SAN FRANCISCO – Revisionist history is a funny thing.
It’s been seven years since I was one of the members of the media who decided Golden State’s Andre Iguodala was the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, with six of my colleagues casting the same vote and the other four judging LeBron James of Cleveland worthy of the honor. in a six-game loss. And if there was a magic world in which we could do it all over again, let it be known: I would do it again.
The final vote was 7-4, with none for Steph Curry even though he averaged 26 points (44.3% total from the field and 38.5% on 3-point range), 6.3 assists and 5.2 rebounds in the series. It says a lot that none of us considered Curry a worthy winner at the time.
Yet as years have passed without an NBA Finals MVP trophy in Curry’s case, and the debate over his place in the league’s history books has been reignited with this sixth trip to the series. of championships over the past eight years, he has become popular enough that the decision was widely ridiculed by fans and members of the media. Most agree that Kevin Durant deserved those Bill Russell trophies he won in 2017 and 2018, and so it’s the 2015 decision that is so often dissected. But from that perspective, both then and now, Iguodala was the right choice.
We’ve all watched the Warriors lose 2-1 in this series, with James dominating and Curry struggling at times to free himself from the Cavs defense that could regularly trap him with Tristan Thompson because big man Andrew Bogut was in the starting lineup. . By all accounts, Golden State was in deep trouble until Iguodala’s impact kicked in.
Then came Game 4, when Nick U’Ren – a special assistant to Warriors head coach Steve Kerr – was hailed as their hero when he suggested that Iguodala take Bogut’s place to turn the tide. And he did, slowing James’ scoring just enough to allow the Warriors to come back on one side while hitting big shots and making it easier on the other.
James in his first three games (Cavs up 2-1): 41 points (40.2% total shooting, 35% on three), 12 rebounds, 8.3 assists.
Jacques in the last three games (all Warriors win): 30.7 points (39.3%, 27.3%), 14.7 rebounds, 9.3 assists.
Iguodala’s last three games: 20.3 points (47.8%, 40.9%), seven rebounds, four assists; he had 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in Cleveland’s closing game.
Over the past few days, while listening to some of the talk about choice and admittedly getting a little irritated by it all, I’ve started looking for a way to head down that memory lane. This question emerged: would Iguodala have voted for himself?
While the 38-year-old has said in the past that he thinks Curry deserves an NBA Finals MVP trophy somewhere along the way, I’ve never heard him discuss the 2015 decision in detail. … until Saturday.
I spoke with Iguodala at Warriors practice about this fascinating and divisive topic. This conversation, which took place on the eve of the Warriors’ Game 2 against the Celtics at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
I heard you say that Steph should have received an NBA Finals MVP trophy. But as you know, because of the scene here, people are again talking about the fact that he doesn’t have one. And I’ll be honest, I voted for you because I still believe it was the right decision.
Yes, I think (the discussion) does the game a disservice. I never said it was the wrong decision. Yeah, I think (Curry) should have won (at some point). But that doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision.
Tell me your opinion on basketball. After three games in 2015, you felt like you were in serious trouble. LeBron needed to be slowed down, even if it was just a little bit. You know the story. How do you think about it?
I don’t think about it. It just bothers me that you have a guy of that caliber (in Curry) and they keep shooting at him. There’s no reason to shoot him. Great athletes, it doesn’t happen that often. People tend to appreciate our great athletes more, but now that you’re so close to them, you’re just looking for ways to take pictures. Like in football, anyone can win the Super Bowl MVP title. You can be a kick returner. Desmond Howard won it, didn’t he? (He did indeed, becoming the first and only kick returner to win the award for the Packers in 1997).
But nobody takes anything away from (then-Packers quarterback) Brett Favre (who won a Super Bowl and lost another but was never MVP). I just don’t like the way they try to shoot (Curry). They do not understand. It’s hard to go to the NBA Finals six times. It’s not normal, and it’s almost like there’s so much money in sports that people say weird things for the sake of saying weird things just to have a conversation about it. And so for me, it’s not even about protecting him. I still think he deserves one. But I don’t know (which one). Choose one. And if I have to be the one they take, I’m okay with that. But it’s not me saying I don’t deserve it, and it’s not me saying I don’t think I deserve it.
Explore the series for me and tell me objectively, when it comes to basketball, do you feel like the guy?
Like I said, I think it was well deserved. I just took the opportunity. The plan was put in place for me to beat (James). And that doesn’t happen too often in the final. Normally it’s the guy who is the favorite, (who has) the odds, it’s the guys who always get the NBA Finals MVP. And I think I just took the opportunity. Knowing Steph’s (defensive) attention, knowing Klay’s (Thompson) attention, a guy like Draymond (Green), Shaun Livingston made sure I was always ready and available. These guys just said, ‘There, that’s what the game says, so give him the ball here and be ready for it.’ So I think more than anything, it’s just being ready for those times. If you go back and look, when the game said “shoot” I fired and I got it. And when he said “pass”, I did. And then I had to go defend the guy. I didn’t stop him. I didn’t shut him up but just tried to make his life difficult so, in turn, he had to react in a different way. He had to think twice about it (decisions).
He’s still in the bucket, but he’s one of the smartest basketball players ever. And I think being at his level in terms of basketball IQ, we were just playing chess. It was like a master chess match. I think it’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 lineup starting point (in Game 4) and people think you might not be able to react well, and that was nothing. I had already made the playoffs, won a gold medal – two in fact, with the World Championships (in Turkey in 2010 and the London Olympics in 2012). I played a major role in both of those teams – more than people realize. And just because you’re not the main name or the (star) doesn’t mean you don’t have a (significant) impact. You just have to be ready for anything.
Do you hear the noise when people say, ‘That (NBA Finals MVP) was a joke. He shouldn’t have had it. Do you mind?
No way. But you hear everything. You hear it. But you also have to realize what people are trying to do or what people are looking for. Most people are just looking to be seen or heard, so when you respond to it, it’s their way of saying “I made it”.
(Photo by Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)