Andre Iguodala found himself in recent months in discussions with his few N.B.A. peers remaining, the ones who sculpted paralleling journeys, from being teenagers to experiencing parenthood, from playing for free in high school gyms to playing for millions in front of thousands.
He made a guest appearance on JJ Redick’s podcast. He caught up with Carmelo Anthony during a game’s break. “Like old guys do at the free-throw line,” Iguodala joked.
Iguodala met Anthony and Redick on the A.A.U. circuit nearly two decades ago. Now, they represent the final members of the 2002 high school graduating class still in the N.B.A. Iguodala spoke with them about how they wanted their careers to end and who would be the last one left playing.
Iguodala, 37, will be in the running. He told The New York Times that he intends to sign a one-year deal to return to the Golden State Warriors, the franchise with whom he won three N.B.A. championships and in 2015 claimed the finals Most Valuable Player Award.
“Who would have thought I’d have the opportunity to go back to the place where I was able to have, whatever you want to call it, legacy years, in terms of the accomplishments, winning multiple championships, the relationships that I was able to build with some of my closest friends and teammates?” Iguodala said, adding: “The relationship with the fans, the relationship with the Bay, the opportunity to end it here, was just something special.”
Golden State made finals appearances a near-annual occurrence during Iguodala’s six-year stint from 2013 to 2019. The run ended after the 2018-19 season when injuries to Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant derailed aspirations of a third consecutive championship.
That summer, Durant joined the Nets and Golden State traded Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies. Miami later acquired Iguodala in a trade.
Inside the 2020 N.B.A. bubble, Iguodala played in his sixth consecutive finals when the Heat fell to the Lakers in six games. Then last season, the Milwaukee Bucks, the league’s eventual champions, swept Miami from the playoffs in the first round.
Miami declined its team option for Iguodala’s contract for 2021-22 and plans to sign one of the most coveted free agents, point guard Kyle Lowry, and keep the restricted free agent Duncan Robinson.
Golden State and Miami represented opposing basketball philosophies that led to both fielding competitive teams.
“You had a lot of veteran guys who knew how to get their work in and everyone could go out there on their own pace,” Iguodala said of his run in Golden State. “It was kind of just all-inviting vibes, where it was carefree, relaxing and it was kind of like Hawaiian-type vibes.”
Not so much in Miami.
“It was the other end of the spectrum, where it was ultra-focused,” he said. “We had a drill called Hunger Games, where it was exactly what it sounds like from the movie — when you’re talking about to the death. That’s when I learned to appreciate different approaches.”
Iguodala returns to an organization hoping to recapture its magic with a familiar, yet older core.
Golden State failed to qualify for last season’s playoffs after dropping play-in games to the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies. Stephen Curry regained his M.V.P. form through much of the 2020-21 season and recently agreed to an extension for a reported four years and $215 million. Thompson is working his way back following back-to-back leg injuries that sidelined him the last two seasons. And Draymond Green is vying for another gold medal at the Olympics in Tokyo.
Those relationships never ended.
The last couple of years, Iguodala continued debating and discussing basketball philosophy with Green. He talked life and golf with Curry, appreciating how he built his brand. He plans to ride on Thompson’s boat to a practice or two. “I’m looking forward to that, actually,” he said.
Just as meaningful in his return, Iguodala said, was the bond he formed with others in the organization. Eric Housen, the team’s director of operations, is “probably just as important as Steph Curry, as far as what he’s done for the organization,” Iguodala said. Jacob Rubin, Golden State’s player development coach, plotted and pleaded for Iguodola’s return from almost the moment the team finalized the Memphis trade.
Iguodala said it’s important to “have real relationships beyond basketball, so you know people don’t have ulterior motives and it’s just genuine and organic.”
The Warriors also have an influx of youth. Golden State drafted center James Wiseman second overall last year and selected the wing players Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody during the lottery in last month’s draft.
Iguodala said he is looking forward to mentoring the team’s younger players like the veterans Kevin Ollie and Aaron McKie did for him when he entered the league — a component he feels is often overlooked — and using the “militaristic, kind of Navy seal approach” he learned in Miami.
“The way that they develop their younger players in making sure they have the proper approach to how they’re doing their job is second to none and I really appreciated that,” Iguodala said, “because there’s a fine line between your superstar and your eighth, ninth guy coming off the bench and all of our guys were always ready.”
Those are lessons, Iguodala said, he can also employ away from the court. Iguodala is also coming back to Silicon Valley where in 2016 he helped create the annual Players Technology Summit. He plans to continue his connecting athletes to venture capital and expand a tech portfolio that includes 71 investments, 12 exits and, he said, a 70 percent return since 2014.
“Historically, we’re taught to stay in a certain lane and this lane, we’ve never had access to and now we’re taking the reins and we’re running with it,” he said.
After missing out on the finals for the first time in seven years, Iguodala pondered retirement — “kind of refreshing to have my mind get a breath of fresh air,” he said — and would have been comfortable had that been his decision. He averaged 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 63 games in Miami last season. As for his peers, Anthony plans to sign with the Lakers, and Redick, a free agent, is expected to continue his career.
“I think I’ve got some more time left,” Iguodala said. “Where I’m comfortable at is I can decide when I’m ready to go. I think I want to leave with just a little bit left. I don’t want to go out on one leg. I know I’ve got a few more years. It’s just my decision whether it’s one or two or three or whatever it may be. I shouldn’t even say three. One or two.”