Alek Klincewicz, a Philly-centric writer, blends humor, wit, and basketball at HoopsRambler.com. He takes a look at former Philadelphia 76er and Arizona WIldcat Andre Iguodala’s rise to the NBA Finals MVP in this special to PGU.
You bite your lip and tell yourself not to look back.
It’s always difficult, seeing someone who was once yours move on. The bond you had was special, how could it be so easily replaced? How could they flourish without you? You see them flash a bright smile, the one that used to be for you. That dirty feeling in the pit of your stomach confirms you’re wrong for feeling this way, they should be happy. They deserved more.
They deserved more. Sure, you’re beating your own path, but seeing what they have accomplished shows they were just who you knew they were all along. A grudge feels nothing but petty when you know the other party is above it.
Andre Iguodala is on top of the world. But just how long has it taken for us to notice that just maybe, he’s been up there longer than we cared to notice.
Iguodala is now the proud owner of an NBA Finals MVP trophy, and has a nice ring on his finger to boot. Yet so rarely is a finals MVP so inconspicuous, so seemingly out of nowhere. Looking back throughout Iguodala’s career, flying so low under the radar might just be Iguodala’s most surprising accomplishment.
Coming into college at the University of Arizona, Andre was regarded by many as too raw an athlete for immediate success. Within a year he was a Pac-10 All-Freshman team member. By the end of his sophomore campaign he was team MVP and a selection for the first team All-Pac-10.
In typical Iguodala fashion, his numbers did not overwhelm in any category, but rather the wide diversification of his skill set was almost seen as a dilution. In a league that values scoring above all else, a defensive minded, pass first wing was an unusual commodity.
There was a team, however, a team with a star who preferred not to play defense, and definitely preferred not to pass. With the 9th overall pick in the 2004 draft, Andre Iguodala was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers, and things began rolling from one AI to another.
Iggy found himself on the receiving end of oop after oop from Allen Iverson. He was stuffing the stat sheet the same way he had always, starting every game of the season as a rookie with a brilliant grin on his face. The kid was having the time of his life, and had quickly become a fan favorite. But idolatry in Philadelphia comes with expectations.
His second season in the NBA Andre made waves. He tore down the Rookie-Sophomore showcase, dropping 30 points en route to the games’ MVP. The following night, as if the Basketball Gods realized their secret project was on the brink of being discovered, Iguodala would take second place in the Dunk contest to Nate Robinson in an absolute highway robbery. The budding, happy go lucky star would average 12.3 points and 6 assists per game, but his emergence would help catalyze drastic change in the Sixers Organization.
There was only one AI in town now. Andre was the man, and the limelight shone brightly. Had he been a 30 point scorer, Iguodala’s humility would have been a badge on his lapel. Yet 18 points, and 5.7 assists and rebounds alike per game would bring into question his ability to command a team as an aggressive playmaker, questions that would dog him for the remainder of his stay in Philadelphia, despite an 80 million dollar payday.
The fans desperately cheered on Iggy. They wanted nothing more than for him to take control, congeal this team of seemingly random parts into a contender. A man who does so much, in so many places, just might not have enough where you need it that day.
From 2008-2012, Iguodala would see coaches and co-stars pass through the City of Brotherly love like I-95. From Elton Brand, to Doug Collins, Eddie Jordan to Jrue Holiday, the Sixers could not manage to find team success. In 2010, Andre would win Olympic gold with the US Men’s national team. 2012 saw Iguodala receive his first All-Star game appearance, despite having the lowest scoring average of any player in attendance.
When the wheel finally stopped spinning on South Broad Street, The front office of the 76ers figured… maybe it’s not us… It’s you.
A new day had dawned in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Iguodala was shipped off to Denver, and Andrew Bynum was on his way to town. The former Laker would never play a game in a Sixers uniform, a series of degenerative injuries would sideline the big man, eventually for good.
Quietly as usual, not so much in voice but in action, Iguodala would chalk a four year 48 million dollar deal with the Golden State Warriors, his first team all defensive selection the previous year simply a footnote. Things were about to change, but from Iguodala, you would see nothing but the same bright disposition and team first attitude.
Golden State Head Coach Steve Kerr saw in Andre Iguodala what the rest of us saw. His approach was the differentiation. A bench can make or break a team. A backup big can pick up slack during times of foul trouble. A great bench guard can change the tempo of the offense, and by virtue the game. But what if someone could do both?
If you didn’t guess by now, not a peep was heard from Andre as he received his apparent relegation. For the first time in his career, Iguodala was to come off of the bench. Once the Golden State Warriors reared their head as the Juggernaut they became in 2015, political pundits would have a hard time arguing the decision to bench him, let alone mild mannered Andre Iguodala.
June 2015 finally found the man who had seemingly done it all in unfamiliar waters. The shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers had shockingly managed to seize hold of a 2-1 series lead, and Kerr knew just the solution. Once criticized by Dick Vitale as a poor three point shooter, Iguodala knocked down 40% of his triples, all while taking the brunt of the work against Lebron James on the defensive side of the ball.
With the series tied 2-2, The Warriors holding a single digit lead, Iguodala surprised all of us and none of us at once, jokingly grabbing his arm in mock agony, jogging to the free throw line, giggling to himself. Watching that was like a beacon, a reminder to Philadelphia to smile.
We were both different now, Iggy and Philly, but at our core, so very much the same.
Andre Iguodala has a Finals MVP, the first to receive the award without starting every game. He has an adorable son. He has an NBA Championship ring. He has his own section on GQ’s website. How is it that a man so obviously unique that his twitter handle is simple @Andre, could go without nationwide recognition for so long?
Because for Andre, he’s not below the radar. He’s above it.