A bonafide star since his early days with the Philadelphia 76ers, Andre Iguodala’s athleticism and defensive tenacity have become hallmarks of his undeniable talent as a professional athlete, Olympic gold medalist and NBA champion. An overachiever that continually flies under the radar, Andre’s quiet blend of confidence and sophistication has seamlessly allowed his transition off the hardwood into life after basketball, an inevitable reality for every player that walks through the NBA’s proverbial spinning doors.
Enthusiastic in his approach to business and role as an entrepreneur, Iguodala’s arrival in Golden State was a somewhat calculated decision that’s paid dividends with on-court success and personal growth in the tech capital of the world, just a half hour away from the Warriors’ stomping grounds known as “Roarcle” Arena.
During a recent stretch of home games in the middle of one of the most fascinating NBA seasons in recent times, I caught up with Golden State Warriors star forward, fashion connoisseur, and reigning Finals MVP, Andre Iguodala, for some insight into his interests outside of basketball, what he looks for in a startup and a little bit of insight into some of his teammate’s marketing shenanigans, which have shifted the landscape of basketball footwear for the foreseeable future.
On the court, you’re recognized as a world-class athlete, an NBA champion and tenacious hooper, but what’s Andre Iguodala like off the hardwood?
Playing basketball has allowed me to explore so many different things, whether it be traveling to Paris for fashion week or going to Japan on a world championship tour. Off the court, I’m just a guy with a lot of interests. Even though it’s a big part of me, my life isn’t consumed with just basketball. The foundation is basketball, but like a tree, I’ve been able to branch out and do so many different things that have substance to them. It’s not about material things, but just enjoying what’s here, while I’m here.
I read while at the University of Arizona you didn’t even know you’d be a lottery pick, until right before the draft. With that in mind, I’m sure you had plans for a profession after college. How soon in your career did you start to think about life after basketball?
I was fortunate enough to have some really positive veteran teammates. These guys were middle-of-the-road, so they were talented, but they also had to carry themselves in a professional manner to stay [in the NBA]. They were really smart about that. Those were the guys who were always thinking, “What’s next for me, what’s after basketball?”
I followed them closely to see how they dressed, how they carried themselves. Being in Philadelphia, which his a very cultured city because of its proximity to New York, you see a lot of different tastemakers and trendsetters. That East Coast vibe you really pick up on and I think being there for a while helped me grow.
When you became a free agent in 2013 you had the opportunity to dictate your future. How much of an influence did Golden State’s proximity to Silicon Valley have on your decision to come to the Warriors?
I was in a unique position to find a place where my off-court interests met with my on-court interests. Obviously, you want to win and that comes first. You want to be in a position where you can help a team win. When you have a place like Silicon Valley so close and so heavily involved in the area you want to try to take advantage of that. That was always an interest of mine from my time in Philly. The timing was perfect as far as basketball goes. The business aspect off the court was at the same level.
I’m very emotional, very into the game, as far as wanting to be perfect, because once you get that feeling of winning a championship, you chase it every time.
You’re obviously into networking when it comes to tech. As an investor, what do you consistently look for in a start-up?
You’re always looking for something that’s disruptive. What market hasn’t been tapped that you can disrupt? What market hasn’t changed in the last 25-50 years and still has the same mom-and-pop mentality, where you can come in and disrupt it?
Everybody’s trying to do something. You have to do more and more research. People are coming up with things every day. I’ve been able to connect with some really forward-thinking people, especially in the African-American community. There’s a lot of things in our community that haven’t been tapped or haven’t been taken advantage of for my people. It’s fun. It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow in that regard.
One of the first ventures I noticed you were involved with was online marketplace Twice. Although it was short-lived because of its eventual transformation into eBay Valet, can you talk about your time there and what you learned from that experience?
That was a great experience because you’re trying to find a niche in that space. You’re kind of figuring it out for the first time. So you ask yourself, what can I bring to the table? That’s something that the team always wants to have set in concrete when we go into a meeting with a company or innovator. How can we disrupt something? How can I implement myself into that company?
With Twice [my role] was becoming the men’s style director, curating looks, putting lookbooks together and doing short videos on essential pieces that men needed. That was a great experience in taking baby steps. Having built my brand since I first got into the league, I’ve always wanted to present myself in a certain way and I was able to build some credibility there.
Speaking of online, how do you do your shopping when it comes to clothes?
For me, the hardest thing about shopping is just finding the right size and fit. With handheld devices in your pocket, always in front of you, on plane rides, in hotels at night, you know what you like [from what you see online]. The hardest part is getting it. You have to find the right people to connect with and the right companies who will tailor to your needs.
I was in New York recently and went to the Rochambeau offices. We had a great meeting and are doing some collaborations together. Networking is always important. If you have a passion for something, you’ll make time for it. When I travel my schedule is crazy, but like I said, put the right people in your circle and you’ll get things done.
How difficult is it to get fashion houses to make custom clothing for yourself, and athletes in general, who tend to be much larger in size than the general public?
I think it’s a process and it’s grown over time. When you saw the NBA implement a dress code, no one really knew what it was. No one quite knew what it would come of it. You start seeing players expressing themselves a little bit more with high fashion. The designers at these fashion houses, they started to realize that and said we need to have something for these guys. “They’re coming to us for things, so we need to have it ready for them.”
[As NBA players] we’re learning the process as well, of how things work. Putting your order in six months early. You’re always a season ahead. Once that season hits, your wardrobe starts coming in. That’s becoming the regular routine for us now, as opposed to just going to the store and buying something. We just get it in advance so when the season comes around its ready for us and it fits just right.
