Those around Andre Iguodala know better than to expect straight answers to questions directed his way. His deadpan delivery, cryptic tweets, and epic practical jokes keep everyone on guard, never quite certain if they are in on or part of the joke. You can never be sure what Iggy's thinking, a brilliant mind that seizes opportunities before the rest of the crowd catches on.
In the past three years, Iguodala has mastered the art of recognizing talent and leveraging the value of that talent for greater gains. His fingerprints on the Warriors franchise and the NBA as a whole are a product of his initiative far more than luck, steering a course toward league dominance and the greater success for all of his colleagues in the foreseeable future.
Iguodala caught a glimpse of what the Warriors could be during the 2013 playoffs as Golden State upset his Denver Nuggets in the first round. Having previously established a friendship with Stephen Curry (and Kevin Durant, keep in mind) while playing for the US team in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, Iguodala saw a tight-knit Warriors team and considered its championship potential.
It wasn't so much that he was buds with Curry and company that drew him to Golden State, but rather the personality of the team. Iguodala commented on the basketball IQ of the squad and the lack of egos when explaining why he signed with the Warriors. Deeming Golden State to be a strong investment, Iguodala signed with Golden State at a price well below what suitors like Denver, Sacramento, and Dallas offered.
Make no mistake about it - when the Warriors signed Iguodala in 2013, the Warriors didn't choose Iggy; rather, Iggy chose the Warriors. As the Warriors brass launched into a traditional recruitment pitch, Iguodala reportedly stopped them mid-sentence to inform them that he wanted to join the team and ask them to clear the required cap space to get a deal through (which was one of the most difficult and praise-worthy things Bob Myers has done in his tenure with the Warriors). Iggy had done his research and was intent on making his way to the Bay.
Iguodala's decision to spurn higher offers elsewhere was influenced by a prescient insight of not only the championship potential of the team, but also Golden State's proximity to Silicon Valley. Through ties with leaders in the tech industry, Iggy has developed a reputation as a savvy investor in technology companies.
What he gave up in a smaller contract with the Warriors he could earn back through investment opportunities. His court vision extends to the world of business; the man is always on the lookout for opportunities to score.
Influencing others, including Kevin Durant
Iguodala trusted his intuition in picking the Warriors back in 2013 and came out a winner, so what do you suppose he shared with Kevin Durant when he showed up unannounced (naturally) with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to recruit the OKC star on July 1? Iguodala was the only person in the room who had been in a position somewhat similar to KD - a position to leave money on the table to play for potential championships with the Warriors.
After the meeting, Durant credited Iguodala for making the clear case as to why KD should go to the Bay. "Andre spilled it out," said Durant. "He said it would be the most fun you'll have in your life. The guys all love to play basketball, they love each other, they love the environment, and he was just real, man, and I believed him."
My guess is that the pitch also included mention of the team's religious identity, which appeals to KD, and access to Silicon Valley investment opportunities, but that's pure speculation.
So Iguodala basically appeared out of nowhere on July 1 to help seal the deal with Kevin Durant, ensuring him that it was the best thing for KD's overall happiness. Not coincidentally, it will also lead to greater overall happiness for Iguodala, the Warriors organization, and fans around the globe (well, at least those who were already priced out of attending games anyway).
Iggy has a knack for creating win-win situations, such as signing with Golden State at a discount, agreeing to come off the bench, and even sharing his connections to opportunities outside of basketball.
For example, not content to navigate the tech industry alone for his own gain, Iguodala is using his ties to Silicon Valley to lead the first NBPA Technology Summit later this month. The event will educate players about the latest advances in the field and provide networking opportunities and workshops for players considering life after basketball.
Through this summit, Iguodala is opening doors to the rest of the players association in hopes that his experiences can be of benefit to them, as he told two obnoxious CNBC anchors here. In a league full of stars talking about their brands and desires to be businessmen, this is a refreshing innovation that introduces players to opportunities beyond marketing their talents on the court.
Truly his brother's keeper
Iguodala will also play a major role in every NBA player's contract in the near future. As one of several vice-presidents the NBPA, Iguodala is in a position to influence the impending discussions for the new labor contract expected in 2017.
The players association will aim to get some of what the overall revenue it gave up in the last round of botched negotiations, while the owners will likely push for a hard salary cap that would prevent teams from going over the cap. The existing contract includes a soft cap that may lead to luxury tax penalties when exceeded, which is what will allow the Warriors to keep their insanely talented group together beyond the 2016-17 season when Curry and Durant (in all likelihood) sign new contracts.
Additionally, the new estimates for the 2017-18 salary cap shrank by $5 million, putting a potential wrinkle in Dubs plans to retain their entire core beyond the coming season. 2017 is a long ways away and the numbers are bound to change between now and then, but in all likelihood a new union contract will be negotiated around that time. And the league may take aim at the Warriors to make it more difficult to remain intact.
As luck would have it, both Iguodala and Curry serve on the NBPA board with the potential to protect the long-term interests of the dynasty that has formed in Golden State. And you might be cynical about the impact the players really have on these negotiations, but you can't underestimate Iggy. I can't think of another player better suited to take part in the process.
This is, after all, the man with the foresight to feign back spasms in the Finals to throw the series to Cleveland, knowing that KD likely wouldn't come to Golden State had the Warriors just won a championship. (I'm kidding! We all know Steve Kerr was behind the most Machiavellian, #LightYears strategy the sports world has ever seen in throwing the 2016 Finals by playing Anderson Varejao. But I digress...) Who knows what Iguodala could contribute to these contract negotiations? Probably more than we'll actually see.
Wherever the league ends up by the time he's done, Iguodala will have left his mark on the NBA. His initiative has already made him a champion, with potential to win more, and his ongoing efforts to be a champion for the players association may also leave a valuable legacy. The question is how long it will take for everyone to recognize it as Iggy continues to work behind the scenes.