That title's not wishful speculation, or some sort of bemoaning of AI9 being denied the honors he richly deserved. For arguably the first time in his 11-year NBA career, absolutely no one is overlooking Andre Iguodala: He has actually been named the Most Valuable Player of these Finals. In last night's Game Six, 'Dre posted a 25-5-5 while helping hold LeBron James to 32 points on 33 shots, as the Warriors closed out the Cavaliers on the road in Cleveland to win Golden State's first title since the year of Born to Run and Physical Graffiti. For his contributions, Iguodala became arguably the least likely recipient in the history of the Bill Russell-named award.
Should he have won it? It's arguable. He undoubtedly has a case, having averaged 16-6-4 on 52% FG and 41% from three (although, somewhat remarkably, only 36% from the line), all while playing superlative straight-up defense on the best player on the planet, making LeBron work for everything, forcing him to settle for jumpers, and allowing the rest of Golden State to stay home on Cleveland's shooters. It was also Iguodala's move from the bench to the starting lineup in Game Four — his first appearance in the starting five all year — that swung the momentum of the series. Even with all the Cavaliers' injuries, it's doubtful the Warriors win this series without Andre Iguodala.
That said, he'd still probably have been third on my ballot. He struggled a bit to start the series, but Stephen Curry was still clearly the Warriors' best offensive player, averaging 26 points a game on 44% shooting and 38% from three, while also chipping in over five boards and nearly six assists a game. Without the attention Steph commands off the dribble, there's no way that Iguodala — who, as the Warriors' weakest perimeter shooter in a number of GSW lineup permutations, probably was gifted more open looks from three than any other wing player in NBA Finals history — would've put up anywhere near the stats he managed. Iguodala's invaluable defensive effort goes a long way to mitigate the offensive disparity between the players, but I think the Warriors would've had a harder time replacing what Curry did for them this series than what 'Dre did.
And frankly, I woulda given it to LeBron anyway. Not the King's best outing in this elimination contest — as previously mentioned, he had more FGAs than points, which is hardly the efficiency you need from your top scorer in a game like this — but hell, he still had a 32-18-9. For the series, LBJ averaged an unthinkable 36-13-9, becoming the first player to lead both teams in total points, rebounds and assists in Finals history. Yes the Cavs lost, and I thought LeBron was gonna need to force a Game 7 to have a shot of taking home the trophy as a loser, but even pushing this thing to six games with a team whose second best player was Timofey Mozgov — and even keeping the losses close — is an achievement that deserves to go on his eventual bust in Springfield. As usual, LeBron made the otherworldly ordinary.
Nonetheless, even if you don't feel Andre deserved the award, it's hard to begrudge him the recognition after a decade-plus of being undervalued. For Philly fans he will always be remembered for his exorbitant contract, for his failure to develop into a Kobe-style offensive first option and late-game closer, and for his presiding over one of the most mediocre and ultimately forgettable eras in 76ers history. But he was great for the Sixers in those years, as he was great in this series — a guy who can do absolutely everything for your team but score 30 a night, and can even do that once or twice if you leave him open frequently enough. He's not a Hall-of-Famer, as Finals MVPs normally are, but he is now a permanent part of NBA history, and that was something Andre Iguodala always deserved to be, even as it seemed unlikely he would ever be recognized as such.
Anyway, congrats to Andre, as well as Marreese Speights (s/o to #dougcollins LOL!) and even half-hour Sixer Justin Holiday on the Championship win. We hope to be joining you guys in the Winners' Circle someday in the not-too-distant future.