NBA

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala explains why his 2015 NBA Finals MVP over Stephen Curry was ‘well-deserved’

Stephen Curry may be a three-time NBA champion, but his detractors often point to his failure to win a Finals MVP award as a knock against his postseason resume. Kevin Durant won two of them for the Warriors in 2017 and 2018, and while the choice between him and Curry was debatable, few would argue passionately that Durant was undeserving. The 2015 award, however, has become slightly more controversial with time.

LeBron James was so good for the Cleveland Cavaliers that he scored four of the 11 votes for Finals MVP. The remaining seven, and the trophy, went not to Curry, but to the man who defended James: Andre Iguodala. Curry came up short despite averaging 9.7 more points and 2.3 more assists than his teammate, and while Iguodala has long been adamant that Curry deserved a Finals MVP at some point during Golden State’s run, he stands by the choice that the voters made in 2015 in an interview with The Athletic’s Sam Amick.

“As I said, I think it was well-deserved. I just made the most of the opportunity. The scheme was set up for me to beat (James). And that doesn’t happen too often in the finals. Normally it’s the guy who’s the favorite, (who has) the odds, those are the guys who always get the NBA Finals MVP. And I think that I just made the most of the opportunity. Knowing the (defensive) attention that Steph has, knowing the attention that Klay (Thompson) has, a guy like Draymond (Green), Shaun Livingston made sure that I was always just ready and available. Those guys just said, ‘Here, this is what the game says so give him the ball right here and just be ready for it.’ So I think more than anything, it’s just being ready for those moments. If you go back and watch, when the game said ‘shoot’ I shot and I made it. And when it said ‘pass,’ I made it. And then I had to go defend the guy. I didn’t stop him. I didn’t shut him down but just tried to make life hard for him so, in turn, he had to react in other ways. He had to think twice about (decisions). 

He still got to the bucket, but he’s one of the smartest basketball players of all time. And I think, being on his level in terms of basketball IQ, we were just playing chess. It was like a master chess matchup. I think that’s the defense that you (rewarded) — in terms of who you voted for. I think it was very deserving because people don’t understand the human element, the changes that happened, the sacrifices that were made that year with (him) coming off the bench and being thrown into the starting lineup (in Game 4) and people think you might not be able to react well, and it was nothing. I’d been to the playoffs before, won a gold medal — two actually, with the World Championships (in Turkey in 2010 and the London Olympics in 2012). I played a major role on both of those teams — more than people know. And just because you’re not the main name or the (star) doesn’t mean you don’t have (a significant) impact. You’ve just got to be ready for whatever.”

Ultimately, few will be swayed by Iguodala’s argument. James was the best player in the series, but some voters refused to consider him because his team lost. Curry likely had the biggest overall impact on Golden State’s win, as his mere presence as a threat created easier looks for all of his teammates. Iguodala won out due to a combination of defense, statistics and the aura surrounding James.

If there’s one thing about the process that bugs Iguodala, though, it’s the ammunition it gives Curry’s critics. He even argued that it was a phenomenon unique to basketball. “Like in football, anybody can win MVP of the Super Bowl. You can be a kick returner. Desmond Howard won it, right? But no one takes anything away from (then-Packers quarterback) Brett Favre. I just don’t like the way they try to take shots at (Curry).”

The basketball discourse tends to be uniquely tied to accolades. Players are often boiled down to their trophies. It’s an unfair way to determine a legacy, and whether or not Curry should have won the Finals MVP award in 2015, Iguodala is right that he certainly shouldn’t be criticized for failing to do so. His team won the championship. That’s what matters.



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