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The NBA Finals MVP of Our Hearts

The staff picks their sentimental favorites for the Bill Russell Award

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

LeBron James

Matt Borcas: Win or lose, LeBron James should be your Finals MVP. Of course, that’s not how it works — the only losing player to ever be named most valuable player was Jerry West in 1969 — but even if Cleveland loses, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it. Through Game 5, LeBron trails only Kyrie Irving in points scored, 141 to 140, but Uncle Drew’s Game 2 shitshow disqualified him from the MVP race. If advanced stats are more your thing, LeBron leads all Finals players in Game Score. He’s also channeled the energy of the Undertaker, been in rare form with the media, and made wise sartorial choices. What more could you want (well, aside from a championship)?

Stephen Curry

Tate Frazier: Yes, it’s happening. Andre Iguodala’s Finals MVP a season ago lingers, as outsiders aim to poke even more holes in Steph’s pleated pants. The proverbial “they” will say things like, “He wasn’t even Finals MVP” when discussing what’s likely to be a back-to-back championship run. But “they” know nothing, because the NBA (and kids across the world) realizes: Stephen Curry is greatness personified. Iguodala’s one blip on the illustrious board can be the James Worthy exception to this budding Warriors dynasty. But the Bill Russell Award is going to its rightful heir this year. Stephen Curry is the baby face of the Association, and the pioneer who pushed the 3-point shot to a new level. It’s HIS time. Now, go forth and drop 50-plus like MJ did in the 1993 Finals.

Kyrie Irving

Danny Chau: The ideal MVP caters to our most basic instincts as fans, and bring us back to when we were 6. Look, we want to see buckets. No one has more points in the series than Kyrie Irving, who, even in the most pressure-filled moments of the NBA Finals, has been confidently, unabashedly himself. I’d have given the credit to Kobe Bryant for inspiring a generation of kids to embrace the stylistic merit of taking tough shots, but it’s nearly impossible to watch Kyrie, on this stage, do the same things he’s done his entire life and come away thinking he’s carrying someone else’s torch. Watching Irving jab step his defender into oblivion and then step back for a jumper with a hand in his face is watching a man proudly carrying out his birthright.

Draymond Green

Jonathan Tjarks: You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. The Warriors found that out the hard way in Game 5. Draymond is the anchor of their defense, their emotional leader, the other half of the Steph Curry pick-and-roll, and the key to the Lineup of Death. Steph is the better player, but you can make the argument that Draymond is more indispensable to what the Warriors do. You don’t have to like the way he carries himself, or the way he takes cheap shots at opponents, to recognize the impact he has had on this series.

Klay Thompson

Jason Gallagher: Steph Curry lords over all else when he’s comfy. Conditions have to be just right, though, and for much of the playoffs, they haven’t been optimal. So when a defense grinds the Warriors to a halt, the ball searches not for Curry, but anyone with a clean look. But here’s something I’ve learned from watching basketball in my living room for 29 years: basketball, like life, doesn’t always give you clean looks.

Klay Thompson is the guy Golden State turns to when the chips are down and the looks are gross. Two games before these Finals began, against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Warriors were in their darkest hour. I’d go as far as to say it was pitch black before Klay went full Arya-on-Waif against the Thunder. As known scholar Shea Serrano likes to say, Klay Thompson was “built for war”; the Warriors wouldn’t be alive to see their 3–2 lead in the championship round without Klay.

Whatever happens in these Finals, Game 6 of the Western Conference finals will go down as the most pivotal moment of the playoffs. And if the Warriors go on to win it all, the postseason’s highest individual honor should go to the man who got them there.

Richard Jefferson

Sam Schube: How did Richard Jefferson get here? That’s not an existential question so much as a practical one: how in the world is he playing real minutes for the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals? Again, this is not a rhetorical question; the Cavs have negative depth, and somebody has to run around next to LeBron. What I mean to ask is: how did he get here? Did he sneak onto the team plane? Did he move into Dan Gilbert’s favorite apartment building in Detroit? For refusing to present an easy answer to these questions, Richard Jefferson — testament to hanging around, proud symbol of entropy, eerily ageless dead ringer for 22-year-old Richard Jefferson — is my Finals MVP.

Andre Iguodala

Micah Peters: The biggest key to beating the Cavs is simple and easy to remember: Stop LeBron James, Or At Least Slow Him Down A Little Bit. A lot of that task rests on Andre Iguodala’s protuberant shoulders, and just like last year, he’s done a damn good job of making a nuisance of himself. Add to that the five or so baskets you can always count on him for, the occasional shot he pulls completely from the void (and the fact the other dude I was gonna suggest picked up a suspension), and he has to get the nod, right?

Plus if Iggy wins, it’s kind of like the other A.I. winning by transitive property. I get to pull my custom youth XL Allen Iverson “Answer” jersey out of storage and blast Jewels deep cuts in celebration — again. Also, it can’t be Steph because Steph can’t have everything.

Kevin Love

Chris Ryan: Kevin Love is the MVP of these Finals for cumulative achievements in the field of being a teammate. He has put up with two years of bullshit, been relegated to corner-3 guy, practically gotten his arm yanked off by Kelly Olynyk, suffered through LeBron treating him like a Heather for most of his time in Cleveland, taken an elbow to the dome from Harrison Barnes, gotten made fun of by his teammates for watching his weight and shopping at Whole Foods, gotten talked into appearing in The Hoopers, and of course had his teammates turn him into a meme because of his likeness to a Tommy Bahama model. He got roasted after Cleveland’s Game 5 victory because he scored only two of the Cavs Big Three’s 84 points. LOOK BEYOND THE BOX SCORE. Or don’t! Love was plus-18 in plus-minus. The Cavs only won the game by 15. This means, according to math, they would have lost by three without him. You’re welcome, Cleveland. The name on the trophy should read Lil’ Kev. You can deliver it to whatever town you trade him to.