In is 86th career postseason game on Sunday night, Jaylen Brown did what fellow ex-Cal players Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Lamond Murray, Ryan Anderson and others never did.
He made it to the NBA Finals.
In his fourth try in the Eastern Conference Finals, Brown and his Boston Celtics teammates got over the hump with a 100-96 Game 7 victory over the Miami Heat.
Brown, 25, contributed 24 points, six rebounds and six assists to the win.
His first NBA Finals game against the Golden State Warriors will be played Thursday at the Chase Center in San Francisco, just 12.5 miles from Haas Pavilion, where he averaged 14.6 points as a Cal one-and-done freshman in 2015-16.
Brown certainly seems more ready for the big stage right now than he ever has.
Check out the growth he’s shown in his four Eastern Conference Finals:
In 2017, as a rookie in a five-game series loss to Cleveland, Brown averaged 9.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 0.8 assists while shooting 20 percent (1-for-5) from the 3-point arc.
In 2018, a seven-game loss to Cleveland, his numbers climbed to 19.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists and he made 36 percent (17-47) from deep.
In 2020, in a six-game loss to Miami, Brown averaged 23.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and converted an efficient 50 percent (17-for-34) of his 3-point tries.
This year, Brown produced 24.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists and shot 40 percent (19-for-47) on 3’s in seven games against the Heat. It was the sixth straight postseason series he averaged better than 20 points per game..
The seven Cal alums below combined to play in 12 NBA Finals, with Darrell Imhoff and Jason Kidd each taking three stabs at it. (Not included is Mark McNamara, who played a total of five minutes in three NBA Finals games in 1983 and ’89).
Four of the seven won rings — Charles Johnson, Francisco Elson, Leon Powe and — most recently, in 2011 — Kidd.
Here are those former Golden Bears (with their Cal years in parenthesis) and what they achieved in the NBA Finals:
DARRALL IMHOFF (1958-60)
1965: Imhoff and the Los Angeles Lakers played the Boston Celtics in the Finals three times in four years, and lost each time. Imhoff had minimal impact in this five-game series loss, playing just 11 minutes per game and never scoring more than three points in any of them.
1966: A backup center, Imhoff contributed 2.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists to the Lakers in a 4-3 series loss to the Celtics. Bill Russell dominated the series, providing Boston with 23.6 points and 24.3 rebounds per game.
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1968: Imhoff played a bigger role for the Lakers against the Celtics two years later, posting 8.5 points and 10.2 rebounds. But the Celtics won in six games this time. In the Lakers’ Game 4 victory, Jerry West scored 38 points and Elgin Baylor had 30, but Imhoff also made an impact with 11 points, 20 rebounds and six assists.
CHARLES JOHNSON (1969-71)
1975: Johnson averaged 7.5 points and 4.3 rebounds as a starter in the Warriors’ four-game sweep of the Washington Bullets. On a team featuring high-scoring Rick Barry, Johnson hit double figures twice in the series.
1979: A backup for the Washington Bullets, Johnson averaged 7.2 points in the 4-1 series loss to a Seattle SuperSonics team featuring his ex-Warriors teammate, Gus Williams. Johnson scored 18 points in Game 4.
PHIL CHENIER (1970-71)
1975: Playing for the Washington Bullets, Chenier averaged 23.0 points — the most ever by a Cal player in the NBA Finals — along with 5.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.5 steals in a 4-0 series loss to the Golden State Warriors. Chenier scored 30 points in Game 2, had 26 points and 11 assists in the finale and shot 34 for 36 from the free throw line over four games.
KEVIN JOHNSON (1984-87)
1993: KJ averaged 17.2 points and 6.5 assists in the Phoenix Suns’ six-games Finals loss to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Charles Barkley was the Suns’ No. 1 option but Johnson twice scored 25 points in the series. Jordan was spectacular, averaging 41 points, including 55 in one of Chicago’s wins.
JASON KIDD (1993-94)
2002: Kidd was at the top of his game, averaging 20.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 9.8 assists and 2.3 steals, but the New Jersey Nets were no match for a Los Angeles Lakers’ team fueled by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, losing 4- 0. Kidd had a triple-double with 23-10-10 in Game 1 and scored 30 points in Game 3.
2003: Kidd provided the Nets with 19.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 1.2 steals in a 4-2 Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs, led by Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Kidd had games of 29 and 30 points in the series.
2011: At 38, Kidd averaged the modest numbers of 7.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.2 steals, but helped Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks post a 4-2 series win over a Miami Heat team featuring LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh . It remains the Mavs’ only NBA championship. Kidd now coaches the team.
FRANCISCO ELSON (1998-99)
2007: Elson owns some sort of record by making every shot he ever took in the NBA Finals. As Tim Duncan’s backup, he was 6 for 6 from the field, contributing 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds to the San Antonio Spurs’ 4-0 sweep of LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LEON POWE (2004-06)
2008: Powe averaged 6.2 points in just 8.9 minutes per game, helping the Boston Celtics to a six-game series win over Bryant and the Lakers. He became a Boston favorite when he scored 21 points in barely 14 minutes off the bench in the Celtics’ 108-102 victory in Game 2.
Cover photo of Jaylen Brown driving on the Warriors’ Draymond Green by Winslow Townson, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo