As one of the worlds most influential business thinker's, Dr. Gary Hamel once said;
"A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages perseverance."
I searched through a lot of cheesy quotes about sacrifice but there was something about Dr. Hamel's words that stood out to me in particular. These ten words seemed to touch on some of the key elements that defined the 2015 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
Let's break it down piece by piece.
First of all, the noble purpose that inspired this team was the goal of bringing the Larry O'Brien trophy back to the Bay Area for the first time in 40 years, which in turn inspired great sacrifices from the likes of Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut. These sacrifices stimulated the innovation of head coach Steve Kerr and his coaching staff to think outside of the box, take bold risks and encourage players to come together and persevere through the tough adversities that stand between a team and the ultimate basketball accomplishment, an NBA Title.
Let us first take a step back and remember the 2013-2014 season.
Prelude to a sacrifice
After a solid rookie campaign, Harrison Barnes digressed in his sophomore year after being asked to come of the bench behind newly acquired All-Star Andre Iguodala. Then-Warriors head coach Mark Jackson saw the potential of Harrison Barnes' ability and put the weight of the second unit on his shoulders. Barnes did not relish his new role, but thanks to the #FullSquad Golden State notched their first 50 win season since 1994.
Although the Warriors had secured back to back playoff appearances for the first time since foreverdom and bolstered one of the best starting lineups in all of basketball, they still had real problems. They had a shaky and inconsistent second unit and a starting five whose offensive potential far exceeded production, as the Jackson led Warriors seemed to over rely on isolation post ups when Curry or Thompson could not get open.
Fast forward to October of 2014 — Jackson is out, Kerr is in and ready to make changes. Kerr was well aware of Iguodala's importance to Golden State and with a new and improved bench unit, the first-time coach looked to give his team an edge that is hard to come by in today's NBA.
As reported by Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.
"So while the Warriors coach appears to be leaning toward starting the season with Iguodala as the team's sixth man, Kerr acknowledges the decision to have the player lead the team's second unit is a dilemma.
"I could make an argument he's been our best player, especially over the last two weeks," Kerr said Sunday. "Right now in the scrimmages, he's the most impactful player that we have. The last couple of weeks, he has sort of determined who's winning (the scrimmage) depending on what side he's on.
"So from that standpoint, you could call me an idiot. If he's my best player and I'm not starting him, maybe I'm the one who's wrong... The argument is absolutely there."
Kerr understood that Iguodala's value as a player should not be limited to just his high level basketball IQ, skill and athletic ability; the maturity evident in a player of his reputation to accept a role off the bench for the first time in career is part of what made him such a valued contributor to this team. But let's be real, Iguodala is still human and one with the ego of a successful professional athlete. He did not beat around the bush when asked how he felt about taking on his new role, as he told Sam Amick from USA Today in October;
"I mean I've been playing basketball since I was five, and you're just so used to just starting the game. Even when you're young, it's 'Starters vs. Scrubs.' That was kind of the (mentality)." So what made this switch by Kerr possible? According to Iggy, it was Kerr himself. "I think the best way to (convince players to play the sixth man role) is to just be honest about it," Iguodala said. "What are you trying to do? What's your goal? Why do you think it works? And that's what Coach Kerr did."
Kerr's bold decision to bring a heralded NBA All-star and Olympic gold medalist such as Iguodala off the bench improved the Warriors chances of winning an NBA championship immensely. But Iguodala's sacrifice provided the Warriors with inspiration that gave them extra motivation to be persevere through the standard obstacles that arise during an 82-game season without fear.
Numbers don't lie, but do they tell the whole truth?
With the rise of data and analytics in professional sports, just about every argument or decision can be backed by statistics and numerical factoids that will turn any couch potato into Daryl Morey. No matter how absurd the claim is, there will always be a statistic out there in the deep and treacherous corners of the internet to support said claim, which is why I am not a big numbers person myself.
I like the use of statistics to strengthen a theory, but not as the structural foundation to build one on. In this day of age in numbers, a player like Andre Iguodala's importance can easily be lost in translation by those who rely too heavily on statistics and not enough on the use of their own two eyeballs.
