Dare to ask Andre Iguodala if the Warriors have “ruined” the NBA with their latest off-season haul, and one must brace for a Gladwellian response delivered with a wide-angle lens, billionaire name-checks, Silicon Valley jargon and a conclusion that turns the question on its head.
“In every sector of business, it’s really hard to build something where you can get on a good run,” Iguodala told The Crossover. “In sports, it’s even harder because you only have a small window for an athletic career. It would be hard to match what Warren Buffett or Steve Jobs at Apple or Microsoft or any of these companies have been doing well for a really long time. And even in those industries, eventually there’s disruption. Look at taxi cabs: that was a huge business until Uber came in.
“For us, we understand that we have a tight window to build a certain type of culture that will attract athletes like DeMarcus Cousins. To where he will say [that joining the Warriors] is his ‘perfect chess move.’”
So, have the back-to-back champions ruined basketball by adding a fifth All-Star to their starting lineup?
“What we’re doing is playing basketball the right way,” said Golden State’s do-everything Sixth Man. “We’re attracting a lot of people because they like the way we do things organically. We respect the game.”
The 34-year-old Iguodala speaks with a level of satisfaction and authority granted by his status as one of the Warriors’ angel investors. After all, he left a 57-win Nuggets team in 2013 to sign with the Warriors before they were the NBA’s most successful, and most polarizing, franchise. Steve Kerr hadn’t yet coached a game. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson hadn’t yet made an All-Star team. And Draymond Green hadn’t yet been promoted to the starting lineup. Iguodala bet his prime years on promise, and it paid off with four Finals appearances, three titles and the 2015 Finals MVP trophy.
Along the way, Iguodala successfully recruited Kevin Durant and featured in both the “Death Lineup” and the “Hamptons Five.” He’s also made numerous investments in technology businesses and fell in love with golf, a sport that has enraptured what Kerr has called “one of the smartest basketball minds I’ve ever been around.”
While preparing to provide golf commentary for TNT during the second round of the PGA Championship from Bellerive Country Club, Iguodala checked in with The Crossover by phone on Tuesday to discuss the hardwood, the links, and recent summer happenings. (This interview has been edited for clarity.)
Ben Golliver: LeBron James opened the “I Promise School” in Akron and was criticized by the President. Michael Jordan responded with a brief statement saying that he supported James. Did Jordan’s statement go far enough?
Andre Iguodala: LeBron has accomplished a great thing, not just as an African-American athlete but as an athlete in general. I saw a picture of the school. It’s not just African-American kids, it’s kids of all colors. When you’ve got LeBron doing stuff that has never done before, it sets the bar so high and encourages athletes to give back to the communities we came from. Kevin Durant built a youth sports facility, basketball courts and a track for a school. That sets a great precedent.
MJ has done a lot of great things for the community as well. If you look at the Jordan Brand, they have a history of giving out full scholarships. MJ doesn’t put his name out there when it comes to his philanthropic endeavors. That’s fine. He’s always been quiet in the media. He likes to keep the attention off himself. MJ said he supported LeBron. As athletes, that’s all we wanted to hear.
BG: Some critics have argued that LeBron James made a “business decision” rather than a “basketball decision” by joining the Lakers. Is that a relevant distinction to the modern NBA star?
AI: I think it’s just a ‘What do you want to do?’ decision. That’s what’s most important. When non-athletes get out of college, they can interview anywhere they want. If they’re offered a job, they can choose to go anywhere they want to go. It’s a little different in sports but you get the opportunity and it’s called free agency. It’s good to see guys make their own individual decisions and not worry about the response from millions of fans.
[The criticism comes] because we’re in a different age now. You have more platforms and more voices are heard from the sidelines. Content and social media come together in one big space. At times, these big companies even base their ideas and content on public opinion. If we had social media 20 or 30 years ago, it would have been the same thing.
BG: What’s something that people don’t know about Kevin Durant?
AI: People don’t appreciate him enough. He's the most talented scorer of all-time. Hands down. He's a walking 30 points. He’ll get 30 on 12 shots. That’s very, very hard to do. Very efficient. Most guys need to feel the ball in their hands a lot to get a rhythm. He doesn’t.
Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were the two guys with unstoppable moves. MJ had the fadeaway and Kareem had the skyhook, but KD is a 7-footer who can hit a hesi pull-up from 50 feet out. That's his unstoppable move.
BG: How close did the Warriors come to losing the Western Conference finals to the Rockets?
AI: It’s not as easy as people think. We’ve been down 1–3 and we’ve been up 3–1, and the outcomes have been on the opposite sides. But you learn from being in tough experiences and you try to get better.
Every series was tight. The Spurs made us play at a high level and very precise. We had to limit our turnovers, make the right reads and lock in defensively. In the second round we had Jrue Holiday, who was just a monster throughout the playoffs. Sometimes it may be a five-game series, but you get pushed to the limit in every game.
I wouldn’t say we dodged a bullet against Houston, but we had to get through a tough situation. We won and we were happy, but we also looked ahead because we’ve been there so many times. We knew we got over one hurdle but there’s an ultimate hurdle we’ve got to get to next.
BG: Steve Kerr has called you the “adult in the room” and a “coach on the floor.” How does your personality on the basketball court compare to your personality on the golf course?
