Andre Iguodala is my favorite basketball player.
That first sentence theoretically sounds a lot like a young child in Philadelphia would say when asked the question “Who is your favorite basketball player?” After all, he is the best player on the Sixers and has been for over 5 years now. The Sixers, with an energized fan base following their near-run to the Eastern Conference Finals, will have gained a lot of young fans over the past year. Between cheaper seats and a more fan-friendly environment, more young people have had the chance to see the team in person and see the team’s successes. Andre should have gained a lot of young fans recently.
Yet, you will rarely find that phrase uttered by any child or really any fan that associates himself or herself the team. Why is that? It’s a question that I’ve asked myself ever since Allen Iverson was traded in December of 2006, and is something I still do not have a clear-cut answer to.
Before, it was Allen Iverson, even years after he left. Now, children will answer primarily with Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams or Evan Turner. But rarely Iguodala.
I was once a young Sixers fan. I first truly became a Sixers fan in the year after they made it to the finals. I guess have wonderful timing. I don’t necessarily remember why, but it was probably part of some sort of bandwagon effect that 11-year-olds regularly get wrapped into when teams from their city win. I vaguely remember the 2001 finals, just because I remember a game being on while at a relative’s house with no one actively watching it.* I wondered why no one cared about it, since the game was exciting and all. And that’s about all I remember from that year, but I started watching them on Comcast Sportsnet, with Marc Zumoff and Steve Mix on the call, the following year.
*Being aware of the Sixers while not actively caring about them is this city’s relationship with the team in a nutshell.
That first year of me being a fan, I had high hopes. They had just been to the finals and had an amazing basketball talent in Allen Iverson, who was the reigning MVP and all. They had made moves to try and get better. And they had a coach who seemed like he knew what he was doing, in Larry Brown. Of course, we know how that season turned out. A first round exit. More dramatic changes. And, of course, the practice rant.
The practice rant, for as funny and timeless as it is, firmly planted in me a belief that, as fun as he was at times to watch, Allen Iverson was not and would never be my favorite basketball player. There was something about it that rubbed me the wrong way in such a way that 11-year-old me or even slightly older me could not take to liking A.I. I’m guessing it was the combination of arrogance and disrespect that convinced me of that. I guess it also helped that I was a terrible, out-of-shape CYO player who had no choice but to practice to improve my horrible basketball game, while someone who was so gifted and talented could disregard what it took to actually be good. That combination, in hindsight, I believe made me an A.I. detractor. To this day, my view of him and others’ view are completely different. His appearance during Game 6 of the Celtics series kind of brought that to the forefront, when I was criticized for (more or less) not caring that he was there.
From the practice rant onward, I aspired to find a new favorite player, because it’s impossible not to have one. I was too much of a homer to choose anyone else, so it had to be a Sixer. But the cast around Iverson changed so often that it was difficult to settle on one. Keith Van Horn and Glenn Robinson were one-and-done. Eric Snow wasn’t any good. Kyle Korver did one thing well, and it was exciting, but at most he was always a role player. Aaron McKie was always injured, even though I did like him a lot.
Then, three seasons, three coaches, and various A.I. on-court and off-court outbursts after the practice rant, the Sixers finally acquired a guy I could root for. The Sixers drafted Andre Iguodala ninth overall, after another disappointing season, this time missing the playoffs completely. Iguodala beat out Glenn Robinson for the starting small forward spot* and has started all but 25 games for the Sixers since.
*Robinson, angered over his demotion by Coach Jim O’Brien, sat out half the year with an “ankle injury”, then got released and Boris Diaw-ed his way to a title with the Spurs. I have never really gotten over this, considering at the time the Big Dog was still a decent offensive player, though his defense could have been kindly described as “apathetic” or “corpse-like”.
Andre was a smart player who played within his game and had a chance to become a superstar. More importantly, though, he seemed likable and was a team player by all accounts. At that point, I latched onto his future and he became my favorite player. And he has been ever since.
This season was the first where Andre finally got some well-deserved recognition locally and nationally. His team advanced further into the playoffs than any he had been on. Despite getting shafted from the NBA’s All-Defense teams, he did make his first all-star appearance and did shed his anti-clutch label in the process, finally getting some respect from a fan base that expected him to be Allen Iverson. Truth be told, it’s a good thing he’s not A.I. – if he tried scoring 30 a night with no regard for his defense or teammates, he would be terrible.
But as it turns out, after he finally begins to receive recognition for what he does and after his team ends the season rather successfully, I find that now is probably as good of a time than ever for him to move on. I alluded to this fact yesterday, with my Iguodala trade proposals, that between his increasing age and his more friendly contract and the focus of the team shifting around him and his newly found recognition, now is a good departure time. His trade value will be greater than ever. And his utility on this team is continually decreasing, with his surrounding cast becoming younger and the team likely drifting a bit further away from contention.
As much as it pains me to say this, now is the time for my favorite player for the last 8 years to move elsewhere. It’s just the best for everyone.
Speaking of which, the inspiration for this post is that this will be my last as editor here at The Sixer Sense. As you can see in the “about me” in the upper right hand corner of this page, I am an accountant by trade. In order to work at my wonderful future job, one necessary evil is that I have to pass a grueling four-part test, two parts of which I am taking this summer. And because of that, I have decided now is the right time to leave in order to focus on those academics. I can’t thank everyone at FanSided enough for what they’ve done for me since I’ve been here, and I will continue to support this site well into the future.
The good news, though, is that this site will not be shutting down or becoming dormant. Because I can now confirm that Dante Nelson, who has worked diligently as a staff writer here for the past year, will now be your new editor! I imagine he has a lot in store for this space, so stay tuned!