August 12, 2022

Stephen Curry may be a three-time NBA champion, but his critics often point to his failure to win a Finals MVP award as a blow to his playoff resume. Kevin Durant won two for the Warriors in 2017 and 2018, and while the choice between him and Curry is debatable, few would passionately argue that Durant didn’t deserve it. The 2015 award, however, has become a bit more controversial over time.

LeBron James was so good for the Cleveland Cavaliers that he scored four of 11 Finals MVP votes. The other seven, and the trophy, went not to Curry, but to the man who defended James: Andre Iguodala. Curry fell short despite averaging 9.7 more points and 2.3 more assists than his teammate, and although Iguodala has long been adamant that Curry deserved a Finals MVP at some point in Golden State’s race, he sticks to the choice voters made in 2015 in an interview with The Athletic’s Sam Amick.

“Like I said, I think it was well deserved. I just took the opportunity. The pattern was set for me to beat (James). And that doesn’t happen too often in the Finals. Normally it’s the guy who is the favorite, (who has) the chances, it’s the guys who always get the NBA Finals MVP. And I think I just took the opportunity. the (defensive) attention that Steph has, knowing the attention that Klay (Thompson) has, a guy like Draymond (Green), Shaun Livingston made sure that I was always just ready and available. Those guys just said “That’s what the game says, so give him the ball here and just be ready for it. So I think more than anything, it’s just about 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 succeeded. And then I had to go defend the guy. I didn’t stop him. I didn’t stop him but just tried to make his life difficult, so in turn he had to react in a different way. He had to think twice before making (the 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.”

Ultimately, few will be swayed by Iguodala’s argument. James was the best player in the series, but some voters refused to consider him because his team lost. Curry probably had the biggest overall impact on Golden State’s win, as his mere presence as a threat made for an easier appearance for all of his teammates. Iguodala won due to a combination of defense, stats and the aura surrounding James.

If there’s one thing about the process that bothers Iguodala, it’s the ammunition it gives Curry critics. He even argued that it was a basketball phenomenon. “Like in football, anyone can win Super Bowl MVP. You can be a kick returner. Desmond Howard won it, right? But nobody takes away what whether it’s Brett Favre (then Packers quarterback). I just don’t like the way they’re trying to shoot (Curry).”

Basketball talk tends to be all about accolades. Players are often reduced to their trophies. It’s an unfair way to determine a legacy, and whether or not Curry should have won the Finals MVP award in 2015, Iguodala is right that he certainly shouldn’t be criticized for not having done so. His team won the championship. That is what matters.