OAKLAND, Calif. - - Former Belmont University men's basketball All-American Ian Clark ('13) became an NBA Champion Monday night, as Clark and the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 129-120, in Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals.
For Clark, it is the culmination of a remarkable story of perseverance, determination and faith.
The Memphis, Tennessee native led Belmont to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and four consecutive regular season conference championships, standing second in Belmont's NCAA Division I era in points (1,920) and first in made 3-point field goals (340).
And despite being one of the most efficient players in college basketball his senior season, Clark went undrafted in 2013.
After a strong showing in Orlando NBA Summer League for the Miami Heat, Clark latched on with the Golden State Warriors for 2013 Vegas NBA Summer League.
Clark would score a then-record 33 points in the championship game, leading Golden State past Phoenix en route to Championship Game Most Valuable Player honors.
Testament to Clark's impact upon the Warriors during that stint, former Golden State head coach and current ESPN basketball analyst Mark Jackson praised Clark for playing a part in changing the Warriors' culture.
Though Clark would ultimately agree to a two-year deal with the Utah Jazz, his impression upon the Golden State organization was undeniable.
After closing the 2014-15 campaign with the Denver Nuggets – and shining with the team from the Mile High City in summer league – Clark and Golden State got together.
But emblematic of his career journey, nothing would be handed to Clark; he would have to earn a regular season roster spot.
And that meant beating out a collection of accomplished perimeter players from major conference programs, including former NCAA champion and No. 3 overall pick Ben Gordon.
After averaging 3.6 points per game in 66 appearances during the Warriors' historic 73-win regular season in 2016-17, Clark assumed a greater role this go-round.
The four-year NBA veteran enjoyed his finest season in the association, setting career highs in virtually every statistical category, including 23 double figure scoring games.
In the regular season, Clark appeared in 77 games, averaging 6.8 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. He shot 49 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3-point distance.
He scored a career-high 36 points at San Antonio March 11.
Clark ranked fifth among all NBA shooting guards in field goal percentage, 15th in true shooting percentage (.575) and averaged 22.2 points per 48 minutes.
Clark averaged 6.8 points per game on 51 percent shooting in the NBA playoffs, including 10 points in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
He becomes the first former Ohio Valley Conference player in 46 years to win an NBA title.
Ian Clark currently has the trophy and he's not giving it up without a fight pic.twitter.com/VpEOOszc8f— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) June 13, 2017
VIDEO: IAN CLARK, Golden State Warriors (4-1) postgame locker room celebration, 2017 NBA Finals Game 5 �� (0:57) https://t.co/GTIaXGcRid— LetsGoWarriors (@LetsGoWarriors) June 13, 2017
Ian Clark with the Larry O'Brien trophy in a vice grip. Told me someone is going to have to fight him for it. pic.twitter.com/ybCNqY4H30— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) June 13, 2017
Congratulations @IanClark ��— JazzNation (@JazzNationNews) June 13, 2017
Really happy to see @IanClark getting a ring. Just awesome.— Steve Cavendish (@scavendish) June 13, 2017
Ian Clark, NBA Champion!— J.R. Lind (@jrlind) June 13, 2017
So happy for Kevin Durant and my Belmont University alumni Ian Clark��������.— Taj George (@TajGeorge) June 13, 2017
Ayyyyye congrats Lil Clark! @IanClark ��������— Alysha Clark (@Alysha_Clark) June 13, 2017