Before I get into my take on why I believe our much maligned forward shouldn't be traded, I'd like to purvey my feelings on basketball as a whole (which will ultimately tie into my reasoning), so if you could just bear with me for a few paragraphs I'd be indebted.
I'd like to start by confessing that I am no large fan of the sport of basketball, and more centrally, the NBA. Professional basketball, and by default the 76ers, take a backseat to hockey, baseball, and football for me. That isn't to say I don't love the Sixers with all my heart, but they aren't quite as sentimentally attached to me as my favorite teams of other sports. A large reason behind this lack of sentimentality is my displeasure about how the NBA is run as a league. David Stern is content to let the players of the league do whatever they want, go where ever they feel, with no regard for parity or equity. If you can attract the best players in the league, good for you. If not, too bad!
Before I go any further, I'd like to pay some respect for guys like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli (all drafted by the Spurs), Dirk Nowitzki, and on a shorter term Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. These players, Duncan in particular, could have up and left and been courted by a team with a star. Duncan could have decided to cause an uproar and leave an aging David Robinson after the original championship victory in search for a new big talent (Allen Iverson, as an example) to pair up with. Instead, he never had any intentions of leaving and was rewarded with stellar teammates who have helped Duncan win two more championships since.
For whatever reason, unlike Duncan most of the great contemporary players in this league have no sense of pride or loyalty whatsoever. Some examples are Chris Paul, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and you could even include most of the 2004 Pistons roster as well. Dwight Howard is trying to claw his way out of Orlando in search for a team with established star or stars. And I'm sure there are many more players that I haven't considered. If you look at the places these guys came from (New Orleans, Phoenix, Denver, Cleveland, Toronto, Minnesota, Seattle/Oklahoma City, Utah, Washington, Orlando) you'll notice a couple things: first off, none of these cities are as large or high-profile as the places the stars went to. Second, basketball takes back-seat to in terms of importance and media coverage to other sports in most of those cities. Third, those cities have been limited by their aforementioned shortcomings and could never secure another star to help their stud out. I'd like to use Chris Paul as an example of how this horrible trend destroys the sanctity and enjoyment I should get out of following the NBA.
The saga is well known by know. Chris Paul was not going to stay with the Hornets once he hit free agency. No, he wanted to go to places like New York or Los Angeles and "team up with some of the other best players in the league." But if everyone could look a little deeper, and perhaps a little further up north. There are two teams that I think would have been a good landing place for Paul with the stellar (if not underrated) big man talent in Milwaukee and Minnesota, sporting Andrew Bogut and Kevin Love respectively. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who could convince me that a team anchored by either of those men plus Paul wouldn't be a perennial championship contender. So why didn't Paul to the places that could have had arguably as much talent as the Knicks and Lakers of the league had CP3 went there?
I believe it stems back to the things I identified at the end of my fourth paragraph. Neither Milwaukee nor Minnesota are known for their rich histories or rabid basketball fan bases (and you could debate that the LA Clippers aren't, either). These teams also fall into the "not a big city" category. So, to me, it seems as if the media presence and lifestyle of the city played far too large a role in where Chris Paul wanted to go (and in David Stern's NBA, the stars get what they want). He could have chose to join a team with up-and-coming stars and transform them into the next OKC Thunder, but he didn't. That, that oversized hubris, that unchecked cockiness, the lack of a willingness to actually work for something, is one of the main reasons why I believe this is a joke; star-caliber players are allowed, encouraged even, and as a result more than willing to leave their team and head into the spotlight with their best-buddy star in the big city to get a guaranteed shot at a championship, instead of remaining loyal to the their team or going to a team without a rich history or much success to try to lead them to the promised land, to work for it and earn their right to be ranked among the NBA's most elite instead of having it handed to them. And, unfortunately, basketball and the Sixers takes a backseat in Philadelphia to the Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers. Basketball stars apparently don't want to go somewhere where they may have to actually fight for a championship, to go somewhere where they're going to have to compete for the attention of a city, or to a city that may not entitle them to pursue the lifestyle and notoriety of royalty, god forbid.
And that's both why I despise the NBA yet love Andre Iguodala. Andre's been the center of this team since the original AI left, like it or not. He's never been able to do it himself, like most stars aren't able to, and it doesn't help that he's seen as a second-tier star (or sidekick, if you will). Philadelphia has not in the six years he's been the face of the franchise been able to secure another star to complement Andre. He's had to try his best to lead the team to success with only role players; Lebron James couldn't even do it and eventually got fed up with such a challenging task. Yet through it all, through the almost constant trade rumors, the general discontent with what Andre has done both record-wise and statistically in his time here, and the audible jeers given at almost every game, Andre puts his head down and pours his heart and soul into every game of every season for the city and for the fans. Not once has he asked to be traded to a contender, nor has he asked the Sixers front office to go out and sign a star or else watch him leave for greener pastures. Andre has stuck with the Sixers through think and thin, for better or worse, and will continue to do so. It's the mark of loyalty and the willingness to give everything he has to the team that gave him the spotlight amidst a city that would rather see him gone and a front office that hasn't given him the best opportunity to win that makes him invaluable to the 76ers. Nothing, and I repeat NOTHING we would get as compensation would be fair return for what Andre Iguodala offers us night in and night out.
In a league dominated by lazy, attention-whoring, prima-donna superstars, I'm glad we have Andre Iguodala as the face of our team. I hope that the Sixers brass feels the same. I also hope that they can find a way to provide Iggy with the necessary tools to help him win a championship he so desperately deserves a shot at. Until then, I hope this city can begin to realize and appreciate the sacrifices Iguodala makes and has made not for the good of himself, but for the good of the Philadelphia 76ers.