How up to date are you on trends and the outlets who dictate them?
A little bit. When I was in Philly I did a lot. I had a few sites that I followed and some blogs on Tumblr. HYPEBEAST, SSENSE, MR PORTER, Life + Times. I had about six or seven blogs that some really cool friends put me onto. I was heavily into it then.
From there you kind of establish exactly what you want in that space. Once you figure it out, you got it. You don’t have to see as much because you know exactly what you like and you know who tailors to you. You know what fits on you. You don’t need to ask much.
I’m into golf right now. I’m heavily into it, so the better and better I get, the less information that I’ve been studying before I need. It’s about putting your hours in. That’s how I’ve come along with fashion.
How do you stack up with Steph on the golf course? I hear he’s good.
Not even close. He’s really good, too good, jealous good.
So he could compete on the tour?
Yep, he’s that good. I watched him shoot under par a couple times. He’s like, ‘I’m not hitting the ball that well today.’ Its crazy. Its fun to watch.
How did you dress as a kid?
As a kid? We were barely getting by, like month-to-month, but I didn’t realize it. You think everything’s cool, like ‘We’re all right. I’ve got a coat. I got some cool kicks.’ Every once in a while at Christmas time I got some presents. My mother was fashion forward. You had your school clothes and you had your play clothes. As soon as you come home you had to take off your clothes. That established a respect for nice things at a young age. ‘I don’t want to mess these jeans up because I just got them.’
That’s how my kid is. His Nikes are on his desk and they’re spotless.
It’s funny seeing that. That’s kind of how I was raised. Easter was a big day. That’s when you put on a suit once a year. You went shopping for that one day. It got established at a young age that you want to present yourself in the right manner for your surroundings.
What’s that one piece in your wardrobe that you just can’t do without?
I feel naked if I don’t have a watch on. It’s weird. When I walk out of the house and I don’t have my watch, I start fidgeting with my left wrist. It just bugs me all the time so I have to have a watch on. Even though the time’s never right.
When I travel my schedule is crazy, but like I said, put the right people in your circle and you’ll get things done.
With the squad doing as well as it has been this season, there isn’t much to nitpick, but on an individual level, what would you say is the part of your game you’re always looking to perfect?
[The team] is like a band playing in sync, you want your whole set to be perfect. Although you know somebody might go off beat, maybe one note, no one really notices, because the team is so good and they keep it together. Every game I’m striving for that perfect set, from my teammates, from myself and from our coaching staff.
I’m very emotional, very into the game, as far as wanting to be perfect, because once you get that feeling of winning a championship, you chase it every time. Its like chasing a high. You just keep chasing it.
We won by 30-40 points one night and I was like, “Okay, we did ten things wrong.” My teammates think I’m crazy. They’re like, “We just won.” I’m like, “We’re not playing against the Phoenix Suns, we’re playing against ourselves and I want us to be perfect every single night.” Just having that mindset, making sure my game is always ready, even when you’re not feeling well, you’re just willing yourself to play at a high level every single night. It’s a mindset.
How tough was it transitioning from being the star player on a team to coming to a star-studded lineup in Golden State where you’re sometimes waiting in the shadows to shine, much like you did in last year’s Finals?
I was 29 at the time [I came to Golden State] so I had done a lot in my career and I was really wanting to win. The coach we had at the time was Mark Jackson, so I wasn’t worried about that just because I had watched him coach these guys.
Everyone played with such a free spirit. You just play to your strengths. There was enough room and enough time for everybody to shine and do their thing, so I wasn’t really worried about that, but when you bring a new guy into a team that has a core set up, theres a chance for some friction there. Guys might not want you to outshine them, but we never had that problem. It was pretty easy because I played point guard until my senior year of high school. Most people don’t know that because I was on the scene so late. I was just used to feeding everybody else and getting mine at the same time.
Being in Philly and having to take all of the load and take all of the blame, that helps you grow, but it also helps to take a backseat, so we all can succeed and we all share the wealth and then we all share the blame. Just seeing everything [in my career], from hostile environments to high profile environments, you grow to understand how the game works.
I think the most rewarding part of watching Warriors games is getting that college style rush, where everyone is having fun and competing. You don’t see that with many, if any, other teams in the NBA. It’s infectious.
I don’t like giving this secret away, but… it’s funny because I was reading something one time.
This was when Boston had KG and Rondo, Paul and Ray, and all those guys. They were talking about player contact, teammate contact and how it correlated to wins. Teams that high five the most have a higher winning percentage. It was just weird to me so I just started trying it. Just making sure I high fived my teammates all the time like, ‘It’s all right!’.
In Philly, that was one of my favorite teams, that was like one of my top two teams. Obviously the team here with the title and winning the championship [is special], but that Philly team might be my favorite team because of how close we were. Although we weren’t the most talented team, we got the most out of ourselves, night in and night out. Teams knew they had to fight to win against us. We always slapped hands, we always hung out, we always kept in contact with each other off the court. Those are the things that help you the most when you’re in the trenches and in tough situations with your backs against the wall. Those are the guys you’ve got to fight with.
I remember when Kent Bazemore was with the dubs, he was the team spirit.
Kent Bazemore! [laughs]
Ken’s my man. Good kid. He’s in Atlanta right now. He was a guy who didn’t play much but had a brand. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. He would work the hell out of his brand, but he didn’t play his first year.
He was with a shoe company and he was reppin’ the hell out of them. That turned into Steph going there… he was pitching Steph the whole time. It was funny.
Man, he could have been with anyone. He didn’t care. ‘This is my company and it’s the best company of all time.’