Andre Iguodala has now made it to the NBA Finals seven times across his illustrious 18-year career, but he still knows how hard it is to get there and the significance of the moment.
That’s why he’s willing to put it all on the line for one more shot at eternal basketball glory -- even if “all” means sacrificing his 38-year-old body out on the floor.
Riddled with injuries throughout the 2021-22 season, Iguodala appeared in just 31 games as the Warriors clawed their way back to the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2019.
He exited Golden State’s opening-round matchup against the Denver Nuggets with a neck injury but was able to return to the court during Game 1 of the Finals, playing in 12 minutes off the bench.
After the Warriors eventually lost the series opener to the Boston Celtics on Thursday, Iguodala said during his “Point Forward” podcast that his physical setbacks would have kept him off the court had Thursday been a regular-season game.
But in the postseason? Game on.
His comments prompted NBC Sports Bay Area’s Kerith Burke to ask the three-time NBA champion a thought-provoking question on Saturday: Why is the prize of a championship so great that you’ll put your body on the line?
“That’s a good question. It’s really for guys that are playing with -- different reasons,” Iguodala told Burke. “Some guys may not understand the magnitude of it all, and it’s not their fault. It’s just their first time, and you’re trying to process everything that comes with being in the Finals.”
The 2021-22 Warriors are a unique blend of playoff-experienced greats hunting a fourth title and young, rising stars looking to make their mark on the league. If there’s anything Iguodala, the team’s other veterans and its up-and-coming phenoms can all understand -- albeit in their own different ways -- it’s that the Finals are a moment they must seize.
“For other guys, they understand this doesn’t happen so often … I think the overall sentiment for those three guys after we won the first one was that they were going to continue to be this dominant this long,” Iguodala continued. “I think we take it for granted because we’re so close to our athletes now. We’re so close to them in social media, we start to forget and take for granted how -- we should appreciate them a lot more.
“It’s a really long run to go to the Finals -- this group, six out of eight or nine years, whatever it is, doesn’t happen every day. Only the greats, the real greats do it.”
Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson already sit atop the NBA summit as one of the best trios to ever play the game. The winning aura that surrounds them thanks to their three championship rings is one that can only be found in the likes of other legends like LeBron James, Iguodala noted.
Across the years, winning has come to be expected of Curry, Green and Thompson. Anything less doesn’t make sense to outsiders who take their greatness for granted, he added.
“... We made it look normal to where people have taken it for granted or can take certain shots at us, whereas in previous generations throughout sports in general, people understood how tough it really was,” Iguodala said. “Now there's just so much access, we think it's kind of like a walk in the park, like, 'Hey, let's go down and play basketball in the Finals again,' where it's just a really tough road.”
So what does all of this have to do with Iguodala and his still-ailing body? He’s on the court in spite of his setbacks because no matter what anyone else might think, reaching the Finals should be treated as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Before Game 1, Iguodala lamented that he hadn’t truly soaked in his past championships with memories, mementos or photos. It’s clear that this time around, he isn’t making the same mistakes -- no matter what his body says.
“Understanding the importance of each chance you get, you want to try to maximize it because you don't want to look back and think you let one get away,” Iguodala said. “That's the sacrifice of playing through certain things.”