The 2022 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics started with a simple question: “will Stephen Curry win his first-ever Finals MVP?”
Picks & predictions will soon be hypothesized and projected about whether or not Curry, the unanimous best shooter in the game’s history, would add the one piece of hardware that his resume was missing to his list of achievements.
But while Curry’s exploits were the subject of conversation, the question of whether or not Andre Iguodala deserved to win the 2015 Finals MVP became a constant murmur in the background— and frankly, the numbers speak for themself.
The Warriors won the 2014-15 NBA Finals in six games after starting down 2-1 to the underdog Cavs, who notably were without Kevin Love, who was injured in a previous-round matchup against the Boston Celtics, and soon Kyrie Irving, who was dealt a blow to his knee on the big stage.
Cleveland became entirely LeBron James dependent, similar to how they were in the 2006-07 and 2017-18 seasons, and had no hope of winning if he did not take over every game from start to finish.
Despite the limited win condition, the Cavs went up 2-1 in the series, prompting Steve Kerr to move Iguodala, who had not started a single game in the regular or postseason, into the opening five, with the primary task of slowing down James. Iggy mostly face-guarded “the King” and was an ever-present annoyance, seldom switching off of him and refusing to give him any space to breathe.
Although Iggy did as good of a job as anybody realistically could, James went on to finish the series with an average of 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists, leading his team in every major statistical category and leading both teams in point, rebound, and assist averages.
The only negative was that he only shot 39.8% from the field in the series, a huge distance away from his career postseason average of 49.5%.
The Finals win marked the first of the Warriors dynasty and came the year before they set the regular-season win record, going 73-9, officially announcing themselves on basketball’s biggest stage— but while many assumed that Curry, then a one-time MVP and soon-to-be two-time and first-ever unanimous MVP, would inevitably earn a Finals MVP, it eluded him.
Only one time in the National Basketball Association’s long history has a player on a losing team won the Finals MVP— that player was Jerry West, the logo, who received the award in its inaugural year in 1969.
West averaged 37.9 points, 7.4 assists, and 4.7 rebounds for a Los Angeles Lakers team that lost to the Boston Celtics squad headlined by John Havlicek in seven games. West’s outstanding performances throughout the series were too much to ignore, and he accepted the award in defeat.
Many made the case that LeBron deserved to become the second losing player to win the Finals MVP in 2015 for carrying his depleted squad in every way imaginable, while others thought that Curry deserved the award.
The front-half of the Splash Brothers averaged a cool 26.0 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.2 rebounds per game, providing the majority of GSW’s offense and big moments during the run to the championship, making it clear that he was the best player on the winning team, not Iguodala.
Awards are often defined by narratives— whether it be Heisman trophy winners, Cy Young award recipients, or, in this case, Finals MVPs, there needs to be a story in play. Iguodala had the benefit of being the primary defender on LeBron, who was the clear leader of his losing team, and to many, that meant that Iggy was the difference, especially since his insertion into the starting five led to three straight wins.
The story will be debated for years to come— but the numbers show that Iggy clearly did not deserve the award. How will the emotional appeal hold up over time? Nobody knows.
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