Andre Iguodala was never supposed to be “the guy.” In high school, he played in the shadow of uber-prospect and fellow Springfield, Illinois native Rich McBride. At Arizona, he was, at best, the team’s fourth most important player. Then for three years in Philly he flourished as Allen Iverson’s high-flying sidekick.
Then, in 2006, Iverson was traded to the Nuggets and it was Iguodala’s turn to play Batman. The cape never fit. Iguodala is a dynamic, two-way player whose all-around game doesn’t translate to superstar stats. No one gets MVP votes for finishing the season among the top 10 in steals and assists, while ranking 44th in points per game. And teams don’t win when their go-to-guy is a 33 percent three-point shooter with an unreliable jumper and a penchant for turnovers.
Iguodala’s time as “the guy” with the Sixers ended when he too was traded to the Nuggets. After a forgettable year in Denver, Iguodala landed in Oakland two seasons ago in exchange for a handful of role players and a barrel full of draft picks. With the Warriors, the man who struggled to be the next A.I. in Philly, reemerged in the the role he’d always excelled at—multi-talented lockdown defender who lets other guys fill up the basket while he fills up the stat sheet.
With Golden State, Iguodala joined a team that, like the Sixers who drafted him, were led by an undersized scoring machine. But unlike Iverson, Steph Curry wasn’t alone. With Klay Thompson, David Lee, and Harrison Barnes alongside Curry, Iguodala slotted in as the team’s fifth most important scorer. The emergence of Draymond Green might have slid him down to sixth. No matter, the 6’6” small forward continued putting up impressive numbers.
In his first year as a Warrior, Iguodala took nearly four fewer shots per game than in the previous year with the Nuggets. In the 2014-2015 season, that number dropped another full shot as he accepted a bench role for the first time in his career. Meanwhile, Iguodala continued playing elite defense while shooting 35 percent from three, two points better than his career percentage. It’s not a huge improvement, but it’s responsive for a career best 55 percent effective field goal percentage over the past two years.
The last two years have been good to Iguodala. Playing for title contenders tends to cast players in a flattering light. But like so many players before him, Iguodala is truly cementing his legacy in the Finals, which have seen him emerge as an unlikely MVP candidate for the work he’s put into slowing LeBron and unexpected contributions on the offensive end. That’s not to say the man who hates being called Iggy should win the MVP. That award belongs to LeBron no matter who hoists the Larry O'Brien trophy. But given the different between LBJ’s performance when Iguodala guards him and when anyone else does, number nine in the blue and gold deserves to be a part of the debate. According to ESPN, LeBron is shooting just 29 percent when Iguodala is covering him. With anyone else on him, the self-proclaimed greatest player is shooting 43 percent.
For his entire life, Iguodala has had the body and the athleticism to be “the guy,” a role that never quite fit him. But now that his job is to make life easier for the other team’s guy, he’s finally getting his due. And if he can do it for one more game, he’ll get his ring.
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