The NBA is not typically the gold standard for good teammates and selfless play. The league has historically been riddled with selfish players who don’t pass and don’t work well with others. These players are focused on getting their own stats and as accumulating as much money as possible. Often times, winning can take a backseat to these selfish desires.
However, this week I’d like to highlight one NBA player who has been the polar opposite of this NBA stereotype.
Andre Iguodala is a forward for the Golden State Warriors. In the first nine years of his career while playing for the 76ers and Nuggets, Iguodala had a moderately successful career. Andre was a one time all-star, averaged 14.9 points per game, was an elite defensive stopper and was the best player on a perennial playoff team.
When Iguodala hit free agency in 2013 at the age of 30, he was at a crossroads in his career. He could sign one more contract with a team that wanted him to be their main player as he neared the end of the prime of his career. He could continue putting up good stats each season on a low-end playoff team. This path would also guarantee him a lot of money.
Instead, he decided to join a rising team of youthful stars-in-the-making to take on a leadership role. He sacrificed his stats, money and his starting position to try to help a young team get over the hump to win a championship.
The Warriors were coming off a 47-35 season, a second round playoff exit and were not quite the established dynasty they are today when Iggy joined the fold. They had a 25 year old Stephen Curry leading the way, a 23 year old Klay Thompson finding his role as a shooter and a very raw 23 year old Draymond Green.
They lost in the first round of the playoffs that season.
The Warriors brought back essentially the same roster in 2014/15 and went 67-15. Stephen Curry won his first MVP trophy and the Golden State dynasty officially began. Meanwhile, Iggy continued to be a valuable role player, leader and mentor to the young guns on the team.
Curry, Thompson and especially Green all had great seasons and certainly were clearly the best players on the team. However, when the 2015 Finals came around and the Warriors found themselves face to face with LeBron James, it was Iguodala who showed up in a big way.
Iggy finished the series averaging 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4 assists all while guarding LeBron James in a 4-3 series victory. Andre was recognized for his efforts by being awarded the 2015 NBA Finals MVP.
The reason Iguodala has been in the news recently is because he hit a dagger 3-pointer this past Sunday afternoon. With the Warriors up 106-104 on the Raptors, Iggy nailed a three with 5.9 seconds left in the game to even the series 1-1.
The now 35 year old has been playing through a leg injury while trying to hold one of the best scorers in the entire NBA, Kawhi Leonard, in check defensively. He’s also been playing bigger minutes than usual as Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney are all out with injuries.
Why is Andre playing through his own injury? He offered the following reason: “I like Steph. He’s a good dude, good guy to be around. That’s really the only reason why I like playing basketball. That’s the only reason why I play… I’m trying to do whatever it takes to protect his legacy. I’m all for it.”
Is that an answer that would come from your stereotypical selfish and delusional NBA player? Or does it sound like the answer of someone who truly understands what it means to be a part of a team?
Through his individual sacrifice, Andre Iguodala ended up being a leader on a team that has made it to five straight NBA Finals. His trophy case is filled with a Finals MVP trophy to go along with three NBA Title rings and his team is only three wins away from a 4th… All because he has been a perfect teammate.