Every since Allen Iverson arrived in the city of brotherly love, the Sixers have searched for his “Pippen,” the teammate who would perfectly mesh with AI to lead Philly back to the Promised Land. First it was supposed to be Jerry Stackhouse, and then it was Larry Hughes. Countless numbers of guards, later it all ended with the same result. No one could seemingly fit in the backcourt with Iverson.
That is until another AI set foot in the Wachovia Center.
Drafted out of the University of Arizona in 2004, Andre Iguodala came to the Keystone State with the ideal pedigree; a team-first mentality, the ability to play anywhere from point guard to small forward and the body of an NBA veteran, but no one knew for sure what would occur when the season started. What happened was more than the growth and maturation of a suitable role player. Philly had a bonafide budding NBA star in their hands, one who finally provided a fitting piece to their backcourt puzzle. “I’m a team player first,” states Iguodala. If I have to score and be the man then I don’t have a problem doing that, but being a complimentary player to a higher scorer, I can do that as well.”
Flying under the radar most of the season to rookies with more established NCAA reps (Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon), “Iggy Pop” steadily averaged 9 ppg, 5.7 rpg and 1.68 spg (good enough for 6th in the league), while helping lead the Sixers to the playoffs. Despite a tumultuous inaugural season that saw the arrival of the oft-injured Chris Webber, the seemingly annual Iverson trade rumors and the fact that the players never quite adjusted to the style of last year’s coach Jim O’Brien, Iguodala flourished in his transition from college to the pros.
This season, there should be more stability in the Illadelph, with the hiring of former 76er great, Maurice Cheeks in the off-season. “[Mo’s] gonna be a good addition to our team. He’s a player’s coach, we can relate to him as he can relate to us,” says Iguodala. “So it’s going to be an easier vibe between the players and coaches and we can grow and express our feelings and hope it will turn out for the better.” It’s not like the new sheriff in town should get any complaints from the 6-6 Illinois native. Constantly recognized as the type of player who’ll always give 100%, (even in practice, which should be a relief to Sixer fans), Mo should quickly find No. 9 to be one of his best weapons. If he happens to need any more convincing, all he has to do is call up Dre’s old coaching staff at his alma mater, Arizona.
“[Andre’s] work ethic drove him to get to the next level, so it’s not surprising that he’s done well,” said Wildcat associate head coach Jim Rosborough. “He may have one of the best basketball bodies that I’ve ever seen. He is a gifted athlete with wonderful basketball acumen and he’s got a really good feel for the game, for where his teammates are and for what should happen under a lot of circumstances.” For Iguodala, the respect is mutual for his former acquaintances in Tucson. “I came to Arizona nowhere near ready for the NBA. I needed college, Coach [Olson], is a coach who takes a lot of raw athletes and a lot of raw players and incorporates fundamentals into their game and I think that’s what helped me.”
There were some bumps in his rookie year, which can be expected especially when you’re asked to guard guys like Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant night in and night out, but the true student of the game eventually adapted to the adjustment between NCAA and NBA competition. “The biggest lesson I learned last year, is preparation is the key to every game. That means eating right and resting, so the whole time getting ready for the game is just as important.” There was also someone alongside him to make it easier through the maturation process. Contrary to what some of the old school critics of the NBA may think, the original AI has been nothing but helpful for Iguodala and the rest of the youngsters for the Sixers.
When asked about sharing the floor with “The Answer” for 82 games, Iguodala declares, “It’s probably the greatest experience you could ever go through. [Allen] gives you an example of how a player’s supposed to go hard and play every minute like it’s his last. It’s easy playing with Allen; he’s teaching me a lot of things.” Andre has always been the kind of player who is willing to listen. That thirst for knowledge and some of his other most admirable character traits come from his strong family background.
“My biggest influence is probably my grandmother and my mother. My grandmother’s just so strong, she never gave up on us and my mother kept me straight and on track,” states Iguodala. “My main focus in life was basketball, and [I learned] anything that was going to jeopardize that, I stayed away from.” Andre also learned one more important thing from his mother that has made him who he is today. “[She] taught me how to play basketball,” admits Iguodala.
