(Reuters) - Andre Iguodala’s year-long sacrifice paid off in a big way as the Golden State forward was named the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals on Tuesday.
Iguodala scored 25 points in the deciding Game Six as the Warriors clinched the championship, their first since 1975.
“You can’t describe it,” Iguodala told reporters, of winning the title and the honor. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. We did it. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Iguodala edged out Cleveland’s LeBron James for the award, getting seven votes to James’ four.
It was Iguodala’s relentless defense on James and insertion into the starting lineup that helped swing the series and the votes in his favor.
The 31-year-old veteran and former All Star had started on the bench for the Warriors all season, but with his team in danger in the Finals coach Steve Kerr asked him to again switch roles.
Golden State trailed the best-of-seven series 2-1 when they decided to turn to a small lineup that featured Iguodala as a starter.
“It was mixed feelings,” Iguodala said of the change. “(I thought) ‘How do I come out now? Do I come out aggressive?’ I was nervous, but once the ball went up it’s like playing ball since I was six-years-old.”
The Warriors returned to their run-and-gun style and flourished in winning the final three games, and Iguodala enjoyed 20-point nights in two of his final three games.
For the series he averaged 16.3, 5.8 rebounds and four assists while keeping James to just 38 percent shooting while Iguodala was on the floor.
“He was special and obviously he deserved the MVP for the way he impacted the game on both ends,” said team mate Stephen Curry, the Warriors leading scorer and regular season MVP.
“I don’t think I learned anything new about him, he just needed a stage to show the world.”
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford