All season long, Andre Iguodala sacrificed. When Steve Kerr came to him and asked him to come off the bench, he obliged. When shots that used to be his went to Klay Thompson, he never blinked. When media members wondered if he had fallen off, he never once wavered.
Now he's your NBA Finals MVP.
Iguodala was given the top individual honor after scoring 25 points in the Warriors' 105-97 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6, marking one of the most unlikely rises in history. Listed at 125-1 odds before the series, Iguodala became the Warriors' most important two-way player, making it not even a question that he'd receive the award over regular-season MVP Stephen Curry.
"I want to be just like Steph (Curry) when I grow up," Iguodala joked when receiving the award, per Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The only legitimate challenge to Iguodala's throne was series foil LeBron James, who put together perhaps the best individual performance in a Finals loss. James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game, almost single-handedly making the injury-depleted Cavs competitive against the juggernaut Warriors.
Iguodala averaged 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists for the series. While those numbers are atypical of a Finals MVP, the counting stats do little to show his all-around contribution. Brought into the starting lineup after the Cavs opened up a 2-1 series lead, Iguodala helped spark the run that changed the entire series' outcome.
Draymond Green said, per CBS Sports NBA, "He saved the season for us."
Iguodala's son also had something to say about his father winning the MVP, per the NBA:
He took pressure off Harrison Barnes by defending James, who torched the young Warriors forward through the first three games. Whereas Barnes was bullied in the post against the stronger, more experienced former MVP, Iguodala consistently held his own despite James still getting his points. He also helped open up the floor by replacing Andrew Bogut in the starting lineup, clearing a small-ball lineup that finally allowed the Warriors offense to thrive.
"He does everything for us," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after Game 5, per Roderick Boone of Newsday. "He's our best defender on LeBron. He's an incredible decision-maker. He rebounds. He guards everybody. When he's off LeBron, he goes on to a shooter and stays at home with the shooters and challenges shots. He's a brilliant defensive player."
In the end, it was Iguodala's ability to do everything on both ends that wound up giving him this trophy. His regular-season scoring average (7.8) and his Finals scoring average are each the second-lowest of any MVP in history, behind only Wes Unseld in 1978. SportsCenter's Twitter feed also pointed out Iguodala is the only Finals MVP to ever come off the bench at any point in that series or fail to start a regular-season game.
Given the criticism he faced in Denver and Philadelphia after being unable be the guy, it's fitting Iguodala reached the pinnacle of the sport when a coach finally allowed him to merely be himself.
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