By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—When Andre Iguodala was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2012 as a part of the four-way deal that landed the 76ers Andrew Bynum, most Philly fans said good riddance.
After all, the Sixers were getting a legitimate impact center in Bynum and Iguodala never really panned out as a No. 1 scoring option. At the time, the 76ers and their fans were so giddy about Bynum that they threw him a big party at the National Constitution Center. It was like Andre-who?
It’s funny how things turned out.
Bynum, a man with bum knees, never played a minute in a Sixers uniform. Iguodala, who got traded to the Golden State Warriors a year later, ended up having the last laugh.
On Tuesday night, there was Iguodala holding two trophies—the NBA Finals trophy and the Bill Russell Finals MVP Trophy. The guy the Sixers sent packing a few years ago is now on top of the world with Golden State while his old team has struggled to put out reputable starting five on a nightly basis.
Oddly enough, Iguodala said it was his time with the Sixers prepared for him for his championship run with the Warriors.
“I think all those years and going through everything I went through, the good and the bad, can prepare you for this moment. Being in Philly I had some teams‑‑ we were a very close group. I think we maximized our talent,” Iguodala said. “I’ve been on teams that we’ve been close knit and it helped us just getting to the playoffs because we weren’t the most talented, but we got there because we played so hard together.”
What makes this Finals MVP award special for Iguodala is that he didn’t have to be the top scorer for his team. That’s Stephen Curry’s job to put the offense on his shoulder and he certainly did that, especially in the fourth quarter of the Warriors last three wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the title.
Iguodala had the most important job in this series—slow down Cleveland’s LeBron James. He held James to 38. 1 percent shooting after Game 3. No, Iguodala didn’t complete shutdown James, who was having an MVP series, but he kept him from having one for the ages.
“LeBron doesn’t have any weaknesses, or he doesn’t have a glaring weakness,” Iguodala said. “ So you’ve got to pick up on the smaller things to try to make him uncomfortable. Like knowing which side he likes to shoot threes off the dribble, which side he likes to drive. One side he’ll drive left more often, and the other side he’ll drive right more often.”
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he admired Iguodala’s willingness to contribute as the sixth man was important to Golden State’s run to the NBA title.
“You could make an argument that it could have gone to Steph, it could have gone to LeBron,” Kerr said. “But 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.
“He had never come off the bench once in his entire career, and he sacrificed that job to make Harrison better, to make our bench better, and that set the tone for our whole season. An All‑Star, an Olympian saying, okay, I’ll come off the bench.”
Iquodala also came up with some big three-point buckets in both Game 5 and Game 6 of the series that halted the Cavaliers attempt to comeback in the game. In the series finale, Iguodala scored 25 points, pulled down five rebounds and added five assists. For the series, Iguodala averaged 16 points per game.
Not bad for a guy who was supposedly a 100-1 shot to win the Finals MVP over 2015 league MVP Curry and a four-time MVP in James.
Iguodala is proof that you don’t have to be the leading scorer or the star to be valuable to your team. Playing your role-whether you are a defensive stopper, scorer off the bench, or a rebounder like Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman—is just as important to your team’s success as being the superstar.
Curry, whose scoring led the Warriors to the NBA’s best record, said he definitely appreciated Iguodala’s efforts.
“Obviously he deserved that Finals MVP for the way he impacted the game on both ends and was always ready,” Curry said. “Andre stepped up to that challenge every single night and a huge reason why we’re celebrating right now.”