UPDATE: Late Sunday evening, Andre Iguodala was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies following news that free agent Kevin Durant would not be returning to the Golden State Warriors. Iguodala’s trade was required after a subsequent trade by the Warriors for Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell.
Less than a month removed from his team’s fifth consecutive run to the NBA Finals, Andre Iguodala was back at work. Following a season that saw two of the team’s most high-profile players — Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson — suffer devastating injuries late in the Warriors playoff push, no one would’ve blamed Iguodala for wanting to take some time away from the spotlight.
Instead, the exalted NBA veteran has been everywhere as of late as he promotes his new memoir, The Sixth Man. Iguodala’s press blitz hasn’t been without controversy. A master of the juicy soundbite, he’s already been featured in headlines tied to how the Warriors’ training staff handled his leg injury last season and the NBA’s unwillingness to hire former Warriors coach Mark Jackson.
On Friday night, Iguodala appeared in conversation with co-author Carvell Wallace at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, his first Bay Area event for the book. He was quick to comment on the recent media attention he’s been garnering.
“I’ve learned this week to keep some things to myself,” Iguodala said, eliciting a knowing laugh from the sold-out crowd.
Indeed, his appearance was almost entirely without controversy as he waxed poetic on his philosophies on failure and how important it is to be able to take a joke.
“Whenever people are mad me,” he told Wallace, “they always post that LeBron block to all of my channels.”
The block in question occurred in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Despite being up 3-1 in the series, the Warriors inexplicably found themselves back on their home court, staring down the wrong side of a historic comeback. The game came down to the fourth quarter, where a simply superhuman display of athleticism from LeBron James lead to a block on a layup from Iguodala that all but sealed the victory for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Immediately the clip went viral, serving as an easy way to celebrate James and denigrate the Warriors with one simple click. It even has its own Wikipedia page.
“What those people don’t understand,” Iguodala explained, “is that I’m a fan of basketball. That was one of the dopest blocks I’ve ever seen!”
It was refreshing to hear Iguodala laugh about and celebrate a moment that could easily have served as an athletic scarlet letter for the rest of his career.
Humor appears to be a foundational aspect of his approach to life. Speaking about his son (who was seated in the audience), the NBA star suggested that being able to “crack a joke” on someone — as well as being able to take a shot directed your way — were fundamental qualities he strove to instill in his children. Iguodala also credits his ability to size up opposing players and to read his own teammates as stemming from the observational skills he developed in order to make fun of his friends.
One of the evening’s highlights came when Wallace queried Iguodala about how he deals with shooting slumps. The six-foot, six-inch small forward seized the moment to share an observation about teammate Klay Thompson. Known for his eternally relaxed demeanor, Thompson is apparently uniquely gifted in his ability not to let poor performances bother him.
“Klay has this awesome mentality where he forgets what happened two seconds ago,” Iguodala shared. “That’s an amazing skill. I wish I had it. I talk to Steve Kerr about it all of the time. I still think about stuff that happened two years ago. All Klay is thinking about is, ‘The next time I touch the ball, it’s going in.’ That’s how gets out of slumps — he doesn’t know he’s two for 14.”
During the audience question and answer session that followed, the specter of controversy returned when one woman stood and spoke about how hurt she was to learn that Iguodala had previously suggested he didn’t want his daughter to play basketball because she might “turn into a lesbian.” The audience member — who deserves profound praise for raising a fully justified concern — acknowledged Iguodala’s steadfast Christian faith but also pointed out that he’d been in the Bay Area long enough to understand the ignorance of his words.
To his credit, the former Finals MVP readily offered an answer — unfortunately, it led to more confusion than clarity. Referencing his “personal theory” on women who play basketball and injuries — the details of which were not explained — Iguodala more or less suggested that his words had been taken out of context.
“It never had anything to do with preferences or sexuality or anything,” he said. “I’m glad to have the chance to clear that up.”
How clear Iguodala truly made his position is debatable, but given his shrewd business sense and understanding of the NBA machine, it’s also possible that he was not entirely eager to seriously engage on the subject.
A phenomenal athlete with an enigmatic soul, Iguodala will always be remembered for his contributions to the sport of basketball. Hopefully, as he spends more time away from the game, he’ll have the opportunity to learn about and appreciate the many kinds of people who exist beyond the court as well.