James vs. Iguodala: Russell Westbrook Gets Snubbed Again


There was no fairy tale ending in Cleveland on Tuesday night as the NBA Finals concluded with the crowning of the Golden State Warriors as the 2014-2015 NBA Champions at Quicken Loans Arena. Despite rising above a dismal start in the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers just could not get it done. It was team ball executed by Steph Curry and his supporting cast that secured the ultimate prize as LeBron James‘ overall Finals record fell to 2-4.

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105-97. That was the final score when Golden State locked up its first title in forty years with the Game 6 victory. In the end, it wasn’t the regular season MVP that won the Finals MVP title; instead, it was the Warriors’ hidden gem. Andre Iguodala received seven (out of a possible 11) votes for the award, making Curry and Iggy the first team duo to win both the regular season MVP and Finals MVP awards since Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1980. Fans were outraged when Iguodala, who averaged 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4 assists during the series, won the Finals’ most prestigious individual award.

But that anger was not for the reason that one would logically expect.

Critics were not up in arms about Curry going without a single vote for the award but were instead angered by James exiting the series empty-handed. The Warriors guard inspired teamwork and led a well-rounded team to their first Larry O’Brien trophy since 1975 while averaging 26 points, 6.2 assists, and 5.2 rebounds during the epic six game battle, yet he wasn’t even considered for the Finals MVP.

Unfortunately, that odd fact takes the backseat to James’ electric individual performance during the 2015 NBA Finals. The key phrase here is “individual” because he most certainly limited every other team member’s involvement – from fellow starters-to-bench roles and even his head coach, David Blatt.

James competed hard for his third NBA Championship win. His per game averages of 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists – while shooting 40 percent – led the Eastern Conference champions through six games against the league’s best team, even without fellow stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. But the solo performance wasn’t enough.

Cleveland would have been completely swept away by the Warriors if it weren’t for LeBron James. No question. So why did he receive three less Finals MVP votes than Andre Iguodala?

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  • One group of people will answer that “Iggy” deserved to win because he was the game changer, while a second group of people will attest that it wouldn’t have been a legitimate series had it not have been for James.

    And then there’s a third group of people sitting on the sidelines, remembering Russell Westbrook.

    Rewind back to the regular season and you’ll see how both of these situations are oddly similar. Many proclaimed that the 2014-2015 NBA season was the golden season for Oklahoma City. With Kevin Durant (the reigning league MVP) and Westbrook on a mission for dominance, there was no way that this team was going home without winning it all… until tragedy struck.

    It was a never-ending curse as the Thunder’s season was constantly attacked by injuries that even knocked down greats like Durant and Serge Ibaka indefinitely. The “Western Force” had quickly become the “Western Dud”- the team that almost had it all. Luckily for us, Russell Westbrook didn’t get that memo.

    Jan 16, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) dunks the ball against the Golden State Warriors during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Despite missing 14 games with an injured hand and another game due to a dented face, Westbrook exploded onto the scene this past season as the biggest threat in the NBA. His season was one for the history books as he energized his team to comeback from the absurd 4-12 start to a finish of 45-37, ultimately losing the eighth seed to the Pelicans on the final night of the regular season due to NOLA owning the tiebreaker.

    Although OKC missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, Westbrook added a number of noteworthy accomplishments to his resume, including:

    • Becoming only the third player (along with Grant Hill and Jason Kidd)  in the last twenty years to get 11 Triple-Doubles.
    • Being only the second basketball player in 50 years to average 33/10/10 over a 10-game span (The other was Michael Jordan in 1989.)
    • 2015 NBA All-Star Game MVP (only finishing one point shy of Wilt Chamberlin’s scoring record.)
    • 2014-2015 NBA Scoring Champion.

    Additonally, Westbrook generally had better stats in the regular season than the rest of the NBA’s top talent, including James and Curry.

    (Allow me to break it down for you.)

    Russell Westbrook averaged 28.6 points, 8.6 assists, and 7.3 rebounds in 67 games this past regular season. SIXTY SEVEN.

    In 69 games, LeBron James averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 assists, and 6 rebounds in the regular season. SIXTY NINE.

    And in 80 games, Steph Curry averaged 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, and 4 rebounds during the regular season. EIGHTY.

    And after it was all said and done #4 was the unlucky number for Russell Westbrook.

    The legendary run and accompanying praise came to a screeching halt on April 15. 2015. All thanks to a tiebreaker. It was Steph Curry who was selected as the KIA 2014-2015 NBA Most Valuable Player in May. James Harden finished in second, followed by James in third.

    At fourth, Westbrook was practically absent from the conversation…
    Not because he lost a game, but because New Orleans won the war…
    Even after everything he accomplished.
    Everything he conquered.
    He didn’t win.

    Therefore, by popular opinion, he could not be the MVP.

    My point?

    You cannot successfully argue for LeBron James as the 2015 NBA Finals MVP if you were discrediting Russell Westbrook’s dominate statistics with similar results just a few months ago.

    Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

    Nice try, though.