The two most important women in his life also instilled in Andre the importance of giving, and we’re not only talking about assists. In his first season, he immediately became involved in community service and successfully started the “Andre’s Caps for Kids” program, which collected over 1,000 hats benefiting local pediatric oncology units in the Philadelphia area. Back home in Illinois, Andre also holds basketball camps and clinics for young players and this summer held a charity celebrity basketball game with part of the proceeds helping a local 13-and-under AAU team fund a trip to a national tournament in Florida. He also plans to adopt a school in Philadelphia this season to aid students in need and is incorporating the Andre Iguodala Foundation, specifically aimed for the youth in the area. Andre believes such initiatives are imperative for “giving kids an opportunity to get out of bad situations.” He continues, “A lot of kids come from single parent homes and they don’t get the proper education that they need. By just giving them that extra help so they get a chance to do some of the things that I did growing up; go to college or just be able to know how to work a computer, they will see things that will inspire them to be somebody and not settle for less.”
That sort of demeanor should have Philly supporters glowing with excitement, as if they weren’t already. He acknowledges that the same fans that once booed Santa Claus, can be among the most demanding on their athletes, but he knows that if they see you competing diligently on a nightly basis, “they’ll respect you and continue to support you.”
So that’s why during the summer, while some of the NBA‘s “ballerz” may have been lounging in the Caribbean or worrying about a contract, Iguodala spent the off-season working out vigorously, as he says, “improving on shooting the ball and being more of an offensive threat,” while expanding on his defensive game in an effort to get his averages up across the board, especially in rebounds and steals. He was also glad to see guys like Samuel Dalembert and Kyle Korver remain with the team. Iguodala deems that by keeping them along with all-stars Iverson and Webber, the Sixers should gel together a lot quicker this season and be right in the thick of things in the race for the wide-open Atlantic Division.
That familiarity with his teammates should do nothing but benefit the growth of this rising superstar into a category amongst the league‘s elite. But no matter how many personal accolades come his way, Iguodala states that he just wants to be remembered as “a hard working player who played to the best of his ability.” But just like the label of him being a “complimentary player” wore thin in his rookie year, his own modest assessment doesn’t encapsulate the true meaning of what this AI means to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Warriors Came Out To Play This Series
Even without the fantasy Basketball of Kevin Durant in this series, the Golden State Warriors still brought out the brooms like ‘Fantasia’.
And swept out of Game 4 like Thanos click finger dust, the Portland Trailblazers may have only lost by a bucket (119-117)…and in overtime at that. But with all the Splash they had to contend with this series from brothers Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, they were left dealing with more leaks and holes in all of their own ones like Mickey Mouse in said Disney epic.
This was meant to be the showdown between Dell Curry’s boys Steph and Seth which divided a household. And although the youngest gun stepped up to the plate, swung big in this carnival and knocked them down, big brother was always watching.
Steph Curry averaged over 36 points a game this series. Just read that again. 36 points. Right now we don’t need to talk about Kevin.
The Warriors are a dynasty for the ages even without their best player (although this writer thinks he wasn’t missing this entire series). The first team to make it to five straight finals since the Boston Celtics. The 1960’s Bill Russell Celtics. That’s King James crowning legendary. And Steph Curry with the shot and that facet of the game is just as iconic and dominant as a Bill block.
Give some credit to a blazing Portland side who never gave up despite the box score. They can hold their heads in the PDX. Even in their Moda Center home-stand City Of Roses end in RIP City. Their season eulogy should read as a celebration and commiseration, not a trolling condescension from critically entitled fans who have done nothing to determine the outcome of these games and could never make it this far in their wildest memes. They call themselves “influencers”? Well no one’s going to remember them in 50 years.
