The Equalizer

He may not fly as high as he once did, but the unique Andre Iguodala is doing better than ever—on and off the court.
by November 05, 2014


Think about Andre Iguodala. Think about 10-year career averages of 14.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.9 apg and 1.7 spg. Think about the Gold medal he won with Team USA in 2012. Think about the All-Star selection earlier that year. Think about the All-Defensive team selections in 2011 and last season. Think about the tomahawk dunks, the behind-the-back passes, the game-saving stops.

Yes, think about the other associations, too. Think about the expectations heaped on him in Philly, after the team made him its de facto No. 1 player, that Sixers fans thought he failed to play up to. Think about his so-so 33-percent shooting from behind the three-point line. Think about the fact that he’s only made it out of the first round of the Playoffs once, and even that run ended in the conference semis.

Now stop…and listen to some stories that will get you to think again.

When the Sixers drafted Lavoy Allen 50th in 2011, not a lot of people thought he’d make the team. The Temple product made the roster, though, and signed a contract for a paltry $473,000. While Allen is quietly smart and savvy with his paychecks, that isn’t a lot of money for an NBA player who spends most of his days with guys earning millions. There were a couple of big ticket things that he didn’t have to worry about, though.

“Andre lent me his Chevy Tahoe for a while,” remembers Allen, now an Indiana Pacer. “He really took care of me.”

The car was just the tip of Iguodala’s generosity. The former ninth overall pick in the 2004 Draft, ever conscious about fashion and fashionably conscious about his healthy salary, bought three suits near the start of the season for the 6-9 Allen. “They were pretty solid,” laughs Allen. “Pretty solid.”

Still, when you ask Allen about Iguodala’s nicest gesture, the aforementioned instances don’t come up. Instead, he pauses, deliberating whether he should share. In the end, he splits the difference. For the then-rookie’s 23rd birthday, Iguodala cut him a check for “I don’t want to say exactly how much,” says Allen, “but it was niiiice.”

If you’re adding “generous” or “good teammate” to the list of Things You Think About When You Think About Andre Iguodala, you’d be right. After all, Allen isn’t the exception. He’s the rule.

Jodie Meeks could always shoot. But when he was traded to the Sixers in the middle of his rookie year, the 6-4 guard was still learning how to handle himself in the NBA. Four seasons, two teams and one three-year, $19 million contract later, it’s safe to say that Meeks more than figured it out. For that, he gives a lot of credit to Iguodala.

“He taught me a lot about being a professional,” says Meeks. “Showing up early, staying late. He taught me how to talk to the media and handle situations.”

“He gave a metaphor of the grind itself,” Meeks explains later. “He said it’s never going to cheat you, and it’s never going to give you something you haven’t earned. He said if you show up early and stay late, more than likely you’ll play better. If you don’t, you’ll play mediocre. The game won’t cheat. The more you put in, the better you’ll play. It may not happen overnight, but through the long haul of the season it’ll come through.”

“He’s a really good friend of mine,” concludes Meeks. While no longer teammates, the two still text regularly and link up for a round of golf whenever their paths cross. “He took me under his wing at 21 and showed me how to be a true professional.”

The tales from Allen and Meeks go back to Iguodala’s Sixer days. Since going to Denver as part of the three-team Andrew Bynum trade in 2012, and then to Golden State as a free agent last season, Iguodala’s leadership has traveled well.

This past summer, while reporters peddled a potential trade that involved Klay Thompson and Kevin Love, Iguodala weighed in heavy. He went on the record, multiple times, to say that the Warriors should not move their shooting guard Thompson. He even tweeted, in late July, that Thompson is the best player at his position.

“Andre’s fighting a case for somebody else, that has nothing to do with his pockets or his bank account,” says Mark Jackson, the head coach in Golden State from 2011-14. “Little unselfish things like that made him a popular guy among the players, and that’s why he’s a great leader.”

