An unexpected hero in June’s NBA Finals, Golden State Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala made his first visit to Japan with both the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy and his Finals MVP Trophy in tow on the NBA Clutch Time Trophy Tour earlier this week.
“It’s been a lot of fun, it’s been real good,” Iguodala said at the headquarters of Wowow, a Japanese cable television station, in Tokyo on the final day of his three-day tour on Thursday.
The 31-year-old had been named to the NBA’s All-Defensive team twice (2011 and 2014) and also won a pair of gold medals at the 2012 Olympics and the 2010 world championship with the U.S. national team. Still, perhaps there was nobody who had “Iggy,” who didn’t start any games in the 2014-15 regular season, listed as a potential candidate for Finals MVP entering the championship series.
And without that MVP trophy in his hands, Iguodala wouldn’t have been in Japan to greet and interact with the local NBA fans.
Iguodala won the Finals MVP award because of his contributions on both sides of the ball for the Warriors, who captured the league championship for the first time in 40 years in the six-game series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But the defensive effort he put forth in guarding LeBron James, the Cavs’ superstar, boosted his bid for the individual accolade.
Iguodala, however, politely and humbly rejected the idea that he halted James by himself.
“Well, you’ve got to have a team defense more than anything,” said Iguodala, who averaged 16.3 points, 4.0 assists and 5.8 rebounds in the Finals. “We had a really sound defensive scheme. We weren’t willing to give up. We wanted to make it (for James) as hard as possible. For you to win a championship, you’ve got to be able to do it with a team effort.
“Knowing where other guys were on the floor, knowing where my teammates were, I was always on the same page. That helps a lot. I would understand where my teammates would be. I just followed, not only my principles, but the team principles as well.”
Iguodala said he mostly played as a point guard growing up and then moved to center in high school. Maybe that gave him the versatility he’s shown at the pro level. It’s also contributed to his play against bigger opponents like James, who is taller by 5 cm and heavier by about 15 kg.
“It helps (in) positioning or boxing out, or knowing how to guard guys with the ball on the post,” the University of Arizona product said.
“You guard him, distract him or deflect him, or push him off the block a little bit further than he would like. Just being all over the floor and having a good court awareness can help out.”
Iguodala is also an earnest learner of the game off the court. He established a habit of studying film and taking notes on other players during his rookie year with the Philadelphia 76ers.
“I’ve just been doing it from the beginning (of my career),” Iguodala, the ninth overall selection by the 76ers in the 2004 NBA Draft, said of his studying habit.
“I kinda learned that from old veteran players. Aaron McKie was one of my teammates (in my rookie year). He kinda taught me how to scout.”
Iguodala, a Springfield, Illinois, native, said he loved Japanese yakiniku he had during his trip here. His hard work on and off the court and ascent in the Finals earned him that, too.