Andre Iguodala is the 2015 NBA Finals MVP.
Let that sink in for a second.
When our kids, and their kids look back at a list of the NBA’s Finals MVP’s; a list of the greatest athletes on the greatest teams of their era, we will see that name: “Andre Iguodala”.
How the mighty have fallen.
Andre Iguodala winning the Finals MVP saddens me for numerous reasons, but I’ll focus on two in particular in this short write-up: the robbery from Lebron James and the infatuation with Iguodala's 'emergence.'
Lebron James, the best player in the world and the greatest I will ever see in person, posted a stat line unseen since the days when Oscar Robertson would beat on a 8 man rotation of white guys from the local YMCA team (at the time, the New York Knicks). Lebron was a god amongst men. He put up numbers that would indicate he played against a WNBA team rather than the Warriors:
35.8, 13.3, 8.8
42.3, 11.0, 10.3
But which stat line is Lebron’s?
The fact that one can even ask that question means he’s the MVP. I don't care who won the title. Exceptions are supposed to be made in this kind of situation.
Lebron’s stat line is in fact, the first one. The second one? The combined Finals stats of Iggy and Curry! Lebron averaged just 6.5 points and 1.5 less assists per game, while pulling 2.3 more rebounds, than the 2 best players on the Warriors in the Finals.
I’m not going to touch upon the Curry for MVP argument (one that I think holds a lot more weight than Iggy for MVP). The numbers I just showed you should tell the story. You couldn’t tell which stat line was Lebron’s, and which one was the 2 best players from the winning team! Tell me that doesn’t merit the MVP, right off the bat? “Stop milking this argument and write some quality prose, Ryan! Also why is there a girl on ur shou–” Okay, Okay!! You win, my 3 readers. Here goes.
When Andre Iguodala entered the league in the ’04-’05 season as a member of the 76er’s, the NBA’s landscape was almost unrecognizable in comparison to today. Lebron was a sophomore, Stern was 10 years away from retirement, hand-check rules were beginning to be enforced, and the league was about to be rocked its biggest and most unfathomable scandal.
Two years later, franchise player Allen Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets after 15 games. Iguodala now had a chance to shine. He responded with an 18.2/5.7/5.7 with 82% free-throw shooting (incredible in retrospect) and his future seemed bright. Over the next three seasons Iguodala lived up to the hype that comes with having the initials “A” and “I” in Philadelphia, posting a 18.6/5.9/5.3 while averaging 39.4 minutes and starting every single game over that time. He would throw down thunderous dunks, and pushed the Sixers into the playoffs twice in those 3 years. But Iguodala was lost on a team with a neither talent nor cohesion. He wouldn’t make an All-Star, All-NBA, or All-Defensive team any of those seasons. He was a great player, yet received little appreciation for his efforts.
Iggy has always been a gifted defensive player, able to use his combination of quickness and strength to guard 2’s, 3’s and 4’s. His efforts were finally recognized with an All-NBA Defensive 2nd team spot in 2011, and a 1st-team selection in 2014. Putting his defense into the context of the 2015 Warriors, Iguodala was the cog in the machine that made everything work. His efforts, coupled with Draymond Green’s Defensive Player of the Year worthy season, pushed the Warriors to new heights in defensive efficiency without sacrificing any of their offensive gusto. Yet Iggy didn’t start a single game this season for the Warriors, and aside from his defense and veteran presence, he provided little else, averaging a 7.8/3.3/3.0 on 59.6% free throw shooting. He was again overshadowed by the MVP and best shooter in the league (Curry), a 37 point quarter (Klay), 2 emerging white guys (Lee and Bogut), and breakout seasons from Barnes and Green (Barnes and Green). So again, Iguodala was rarely mentioned, something all too familiar a decade into his career.
When buzzer sounded yesterday, Iggy had finished with a 16.3/5.8/4.0 for the series and even started 3 games. But those numbers pale in comparison to the Herculean 35.8/13.3/8.8 of Lebron, who averaged more than double Iguodala in all three major statistical categories. Also, Iggy scored just 7 points in Game 2, a game in which he played 36 minutes. Lebron would be evicerated by every media outlet in the greater Ohio/Great Lakes/US/International area if he scored 7 points. Yes, we expect more from Lebron. He’s the best player in the world, and if he averaged Iggy’s 16/6/4 we’d know his decade long run of stardom was finally slipping away. But why should we factor in expectations when voting for MVP? It’s not a ‘breakout-player’ or ‘most-improved’ award, its for Most Valuable Player, no matter what we’ve come to expect from them.
As Iguodala donned his gray snapback with “2015 Champions” embroidered on the front, he giddily shook Bill Russell’s hand and accepted his Finals MVP trophy. He looked more like a kid in a candy store than the waddling hulk we’d seen in the past few games. Iguodala spoke of his sacrifice to give up his starting role to be the cog in the machine. He referenced the team’s “belief ”; their trips to chapel before every game and the brotherhood it fostered. He held his son tight and appreciated every moment of it.
And as good at it felt to watch Iguodala finally achieve recognition for his humble yet highflying play; the question still remained how he possibly could deserve it. In alignment with a growing trend amongst NBA award voters, it seemed as though the committee ostensibly voted for on the “Most improved player” in the 2015 Finals, rather than the most valuable.
Only two players received votes this season, as Iguodala won in a 7-4 vote over Lebron. But Lebron was as valuable to his team as both Iguodala AND Curry were to theirs! Yes, Iguodala was tasked with guarding Lebron, but he by no means ‘shut Lebron down’, as the King torched the Warriors for 39+ points in 4 out of the 6 games they played. Iguodala also shot 6/21 from the free-throw line in the final 2 games, giving away at least 7-8 points down the stretch on shots that professional players of Iguodala’s position make approximately 75-80% of the time.
So why Iggy? He was the ‘smart’ choice. He did the ‘little things’. He emerged at the biggest stage and stole the show.
But even if you accomplish the little things better or faster than everyone else, at the end of the day they’re still the little things for a reason: They don’t matter as much as the big things.
So with all of this under our belts, I am ultimately okay with Iggy for finals MVP for the reason that the Warriors won and Lebron & co. lost. If the award is to go to the most valuable player on the winning team, so be it. But this must now serve as precedent. Going forward, the finals MVP must come from the winning team, without exception. If there was ever going to be one; 2015 Lebron was it. 35.8/13.3/8.8 was it. He’s the King; a veritable genius on the court with the athleticism of Jordan, the speed of Westbrook, the rebounding nose of Moses, and the court vision of Magic. He’s a god amongst men, or a man amongst boys, and if he doesn’t get to win the Finals MVP, neither should anyone else.