Andre Iguodala Is Doing Exactly What the Sixers Hired Him to Do
Jesse Owens. Michael Phelps. Carl Lewis. Andre Iguodala. If that list strikes you as odd, it’s probably because you haven’t heard that the Sixers forward was listed as a finalist for U.S.A. Basketball’s roster for the 2012 summer games in London. Hours after the announcement, the new Sixers cheering section, the Revolutionaries, chanted, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” as Philly took the floor for a MLK Day matinee against Milwaukee. Iguodala just smiled and shook his head.
Then he went 3-5 from behind the arc on his way to 21 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals, two blocks, and a partridge in a pear tree. The Sixers won 94-82.
Andre Iguodala is a strange case in the history of Philadelphia sports. Philly’s second AI has risen to meet expectations, and Sixers fans have still been left disappointed.
In 2004, the Sixers were three seasons removed from their NBA Finals appearance and only notched 33 wins. Everyone was still dealing with the aftermath of Larry Brown’s departure, and the team was struggling to maintain relevance in an Eagles-crazed city with a new baseball park ready to open.
Enter Andre Iguodala. After two years at Arizona, the six-foot-six guard-forward declared for the NBA Draft. The Sixers were elated when Iggy slipped to their ninth spot in the first round, even though the sophomore Wildcat averaged just 12.9 points per game that season. He was the first Arizona player ever to lead a team in rebounds, assists and steals. Plus, it was his defense and his athleticism that had teams swooning.
“My feelings about Iguodala are that he is a very intriguing prospect but I think he will slip in the draft. He and Okafor are probably the most defensively ready of the lottery picks. And he is physically solid as well. But there are questions about his offensive skills and his aggressiveness on the offensive end.” — K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune
“A lot of guys have a couple years of getting better defensively, and that’s keeping them off the court because they can’t defend—I think that’s what’s going to put me on the court.” —Andre Iguodala
Since then, the man has done exactly what he was drafted to do. Iguodala has started 566 games as a Sixer. He’s averaged more than 15 points a game for nearly a decade. He’s put up above-average point totals, and he’s excelled defensively.
While he was a sophomore at Arizona, Philly’s real AI was taking more than 23 shots per game. Iverson had averaged more than 25 points a contest for six consecutive seasons. He accounted for nearly a third of the team’s points in the ’03-’04 season and added 6.8 assists per game. This meant that Iverson had a hand in almost 50 percent of the Sixers scoring plays that year. Iguodala wasn’t drafted to take shots away from Iverson. He wasn’t selected to come out and drop 40 on a team, take over a game down the stretch or take the shot with the game on the line. He was picked because he creates mismatches. Andre Iguodala could have become the best third man in the NBA. Instead, he’s a fringe star in a city that hasn’t really cared about basketball since 2001.
Andre Iguodala has not lit the world on fire. He doesn’t average 30 points per game and isn’t racking up triple-doubles with any regularity. But, realistically, he wasn’t expected to. Leading up to the NBA draft in 2004, Iggy was commonly compared to Scottie Pippen. Pippen was big, versatile, athletic and one of the greatest players to ever play the game. He was also never successful as his team’s best player.
The Sixers haven’t won a title with Iguodala. And it’s incredibly unlikely that they ever will. But, Iguodala, this week, was again recognized for his defensive skills, versatility, athleticism and ability to create mismatches on the floor when Coach K and company named him a finalist for the 2012 national team.
If he’s named to the final roster, expect him to continue to live up to expectations.