member of the Golden State Warriors was pretty rough. In Game 7 of the NBA Finals vs. the Cavs in 2016, Ezeli went a game low minus -9 in his 11 minutes on the floor, and finished the game with zero points (0-for-4) and a single rebound, in a 93-89 loss.
The most crucial minutes of the game took place when Steve Kerr curiously decided to start Ezeli in the second half, after the center struggled to start the game. The Warriors led 49-42 at the beginning of the 3rd quarter. In just over three minutes — which included a missed 3-foot shot by Ezeli and a loose ball foul — the game was tied. Ezeli again checked in late in the fourth quarter, and fouled LeBron James shooting a 3-pointer, cutting the Warriors lead to 87-86 lead with 5:16 remaining.
The Warriors would eventually lose the game, and the series, blowing a 3-1 lead to give the Cavs their first ever NBA Championship. Adding insult to injury, Ezeli was not re-signed by Golden State the following offseason.
Though he played poorly, it is not Ezeli’s fault the Warriors lost Game 7. That was due to a collective failure by the whole team, who shot a paltry 36.8 percent from the field. Still, Ezeli is haunted by Game 7, something he revealed in an interview on Tuesday.
“You don’t move on from that,” Ezeli said on the I Am Rapaport Podcast with Michael Rapaport. “It’s always gonna be something in the back of my mind of, ‘what could I have done? What could we have done? How did that happen?’ I was with the guys this year at the start, the first game of the season this year, when they got their rings this past season. And I was so happy for my guys. Those are my brothers. We went through so many battles together. They’re always gonna be my brothers for life and I was so happy for them.
“On the second side of it is, they just got retribution from that. They got retribution from that 3-1 loss, which was the most humiliating…I was in Europe and people know about this all around (the world).
“For us to lose that series the way we did…the team was beat up and LeBron and Kyrie were just too damn good…there was nothing to do to stop those guys once they got going.
“One of the greatest moments of my life was winning the championship the year before. One of the worst moments of my life was losing that championship.
“I hate losing but then losing in the way we did, especially given that I wasn’t 100 percent and able to help my team the way I wanted to, it still haunts me ’til today.”
Ezeli is currently a free agent after being waived by the Trail Blazers last offseason. Ezeli hasn’t played in a game since that fateful Game 7, as he recoveries from multiple knee surgeries.
Full podcast below. Discussion about Cavs series starts around 1:58:00 mark.