We're dangerously close to the start of the NBA season, with all its drama and months of madness. To us, part of the beauty of the NBA is that its focus, while ultimately on the team, falls on the individual. The plight of one player becomes an epic tale in the shadow of Jordan; who is the real alpha dog? It's this source of expression and personal comedy/tragedy that makes the game so compelling. There's nowhere to hide out there.
No site captures this feel more than the great Free Darko, which we read like a doctor's chart every day during the NBA season. They understand the dichotomy between individual achievement and collective glory, and how those are not mutually exclusive. And they've got a way with letters too. Right now, they're actually doing a writeup on every single NBA player.
Therefore, we've asked them to look at the arcs of certain players going into this season, what 2007-08 means to them, their teams and their legacies. They'll be previewing a player a day, up to tipoff next Tuesday.
Today: Andre Iguodala. Your author is Billups. His words are after the jump.
You think when Bob Horry is sitting in his rec room watching his own highlight reel in his underwear with a clothespin clamped to his nipple ...do you think he feels a sense of completion and peace that Charles Barkley lacks? That Patrick Ewing can't fathom?
Nobody's called me Sauron since about 3 a.m. this morning, but I can say this with about as much confidence as the next hobo: NBA championship rings are not forged in Middle Earth. They do not grant special powers. Robert Horry's memories of bodying the Pacers in 2003 are no more palpable than your recollections of making out with some girl named Jenny in 2003. In fact, depending on the amount of Northern Lights Bob smokes, you might be more in touch with your past than he is!
Be that as it may, Horry is probably the envy of his peers. He's got what all card-carrying members of the Players Association long for: Time and time again, after years of racking up personal accolades, players decide that the light at the end of the tunnel is either the shining glory of a championship or an Acela express headed to Dr Phil's or John Lucas' rehab spot.
Basketball is fucking stupid because the season is too long to drum up any ANY GIVEN SUNDAY/TWO SKYNET ROBOTS GO AT IT/DRINK PEPSI/GOD THAT GUY SOUNDS JUST LIKE JOHN MADDEN excitement like the NFL does; and it's too short to give boners to cats like Roger Angell who like thinking about the way grass smells.
But every year—whether it's Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone—players go running to Dallas or LA or Miami in search of jewelry the way Bubbles hit Hamsterdam looking for that WMD. And why? So Jim Gray could ask them what was going through their mind? So they could say they took a giant crap on their opponent?
Not to get all Philip K. Mindblower here, but winning is more or less an Institutional State Apparatus (I went to college) ... I think (I didn't finish), promoted as the pot 'o gold at the end of the journey where you take 'em one game at a time because it's easy to get up in the morning and look at the box score and see the Celtics won or lost and decide whether or not you're happy or not with being a human. Fuck that.
This year, I'm giving up on giving a shit about winning. And Andre Iguodala is going to get me straight.
Philly already lives and dies with the fortunes of the Eagles. When the Birds win, it's like the bongo rave orgy in The Matrix. And when they lose it's like a living breathing Flemish painting complete with domestic violence, rivers of Yuengling and the imposition of mob rule where bands of men in throwbacks scavenge the roads for gasoline and the masses pray to an unseen pagan idol named Howard Eskin.
So under the cover of apathy the Sixers are free to find the meaning in between W and L; and AI vers. 2.0 is the Shackleton of that gray area.
Iguodala is like a YouTube clip that eats and plays Wii. Will he be a folk hero like Iverson? Fuck no. But he will be Richard Jefferson if Richard Jefferson didn't always look like he just listened to the first Sunny Day Real Estate record. Which means he could be a second tier Joe Johnson. Which is really all I want from a player.
On both sides of the ball the action starts in the overture; you can see the storm clouds gathering with Andre; you can hear the opening theme of The Untouchables playing. And when he gets the pill he switches to thermal and goes hunting.
He is dazzling on the break; keeps his cool when shit gets deeper; can play four positions as well as anyone on the team. He's basically a worse version of LeBron without the Sprite commercials.
Dig it: The end is not the end, people. 82-0? 41-41? Two inches or a yard, rock hard or if it's sagging: sit back in the Billy Beane-bag and get hip to this fact: In this here city game , the poetry is scribbled in the margins. You should check for Iguodala because even if he isn't the number one pick to sell bubble gum or property in Arkansas, he's pretty much the best reason to get the NBA Season Pass. Love the game. Don't worry about the rings.