The other A.I. may soon have an NBA championship ring, and not as a guy just along for the ride, but as a major contributor for the Golden State Warriors. It’s hard to believe now that he was once a controversial member of the 76ers, the team who traded him at the peak of his career in order to chase a dream through the vehicle of a nightmare masquerading as a superstar center.
Andre Iguodala’s formative years in the NBA were spent in Philadelphia, where he always started but began in the shadow of Allen Iverson. His contributions to the team grew with each passing year, and in his last season with the Sixers Iguodala led the team to a spectacular finish in a playoff series against the Chicago Bulls. Let’s review. In his rookie season Iguodala, then the starting point guard for the Sixers, averaged 9 points per game. By 2008, after the departure of Iverson, the other A.I. was scoring 20 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. His numbers were solid and his leadership on the court was undeniable.
Recently Iguodala acknowledged that it was often tough sledding in Philadelphia. Now, a few years removed from his time as a Sixer, he remains wary of talking about the less-than-enthusiastic reception Philly fans often gave him. He had become a lightning rod, despite his aversion to press attention and public antics. He was a picture of workmanlike resilience even as the team struggled to stay relevant. Fans and Philly press alike wanted him traded because he was not a superstar. If the Sixers’ organization ever intended to build the franchise around Andre Iguodala – and I don’t think it did – that was not his fault. The failure to obtain the franchise player cannot be laid at the feet of the guy they called “Iggy.”
Andre Iguodala never asked for the role that was thrust upon him by default. He was guilty of doing his job and being the kind of player any coach would want to have on the roster and, more importantly, on the floor when the game was on the line.
It is odd, in retrospect, that he was ever controversial in Philadelphia. In a city with a rich history of controversial professional sports stars, the unassuming guy who came to work every day and made strong contributions to the success the team did manage to achieve tried to avoid trouble with fans and press but somehow found it with both anyway. Did Andre Iguodala ever say anything disparaging about his teammates (as icon Charles Barkley did in a book, of all things) or about practice (you know this reference)?
We’re now being treated to an interesting and exciting championship series. Arguably Andre Iguodala was the MVP of Game 1 for the Warriors. He made shots when others couldn’t and took on the Herculean task of guarding the best player in the league. He’ll have to be a hero for the Warriors to win the series and I, for one, am rooting for him.