(Jason Miller/Getty Images)
After the Golden State Warriors clinched the NBA title, the player who got the most praise for ending their 40-year title drought wasn't Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, or Draymond Green — it was 11-year veteran Andre Iguodala, the guy who was paid $12 million to come off the bench this year.
"For us, it’s really fitting that the award went to Andre because he sacrificed his starting role from the first game of the season," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game. "It set the tone for everything we were able to accomplish, so it feels like full circle to me that Andre received the award. It couldn’t have happened to a better person."
Iguodala became the only NBA Finals MVP to ever win the award without starting a game during the regular season. His only starts this season came in Games 4, 5, 6 of the NBA Finals, when the Warriors went small after losing two of the first three games of the series. Golden State won all three games he started.
Iguodala is one of the most unlikely Finals MVP winners ever. Before the series started Iguodala's chances of winning the Finals MVP were as high as 125/1, according to Bovada, and he admitted after the game that even he wouldn't have taken those odds:
"I'm not surprised [I won Finals MVP], but I would have bet on – I would have bet on Steph. I would have bet on Draymond. Draymond's been great for us all year and very, very high‑IQ guy. This is the type of series where he can get triple‑double numbers every night, and we saw it in the Houston series, and I knew it would carry over. So those two guys I would have bet on."
Iguodala didn't put up the same stats that Curry did, or average a double-double like Green, but he was tasked with what Kerr called "the hardest job in basketball," guarding LeBron James. LeBron may have been able to put up historic numbers — he averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists during the Finals — but he did his most significant damage when Iguodala wasn't in the game.
When Iguodala sat, LeBron shot 44 percent from the field, averaged 35 points per 36 minutes with 2.2 turnovers, and the Cavs were a +30. Those numbers drop to 38.1 percent, 26 points per 36 minutes, 2.9 turnovers, and a -55 when Iguodala was on the court.
After the game, even LeBron applauded Iguodala for his performance throughout the Finals.
"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," he said.
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