Andre Iguodala has seen and done it all in his 17 years in the NBA. Now he represents the best interests of the players while serving as the first vice-president of the National Basketball Players Association. It’s safe to say the Miami Heat forward is a walking fountain of wisdom.
Iguodala recently joined Duncan Robinson’s “Long Shot” podcast where he discussed a variety of topics, including how he overcame adversity early in his career and managing rookie expectations. The 36-year-old also talked about playing alongside Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant while hyping up Bam Adebayo’s growing leadership role.
One of the most telling comments from his hour-long conversation with Robinson had to do with blocking out the outside noise. Iguodala said he “curates” his phone to avoid hearing all the gossip, referring to negative journalists and rumor blogs as “culture vultures.” He might be the most interesting man in the NBA.
“If I’m proving anybody wrong, it’s myself. Anybody else’s opinion they really don’t exist,” Iguodala said. “I had to grow up really fast in Philly, especially after Allen Iverson left. It was like, ‘Here the ball is yours’ and this is a city who … they are going to let you know if you’re not doing it right so what are you gonna do?
“I had to grow up really fast and I had to take hits and lumps. The interesting thing about that is that’s there a lot of love there [in Philly], but it’s just outweighed by the few who are just overbearing and a little evil, and that’s just the way of the world sometimes.”
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No Expectations, Burden of Second Contract
The best advice Iguodala had for the younger guys in the league was to never stop having fun. He recalled playing free — unencumbered by expectations — during his rookie year in Philadelphia because Iverson was the star. He didn’t really feel the pressure until signing that second contract, a six-year $80 million deal that forced him to grow up fast.
“Allen Iverson took all the pressure off me. There were no expectations,” Iguodala said. “But then you get older, you get your second contract and it’s business, you’re in the machine. And now you’re part of the machine. Are you earning your pay every day? That’s like the worst place to be. Other people measure your success, they tell you whether you deserve what you’re paid, and having to go through that when I went through it, it helped me grow up really fast.”
The 2015 NBA Finals MVP had fun reminiscing about his first year in the league. He was literally going one-on-one versus All-Star players who he had posters of hanging up on his wall.
“I was playing against players that I was following growing up like I had posters on my wall of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen,” Iguodala said. “Rip Hamilton was one of my favorite players because of UConn. Rasheed Wallace — I mean, I was a huge fan of Carolina — and Allen Iverson is my teammate, obviously Kobe Bryant is like God to me. I get to play against these dudes, so I was just running around having fun every day and no one really talked about me.”
Bam Adebayo Growing into Leadership Role
Iguodala has long taken his role as a mentor seriously. It was on full display inside the bubble where the one-time All-Star encouraged teammates to bond on the golf course and take their minds off basketball. Robinson pointed to a scene from a Disney World ballroom in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting. Iguodala and Chris Paul called a players-only meeting to hash everything out for the entire NBA.
“That was incredible how you handled that situation,” Robinson said.
Hopefully that kind of leadership will rub off on some of Iguodala’s teammates in Miami. He’s already seen glimmers of it from 23-year-old Bam Adebayo. The All-Star center has been thrust into the spotlight with Jimmy Butler out due to COVID-19 protocols.
“He’s ahead of his time in terms of being a leader but he still has some ways to go, just because he’s so young,” Iguodala said. “He’s doing a much better job than I did. I made some mistakes.”