Andre Iguodala won the 2015 NBA Finals MVP Tuesday night after the Warriors' 105-97 victory in Game 6 as Golden State secured its first NBA title in 40 years. Iguodala was the Warriors' best player by a large margin, averaging 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.4 steals, all while defending the game's best player, LeBron James. James had a monstrous series, but finished shooting under 30 percent from the field and was held to a minus net-rating when on the floor -- largely thanks to Iguodala.
It's a stunning moment for Iguodala, who came to Golden State in 2013 seeking to play with this specific collection of players. He accepted his bench role despite having been an All-Star and a starter throughout his career. When called upon, Iguodala changed the course of the series with his defense and with his impact when moved into the starting lineup in Game 4.
Iguodala has always prided himself as a defender first, and a player that could do whatever his team needed to win. He certainly did that in the Finals and now he becomes the rare player to hold an Olympic gold medal, an NBA championship ring and the NBA Finals MVP trophy.
Here is the final tally.
When Iguodala was in the game, LeBron James shot 38.1 percent from the field, scoring 26 points per 36 minutes with 2.9 turnovers. With Iguodala on the bench, James shot 44 percent, averaging 35 points per 36 minutes with 2.2 turnovers. With Iguodala as the primary defender, opponents shot 37.2 percent overall, and he gave up free throws the same percentage of time (10.8 percent) that he forced a turnover, via Synergy Sports. Those are steller defensive numbers.
This makes two consecutive Finals in which LeBron James' primary defender has won MVP (Kawhi Leonard in 2014). What that says about James, and about our perception of him, speaks volumes.
"I think the last couple games, he played well, he played great," James said of Iguodala. "Especially offensively, he made us defend him, he knocked down open shots.
"It’s not one-on-one. But I think his ability to play multiple positions for their team along with some of those other guys allowed their team to be so dynamic. You know, he made us pay. He made us pay tonight with big shots, timely shots, getting out on the break, getting rebounds, getting assists. He was pretty good for their team."
While Iguodala's defense on James was superb, his jumper should be a bigger part of the story. Iguodala has always defended his inconsistent shot, and it has certainly abandoned him from time to time. He went to the long pull-up way too much in Philadelphia, and started to learn the value of 3s and at-rim efficiency in Denver. He took it to another level with the Warriors, but when the Cavaliers started running him off the 3-point line, Iguodala stepped up and made huge shots in Game 6 and the entire series.
Iguodala sacrificed a lot to be on this team. Money, fame, a starting spot, minutes, star power. He wanted to win. He always has said the thing he wants most is to win. In 2011, the first Finals I covered, the things I remember most are the smile on Dirk Nowitzki's face holding the MVP trophy on his way to an interview after the game, and Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler, veteran players, screaming "No one can take this from us! We're champions!" Now Iguodala knows what that feels like.
The consummate pro came through in the clutch.