Iguodala wasn’t born this way. “I’ve picked up on being a leader as I’ve matured,” he says. It’s barely 7 a.m. on the west coast, and he’s already on his way to the gym. “I had some of the best and worst experiences with teammates in Philly. That’s how I learned to deal with situations and teammates on new teams.”

Being good to your young guys has its perks. In the short run, players like Thompson will want to be on your team and will go all out for you. In the long game, and this is less important to Iguodala but definitely something he’s thought about, you’ll have friends when you retire.

“When you’re old and want to go on vacation, there’s not too many people you can go on vacation with,” he says. “Back home they can’t really afford it, but the guys you played with can.”

Another inside story. This time from another sector.

A little over a year ago, a group of young, successful businessmen had a guy’s weekend in Southern Cali. They planned on talking a lot of smack and playing sports. Iguodala, who worked with a number of them and was in L.A. at the time, surprised the crew by joining in. He ended up playing tennis and volleyball with them. When it came time to hoop, they didn’t expect him to play. Of course, he did.

“He’s genuine,” says Ryan Andrus, senior manager of brand and sports marketing at Skullcandy, and one of the organizers of that event. “He’ll have business questions that a lot of players won’t think to ask. He just wants to learn all the time.”

andre iguodala

This past summer, Iguodala stayed in the Bay Area. Part of that was to rehab a banged-up knee, and another part was because he wanted to stay close to Silicon Valley. To that end, Iguodala didn’t waste any time. He attended a CEO barbecue and met higher ups from eBay, Kraft and Samsung.

“I had a pretty good summer from a business standpoint,” he says. “I have a pretty big interest in the tech world, so there’s not a better place to be.”

While out west, Iguodala—who lives a straight-edge lifestyle, devoid of even alcohol—did pick up one vice: golf. “I played literally every day,” he says. Shrewdly, though, he found a way to turn golf into gold. “I did Ernie Els’ golf outing for autism,” he says. “I got a chance to pair with one guy from Apple and another guy from a big tech company.”

Iguodala’s lust for business is obviously real. Aside from going out of his way to entrench himself in the tech community, in the past the Nike and Skullcandy endorser, who has career earnings in the high eight figures, also interned at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. All it takes is a scroll down @Andre’s scant following list on Twitter to see that he checks out Business Insider, Fortune, Harvard Business Review and TechCrunch.

“He just wants to learn all the time,” says Andrus. “He doesn’t sign up for something unless he wants to see it succeed.”

“He’s a very bright man,” adds Jackson, “with a vision, a purpose and great ideas. He’s going to be successful off the floor.”

You don’t have to ask for basketball stories about Iguodala. All you have to do is watch. In an era when position-less players are being embraced, he is among the best of the bunch.

“I think he’s the best [jack of all trades], in my opinion, because there are no weaknesses in his game,” says Jackson. “There are a handful of guys that can do different things, but I don’t think there’s a guy that can be a jack of all trades and to the core be unselfish like he is.”

“He passes to the open man,” says Meeks, “shoots when he has to, plays defense. I think he’s a leader by example. If you have a guy that’s a vet, that’s been through the NBA, it rubs off.”

True, a lot of players are being shifted into the category of position-less, because of their abundance of skills, but very few are also selfless. Iguodala is one of them, though. To fit into Jackson’s system, he played the fewest minutes since his rookie year, took the fewest shots since his rookie year, had the ball in his hands less and yet was still tasked with defending the opposing team’s best player. Most importantly, he didn’t complain.

“It can be hard,” he says, “but I see the big picture of where the team’s trying to go and where I can help at this point.”

This season, with injuries behind him and a new coach asking for more from him on offense, Iguodala is ready to show that he’s still as good as ever. “I’m looking forward to being a little more aggressive and getting back to my ways, while being smart about it,” he says, “My ultimate goal, always, is to win.”

Tzvi Twersky is a Senior Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @TTwersky.