AI: I take things from each side and put it into the other. You learn to forget about what just happened. You try to stay solid and steady. You learn when to take risks. You need to know time and score. In golf, it’s on to the next shot. I would double bogey and then turn that into two or three straight double bogeys because I was still thinking about a shot from three holes ago. Move on.
I’ve always tried to have a grand scope and to know everything about both teams. Scouting their tendencies. I’m just starting to do that on the course. Am I on an uphill lie? Is the pin in the front or the back? Do I club up or club down? How do I stay out of trouble? Where’s the bunker? Do I hit the cut or the draw? I read all the golf publications. I follow what clubs each guy is using, what wedges they’re using and the loft and bounce in certain wedges.
In team sports, there’s other guys out there that can determine the outcome. With golf, it’s just you, the ball and the course. Even if you shoot 60, now you’re aiming for 59. Golf is something you can never master. The hunt goes on forever.
BG: How did you get hooked on golf?
AI: Kevin Gamble was one of the first NBA players from my city. He played for the Celtics in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He had a golf camp for kids back home in Springfield, Illinois. At the camp, you got free clubs. I played one or two times, but I grew too fast and couldn’t use those clubs because I was too tall. I was introduced at a young age, but I didn’t play at all because it was hard to get access to courses.
Then, obviously, seeing Tiger [Woods] on TV and on magazine covers. You see him as an African-American excelling in a sport that they wouldn’t normally be as involved in. I followed him for a long time, kept watching him. I was dabbling, just watching him on Sundays. Once I got to college at Arizona, we had a few alumni events and we had to swing the club. That was fun, but I still didn’t jump all the way in.
Then, about five years ago, [former Warriors assistant coach] Pete Myers got me hooked. He taught me to how to hit the draw. We would go to the range. That’s what really got me into it. I’m having a lot of fun with it. This has been my best summer of golf. I finally got down to the single digits on Aug. 1. I’m a nine handicap, but that will go up during basketball season.
BG: What’s your scouting report on your abilities as a golf commentator?
AI: I have a pretty good knowledge of the players, their colleges and their stats. I’ll try to keep it simple. Talk about their club, their lie, the pin location. I’ll emphasize ball placement and whether guys want to be on the left or right side of the fairway based on the pin. I’m just trying to give the audience an understanding that these guys are landing the ball within a five-yard radius of where they want to land it.
The hardest part is the knowledge of the course. That’s something I’ll be lagging in. I can call a basketball game while I’m doing three other things at once because that’s my nature after playing for my whole life. That’s how it is when I listen to the golf commentators: they played on tour, they’ve played these courses and they know them inside and out.
BG: You’re listed at 6'6". Does your height work against you when you golf?
AI: It’s harder. The more motion there is, the harder it is to keep things on the same plane. I’ve been working on shortening my swing. When I introduce my basketball friends to golf, I tell them to just swing halfway. The power is the easy part.
BG: Have you ever melted down on the course?
AI: Definitely. Especially early on, when you hit good balls and you expect to do that every shot. When it’s not happening, you try to force it, but that makes it even harder. I think I’ve only thrown a club once or twice.
Usually I’m cool and calm, being outside and being at peace. If I’m hitting a slice and I can’t figure it out, I’m playing the slice. I’m trying this thing where I don’t curse on the course even when I’m playing by myself.
BG: Do you fine yourself for cursing?
AI: Well, you start to say it. I say ‘GOD… dang it’. Or, ‘MOTHER... fudge.’ I say fudge a lot! I say ‘SHHHHHHHHH…oot’ a lot too.
BG: What do you do to hone your composure?
AI: Yoga, meditation, and unplugging the phone at night to make sure I get enough hours of sleep. That’s huge for athletes. During the summer, I do 10 minutes of meditation a day and I’m trying to get to 15 or 20 minutes this season. It’s easy when you’re on the road because you have the time. It’s been really helpful and it gives you an energy boost. It’s like a replacement for an energy drink, but it’s a natural refresher.
BG: Is golf where it needs to be from a diversity standpoint?
AI: Everywhere in society has room to grow. In golf, it’s a matter of whether you’re good enough regardless of what you look like, which is the way it should be. In the women’s game, there’s a large Asian influence. Those women golfers all hit the ball straight and have great short games. They’re hitting seven woods 150 yards and sticking them on the green. You’re starting to see more African-American women golfers as well.
[The next step] is influencing the younger generation with a lot of organizations like The First Tee. There’s the event at Augusta every year where the kids drive, chip and putt. Golf has the right ideas.
BG: Who fills out your dream foursome of professional-level golfers?
AI: Tiger, that’s easy. Rory [McIlroy] is my favorite golfer besides Tiger. And let’s go old school: Jim Brown. He did all the sports, he was a great golfer and you’re getting tons of wisdom from him.
BG: Golf is clearly tugging at you. Is there anything left you want to accomplish on the basketball court?
AI: I’ve got a couple years left. I’ve still got tons of gas in the tank, but I want to use these same legs 20 years from now.
I heard a great saying. A guy was asked how he’s doing and he said, ‘I’m great. Today I set another personal record for most days alive.’ I want to try to win a fourth championship. Another championship would be good.