The NBA will remember one of their Top 100 greatest of all-time in a half century though. As after hitting the biggest buzzer beater in playoff history against Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, Damian Lillard played through the pain of separated ribs this series and still made the Basketball God’s look down from the hoop heavens with praise. Like New York singer St. Vincent tweeted, “Damian Lillard is my hero”. Even his backcourt brother of splash CJ McCollum in the only small man set up to rival Curry and Klay came out to play against the Warriors after midrange mining the Nuggets into submission in Denver just over a week ago.
But Curry’s red hot triple double, starter, mains and dessert dish of 37, 13 and 11, to go along with a playing not crying, Draymond Green’s day of 18, 14 and 11 assists also was just too much in the clutch. As Stephen and Dray became the first teammates in NBA history to have a triple double in the same playoff game. Forget how much this team can unbelievably keep winning, how does this ball manage to get shared this much?
Well that just may be the secret of success?
The real test is dubbed next however in the Warriors last season in Golden State before they move across that Golden bridge to the Silicon Valley of a digital age in San Francisco. They will play the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks (probably…Giannis…MVP. Sorry Toronto but come on!) and Raptors series. But by then they should have some guy called Kevin back.
I mean come on. This has been getting crazy. This is just out of hand like said ball in Splash City.
Now Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics’ record of eight straight finals and wins doesn’t look far out of reach for Steph Curry and the player and team with the biggest range in the association over the gate of the Pacific.
Welcome to the Toronto Raptors’ Jurassic Park
“In Jurassic Park, Raptor fans wait until after dark. Even if the cold might eat them!”
Fans find a way.
An ace serve or two away from being as legendary as Wimbledon’s ‘Murray Mound’ or ‘Henman Hill’ outside the Scotiabank Arena, the Toronto Raptors Maple Leaf Square’s “Jurassic Park” may just be the ticket for this sold out crowd.
Raptor Klaw, Kawhi Leonard ruled the earth last night. He and the T-Dot at the final tick beat the Sixers in The Six, as his shot bobbled like a beach ball on the surface of a swimming pool before making the biggest splash of these postseason playoffs. Taking longer to fall than Leonardo DiCaprio’s spinning top in ‘Inception’. But this was no dream.
And if you thought the Scotiabank Arena in downtown Toronto erupted last night, then outside in Maple Leaf Square it was like the volcanoes that killed the dinosaurs after that big ball dropped. An Armageddon even Bruce Willis couldn’t save like he wish he could his career.
Welcome to Jurassic World.
With all due respect to the Linsanity of Jeremy Lin, or pick your poison whoever is your flash card pick of the bench mob pack, but the Jurassic Park crowd fenced in outside of Scotia is the
Forget rain or shine. You see the slickers. These faithful fans will pitch a spot waiting for game time like the ball to drop in Times Square for New Year in New York, sleeping bag lining up all day in their hordes huddled for warmth. These beautiful fans will brave the harshest, most frigid temperatures to be the coldest fans in the game in more ways than one. Part of the ‘We The North’ community in the 6 that the Basketball God’s look down on with pride, whilst other armchair fans watch this game for the throne from home. Or leave early like those suit and tie corporate seats trying to catch that last red eye Matt Bonner home.
Can you imagine of they called game early before Kawhi last night?
I could imagine Drake taking in the CN Tower looking up views of the Jurassic
Well those in the park for recreation stayed until the beautiful end to a game Butler almost delivered bitter. And you could could phantom cam see every emotion in slow motion last night as Leonard’s buzzer beating ball toyed with the rim like three dots on messenger, or Damien Lillard even further downtown in Oklahoma City.
This is the spirit of the stadium and the soul of the squad, expanding the capacity arena and the Canadian ballclubs worldwide fanbase watching on their own Jumbotrons.
And the Toronto Raptors are going to need all the north they can get if they’re going to stop the Bucks in Milwaukee.
But this club has the claws to do it. And if you don’t think they can win in Wisconsin on their own road to being the first franchise outside of the United States to be NBA finalists and who knows what next against the Warriors(?), then just watch this Canadian cornerstone from the Jurassic era.
Extinct in six? Nah! Get ready to hear the North roar.