As an example, Iguodala's stats for the 2014-2015 NBA season were far from spectacular, and when I say "far" I mean like sitting up in Mt. Davis at an A's game and trying to decipher what pitch the catcher is calling for type of far. Iguodala averaged eight points, three rebounds and three assists per game (46% FG, 35% 3P, 60% FT). Not including shooting percentages, Iguodala turned in career season lows in several major statical categories, including points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and minutes played per game. That's not to mention it being the first time in his career that he did not start at least 62 games in a regular season (he started zero games in 14'-15').
While it doesn't take the film watching skills of Erik Spoelstra to see the value in a player like Andre Iguodala, the numbers themselves do not tell the complete story. Hell, numbers can't even scratch the surface of just how important Iguodala was to the 2015 Golden State Warriors. His greatest strengths — like teamwork, basketball IQ, playing elite defense, maturity, composure, toughness, grit, mental fortitude and, last but not least, leadership — are almost impossible to translate into tangible numbers. Iguodala embodies all of these characteristics that seem to rise the level of play and focus for everyone around him.
Iguodala's selfless act of coming off the bench for the greater sum of the team set the tone for the Warriors' entire season, and returned huge dividends when the time mattered most. Fast forward to Game 4 of the 2015 NBA Finals with the Warriors facing a 2-1 series deficit, and in desperate need of a shot to the arm in the biggest of ways.
In what now seems to be a season that came full circle, Steve Kerr called upon Andre Iguodala to start in place of center Andrew Bogut in a chess like move that put the Cleveland Cavaliers in check.
In his first start all season, Andre Iguodala was the EpiPen that saved the Warriors life. Not only did Iggy score 22 points and grab eight rebounds, but he also helped slow down LeBron James to one of his lowest scoring outputs in the 2015 NBA Finals in the Warriors 103-82 Game 4 blowout. Most importantly, Iguodala's presence in the starting lineup changed the tempo of the game — and ultimately the series — in the Warriors favor. The rest of the series is now history, as the Warriors went on to win the next two games and take home the NBA Championship for the first time since 1975.
By a vote of 7-4, Iguodala was named the 2015 NBA Finals MVP over Lebron James. His scoring average in the regular season (7.8) and in the Finals (16.8) were each the second lowest in history by a Finals MVP. But it wasn't gaudy offensive numbers that made Iguodala worthy of Finals MVP honors, it was his relentless defense on LeBron, his selfless play, his timely scoring, his pride, his poise and his leadership that put him in such a situation to win the award.
While the story of Andre Iguodala sacrificing his starting role at the beginning of the season captivated the national media, the ever-loyal members of the DubNation and his teammates alike were fortunate to watch the beautiful Cinderella-esque story unfold layer-by-layer. As Draymond Green disclosed, "We all look to Andre when things go bad, that's who we look to. He was great the entire series. He saved this season for us. He's a professional guy. It showed. That's why he's the MVP. And that's why we're champions."
Kerr: Iguodala will continue coming off bench
•Golden State Of MindDespite winning Finals MVP and being asked to sacrifice throughout the Warriors' 67-win season, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has said that Andre Iguodala will like continue to come off the bench in the 2015-16 season.
The most magical thing about Andre Iguodala's storybook 2015 season is the lifelong teachable lesson that can be shared with athletes of all ages. Relinquishing his starting position did not make Iguodala any less valuable to the team. Steve Kerr and his staff saw the importance and advantages that Iguodala could give the Warriors by having him come off the bench. In doing so, Iguodala did not hang his head or sulk as though he were being punished; he relished a new role that only the greatest teams in NBA history have the luxury of dealing with. Andre was always ready to play and when his number was called on the biggest stage, he rose to the occasion and delivered the biggest game of his career.
As a fan, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the sacrifices that Iguodala and others made throughout this season. I remember from my playing days how tough accepting a new role can be and all of the mind games that come along with it. Very few players of Andre Iguodala's status would be able to make a transition so seamlessly.
You are a great leader who exemplifies professionalism and selflessness, much like every other member of this team. You are an NBA fashion icon, all-star, gold medal Olympian, NBA champion, Finals MVP and a loving father. On behalf of all of DubNation, thank you Andre for a great season.
And here's to many more great years to come!
Click here to read more of our reviews of the Warriors' 2014-15 season.