But Iguodala never said he was going to be the next Allen Iverson. From the outset, he has preferred to be known as Dre, rather than the "other A.I." label he was tagged with. He didn't proclaim himself to be mentioned in the same star category as Kobe Bryant or Carmelo Anthony or Le-Bron James or Dwyane Wade.
Iguodala largely has been the player many believed he would be at the NBA level - someone who could defend, score some points, rebound, make the right pass and get out on the fastbreak. For his career, the 6-6 swingman from Arizona, whom the Sixers chose with the ninth pick, has averaged 15.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
This weekend in Orlando, Iguodala will be suiting up as an All-Star for the first time in his career. His numbers this season - 12.4, 6.4, 5.3 - certainly don't suggest that his game has gone to another level. His selection has more to do with how his team was playing (before its current five-game losing streak). And perhaps as a reward for being a little underappreciated during his career despite his performance as a key member of the 2010 gold-medal winners in the World Championships and as a finalist for the U.S. Olympic team that will compete in London this summer.
To trace Iguodala's evolution, the Daily News caught up with the man who drafted him for the Sixers, the man who rewarded him with that contract and the man who has coached him during his All-Star season, along with Iguodala himself.
While Iguodala's scoring numbers were not off the charts in his sophomore season at Arizona, he had impressed NBA scouts with his versatility. He led the Wildcats in rebounds, assists and steals.
The Sixers were so convinced that Iguodala would not be available when they picked at No. 9, they intended not to even bring him in for a workout. At the time, then-coach Jim O'Brien said the team had him as high as No. 3 on its draft board. Thanks to the urging of his agent, Iguodala had a secret workout with the Sixers in the days before the draft.
As trades unfolded in front of the Sixers, Igoudala was still there and the Sixers were thrilled to grab him.
"When we took him I thought he could be the small forward for that team for the rest of his career," said former Sixers president Billy King, now the general manager of the Nets. "We had Allen Iverson and Chris Webber and Glenn Robinson. I remember Jim O'Brien not being so sure about Andre and then halfway through training camp him saying how much he liked him.
"The thing about Andre was that you could tell right away that he believed in himself, and that's half the battle. I think the older players really liked his game and could see he was going to be a good player in this league. I think Allen Iverson may have been a little threatened of him thinking we were grooving Andre to be the next superstar. That wasn't the case, though."
As a rookie, Iguodala started all 82 games and all five playoff games. He took part in the Rookie Challenge at the All-Star Game and was named first-team All-Rookie.
The dynamic and the expectations changed when the Sixers traded Iverson to Denver early in Iguodala's third season. Without Iverson dominating the ball, Iguodala would become one of only four players in the league that season to average at least 18 points, five rebounds and five assists, joining LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady.
"He was put in a tough position when we traded Allen and people thought that he was supposed to be the next superstar of the team," King said. "But we knew he wasn't going to be that guy to score 34 points - it was unfair for people to think that. It still is. But he is a fantastic piece to any puzzle. The thought that a superstar is needed to win championships isn't right. The Pistons did it with a lot of very good players. It can be done and will be done again."
If you can allow yourself to kind of sit back and look at it in a rational sense, Iguodala's play really hasn't been the reason for the fans not embracing him.
Sure, there are the last-minute shot issues, but many times he took them out of necessity. His number was probably being called more than it should have been. If you expected 25 points a game from Iguodala, then, quite frankly, you don't know basketball.
The most common knock people come back to is the contract.
"He should be better, he's getting paid so much," they say.
"He doesn't deserve the money he got."
Can you blame somebody for signing a huge contract? Of course not.
"He is just an all-around basketball player, a stat stuffer," said Toronto general manager Ed Stefanski, who signed Iguodala to that 6-year, $80 million contract in 2008 while he was the Sixers' GM. "He puts up numbers across the board, plays hard and plays at the defensive end.
"Is he a superstar? No, but he's a very good player, much underappreciated for what he does. He's not outgoing and not expressive, which has hurt him with the fans. But I will tell you, he is very well respected throughout the league and with coaches. Before the contract was signed, the fans wanted more from Andre. We gave him a very nice contract, not a maximum contract. I think that's part of why he's never really hit it off with the fans. But what he does on the basketball court, I will tell you that other teams would die for.''
The point that general managers, coaches and other players make is this: The guy is one of the best all-around players in the league. The problem Iguodala has in Philadelphia is that he makes a ton of money and he doesn't have a star player on the team to which he could play second fiddle. Stefanski signed Elton Brand to be that leader, but says injuries didn't allow that to work out.
"He was a piece to build with," Stefanski said of Iguodala. "If he is your second best player on the team, then you have a contending team; if he's your third best player, then you have a championship team. He was a piece we really liked and he grew nicely and that's why we rewarded him."
Iguodala has had the misfortune to play for five coaches in his 8 seasons in the NBA, creating instability throughout his career. Still, he has put up more-than-adequate numbers. Now he has a coach in Doug Collins who would appear to be staying for a while.
Collins sees this All-Star appearance for Iguodala as a steppingstone in what he considers a very solid career.
"It's going to be an incredible experience for him," Collins said. "Any time you've been through that as a player you can always remember that first moment. Mine was in Philadelphia in the Bicentennial game [in 1976]. And you walk into that locker room with guys you've competed so hard against for so many years, I think it was my fourth year, and you look around that locker room at guys you've competed with and admired and all of a sudden you're sitting in the same locker room. You look up and you see your jersey with your name on the back, all the stuff that goes with it, hanging out with the guys all weekend. You're in the fraternity now of being an All-Star.
"We're very happy for Dre. He's had to battle through a lot of adversity to be there, so that makes it even sweeter. He's worked very, very hard, and we're proud."
His own words
Although he wouldn't allow himself to overly show his emotions, as usual, Iguodala is happy about his selection.
"I just try to fill the void, I try to do that every night," he said. "Watching the guys I watched growing up, the Pennys [Hardaway], the Pippens [Scottie] and Kidds [Jason] . . . Jason Kidd never averaged 20 in a year and Magic Johnson was a guy who [wasn't known for his scoring]. They had a big impact on their team. I try to have the same impact. I think it's showing a little bit this year.
"I'm really happy to be an All-Star, but the team's success has been good for our guys and our players. That's something that I've learned in this league - the younger guys always remember those vets who made an imprint on their careers, and I try to do that. I remember the Aaron McKies, the Marc Jacksons, Alan Hendersons, Kevin Ollies, those guys left their marks on my career, helping me to become a better player, a better person. If I can help out these young guys, 10 years down the line when they remember me that will be a great accomplishment."
The next step
Iguodala is due $14.7 million next season and $15.9 million in the final year of the contract, in 2013-14, and will have an All-Star appearance and potentially an Olympic medal on his resume.
The Sixers were in discussions with several teams before the draft last June and the expectation was that Iguodala would be traded. The new owners are said to have nixed those plans.
With the team having taken another step, perhaps the view will be different this offseason.
You can't help but wonder how Sixers fans eventually will view Iguodala. Or if he'll even be here after this season for the opinion to change.
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