By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – You know what’s a hard sell? Asking your girlfriend to spend 13 hours in a car on Memorial Day weekend to drive to Boston to see a basketball game. Game 7 or not, that’s no easy task, but that’s what my mission was this past May.
Valerie, who is my girlfriend of nearly three years, is a Sixers fan, and a big one at that. Still, spending all that time and money to go see a game we could watch on television was going to take some work. I didn’t think I could get the job done with normal ammunition, so I went with the big guns.
“This could be the very last time we ever see Elton and Andre in a Sixers uniform,” is what I told her.
I got that panicky, sad face she makes when I remind her that sometimes favorite players get traded. She’s gone through that with the Phillies already (most upset by Feliz and Happ for some reason but whatever), and doesn’t like it one bit. She’s always had a propensity to have favorite players that were different from everyone else’s favorite players. Happ instead of Hamels, that sort of thing.
So going to game after game, and hearing people belt Iguodala and Brand with “you’re overpaid!” taunts, made those guys two of her favorite players. It also helped that the two are genuinely nice people.
Anyway, it worked, we went, and it turns it out (pending the trade being official) it was the last game for both players.
To call Philadelphia’s opinion on Andre Iguodala “polarized” is improperly define polarity. It’s also to suggest that there is a split down the middle of those who love and hate him, which I don’t think there was. It’s closer to 50/50 than it was three years ago, but still not quite there.
Iguoldala was drafted ninth overall by the Sixers, and when Allen Iverson was traded, became the face of the organization. The Sixers lost their big star, and needed a new one. They slid Iguodala into the same public role that Iverson had, which gave most fans, and maybe even Iguodala himself, the perception that he should have the same role on the court. That was a mistake for the team, for him, and for us.
So for years, people in Philadelphia did not like Andre Iguodala based on who they thought he should be, a scorer and a superstar, rather than appreciating him for what he is, a top level defender, a very good passer, an elite athlete and a good offensive player. A giant contract didn’t help matters. To this day, when people tell me “Iggy sucks,” the fact that he is, you know, on the Olympic team doesn’t even seem to faze them.
Then, as it usually does around here, his play was no longer the sole focus, but his personality as well. The normal “he’s not a Philly guy” narrative took hold, and his quiet, sort of boring public persona was perceived as aloof and passive aggressive. Every on court frown or arm-waive became proof of it.
The notion of trading Andre Iguodala has to be the number one topic ever discussed about Andre Iguodala.
I’m not innocent in any of this either. Though never with the vitriol that often came along with the Iguodala discussions, I felt like the guy would be better off shooting less and defending more. I pulled my hair out every time there was a dribble-dribble-step back jumper.
Then over the last couple of years, something changed for me. Whether it was Iguodala changing or me changing how I looked at him (probably a good deal of both), I became a fan of his and really appreciated his game. Part of it as well, is that the anti-Iguodala crowd became so noisy and unfair, I wanted to stand up for him.
Then I met him, and as it turns out, he’s a really good guy, who really loves basketball.
Iguodala seemed to embrace who he is as a basketball player. He seemed as well, to become a little more comfortable with himself in Philadelphia, which as you can imagine can be tough to do as a professional athlete.
This past season Andre Iguodala made his first all-star team, and hit game winning free throws in a deciding playoff game against the Bulls. One of the most fun nights I’ve ever had in radio was to be the host on 94WIP after that game, and telling his haters to shove it while my Valerie was (literally) crying tears of joy at home after nearly suffering a panic attack during said free throws. He led the Sixers to a huge comeback playoff win against the Celtics, and found himself on the USA Men’s Basketball team in the Olympics. To say he’s going out on a high note would be an understatement.
It was a good year to be an Andre Iguodala fan. I think those of us who cheered for the guy legitimately felt proud of him.
And now, he’s not going to be a Sixer anymore, likely traded today to the Denver Nuggets.
There must be some part of Andre Iguodala who is relieved. Probably a pretty big part. He’ll now go to a team who wants him, rather than is just trying to fit him in. He’ll leave all of his baggage in Philadelphia, and get a chance to start new. He won’t have to deal with us. Though most of the public sentiment between Doug Collins and Iguodala was rosy, behind the scenes it often was not. It’s hard to believe given how we’ve heard Collins praise Iguodala, but the two had their issues.
This is a good trade for the Sixers. It was time, and they got great value. Perhaps we’re seeing just how much value Iguodala has, bringing back the second best center in the league in exchange. They finally actually traded Iguodala.
I will miss watching Andre Iguodala play basketball. I will miss him being a Sixer. I will miss his dunks and defense, and I will in turn, miss defending him.
He came as Iguodala. He became Iggy. He leaves as Dre.
Good luck in Denver man, I know plenty of us will be rooting for you.