Why NBA did the right thing by naming Andre Iguodala as Finals MVP

Golden State Warriors' Andre Iguodala with the NBA Finals trophy after Game 6.
Golden State Warriors' Andre Iguodala with the NBA Finals trophy after Game 6.PHOTO: EPA

REMEMBER Allen Iverson? That pint-sized rocket of a player who thrilled National Basketball Association (NBA) fans with his blindingly-fast crossover dribbles in the early 2000s?

He scored lots of points, drove repeatedly into the lanes for spectacular lay-ups, and led a mediocre Philadelphia 76ers side all the way to the 2001 NBA Finals, where they eventually lost 1-4 to a dominant Los Angeles Lakers side that had Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

He was a top star despite his six-foot-zero (1.83m) size, a tiny but fearless general amid the big guys in the NBA, and was revered in Philadelphia. But when the 76ers management failed repeatedly to assemble a squad good enough to contend, he left the franchise in 2006 to join the Denver Nuggets.

So who did the 76ers look for to fill his sizeable shoes? None other than the 2015 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, Andre Iguodala of the victorious Golden State Warriors.

His name may be unfamiliar to the casual NBA fan, and certainly winning this award on Tuesday ahead of superstars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry had many of them puzzled.

But to many hardcore fans, the 31-year-old was absolutely the right choice by the NBA, and a testament to his being a selfless workhorse who is highly-prized by coaches and scouts all over the NBA.

Iguodala could score from near or from beyond the three-point arc, but he is always willing to make the extra pass to open team-mates. Moreover, he is an elite perimeter defender, swarming over guards and small forwards, pressuring them into mistakes.

Best of all, he is willing sacrifice his statistics for the good of the team.

When he took over Iverson's mantle as the 76ers' key player, he was so unselfish to coaches had to advise him to take more shots and not pass it to inferior team-mates.

Said Warriors' assistant coach Luke Walton, who played for the Lakers in the 2000s: "He was one of the best players in the world and he would constantly be passing up shots because other guys were more open than him. It's refreshing to have players like Andre in the league. Being able to coach him is great."

Yet, the 76ers floundered without top players to support Iguodala, and he was traded to the Nuggets in 2012, and then to the Warriors in 2013.

At the start of this season, he made his biggest sacrifice: he gave up his starting spot for young upstart Harrison Barnes, after starting in all the 808 games he had previously played in the NBA.

But when the Warriors fell 1-2 behind in the best-of-seven NBA Finals, coach Steve Kerr recalled Iguodala back to the starting line-up - and he exploded with key three-pointers, lock-down defence and all-around energy to propel the Warriors to three straight victories for the NBA title.

You won't see him light up the box score, but he represents an essential cog in a championship-winning team - that selfless team-mate who does all the dirty work and still cheers for everyone in the team.

Why shouldn't that be the most valuable asset in a Warriors team whose slogan is "Strength In Numbers"? Iguodala is the ultimate representation of that battle-cry, that a great team ethic will outdo great individual players in the NBA.

hankeong@sph.com.sg