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NBA

“Iggy” Pops And Carries The Splash to an NBA Title 

The question ignited a social media war that will be remembered for years to come. Can LeBron James will an inferior and compromised Cleveland squad to an NBA Championship over a more talented team led by MVP Chef Curry and the Potcookers ?

If King James did pull it off, silence would befall all doubters and put to rest any argument about his belonging on NBA’s Mount Rushmore. I can’t remember a squad with just one All-Star ever winning the shiny ball. With Cleveland holding a shocking 2-1 series lead, the unfathomable became plausible and whispers became boisterous beliefs as Curry and his gunners struggled to find the mark. Could LBJ singlehandly orchestrate one of the biggest upsets in NBA history? 

The debate was flammable while it lasted, but at the end of the day, Golden State answered the question with an emphatic no. And with the unpredictability that makes playoff basketball a must see, it was a bench player who was the difference in Golden State winning the 2015 NBA Championship on Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, 105-97 over King James and The Misfits. Cleveland (a depleted squad, dwarfed in talent by The Miami Heat’s Big Three that James once led to four straight finals and two chips before returning home to save face) couldn’t pull off the upset. 

The Warriors closed out the pesky Cavs 4-2 and returned the Larry O’Brien Trophy to Oakland for the first time since 1975. The Splash Brothers were the talk of NBA Town this season and their aerial exploits were unprecedented. Prior to the series, fans anticipated some explosive games from the NBA’s most lethal backcourt, who were matched up with Cleveland’s band of journeyman, castoffs and marginal international talent, If not James, surely one of these unstoppable scoring machines would snatch the coveted trophy on the NBA’s grandest stage, 

However, when the buzzer sounded, it was reserve guard Andre Iguodala who was named the Finals MVP.

While Klay Thompson and Draymond Green struggled at times during the series, Iguodala picked up the slack and scored 14 or more points in five of the six games. He scored 22 in a pivotal Game 4 and was the best player on the court (LeBron included) in the clinching Game 6, scoring 25 points. If your not impressed then consider the fact that Iguodala led the team in shot attempts and I’m not sure that has happened once this season. For it to occur at such a crucial time — a time that the pundits say is strictly reserved for the NBA’s elite ballers — is even more remarkable. 

Whenever Curry didn’t have his deft jumper flowing, it was Iguodala who made sure Golden State didn’t miss a beat and answered every big shot LeBron and the boys could muster.  Iguodala’s performance is proof that in a world of overhyped ballers, obsessive,schizophrenic fans and journalists, a player who exemplifies humility, patience, unselfishness and a champion’s grit can still be recognized. Most of the basketball world wanted the MVP to be Curry, but the moment and the storyline belongs to “Iggy.” 

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The entire series changed when Iguodala, who had started every game of his 10-year career before reluctantly accepting a bench role under coach Steve Kerr this season, was inserted into the starting lineup. 

Down 2-1, the Warriors replaced 7-foot center Andrew Bogut with the smaller, but more athletic 6-foot-6 Iguodala in the starting lineup for Game 4 on June 11. The Warriors were going small ball and if they were to swing the momentum of the series back in their favor and wear the Cavs down, Iguodala was the key. Once he was inserted into the mix, Golden State never lost again. 

“He does everything for us,” Kerr said following Game 5. “He’s our best defender on LeBron. He’s an incredible decision-maker. He guards everybody.”

During the season, Kerr used Iguodala as a calming veteran influence off the bench when things went awry. He was a stop gap, but a vital one. LBJ called him the series “X-Factor.” The way he flipped the script on LBJ and turned him from unstoppable scoring machine to pedestrian player was a sight to see. 

James scored at a ridiculous clip, especially early in the series, before Iggy fell on the sword and came up roses. Entering Game 6, with Iguodala as his primary defender, James was shooting just 35.2 percent from the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. That’s worse than James shot when guarded by Chi-City’s Jimmy Butler, an NBA All-Defense second-team selection this season, in the 2015 Eastern Conference semifinals (39.3 percent) and against  Spurs All-Star Kawhi Leonard, this season’s defensive player of the year, in last year’s Finals loss (57.6 percent).

James had another near triple double (32 points, 18 boards, 9 assists) on Tuesday, but he was just 13-33 from the field and shot below 30 percent for the series on contested shots by Iguodala. When contested by anyone else, James shot nearly 43 percent.

Years from now, people will still remember how LBJ pushed a loaded Golden State team to six games for dolo and the magnificent manner of the series loss might even enhance his legend. But while we tend to bask in the glory of the superstar executing unfathomable individual efforts, the Warriors reinforced a very simple philosophy that tends to get lost in our stargazing, celebrity sucking world. No matter how hard fans and media try to turn team sports into a battle of a few players, everybody is nice with it at the highest levels of competition and on any given night a guy like Iguodala who has the skills but doesn’t get the press can be the difference maker. Facts.  

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