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Andre Iguodala Q&A: Aspirations bigger than basketball

Andre Iguodala finds it frustrating to teach and would much rather "show by example." Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Andre Iguodala begins this interview in typical Iguodala fashion. He tells you, "No," there's a slew of curse words, and then he motions that you should begin. Iguodala, who turns 32 on Jan. 28, is something of an NBA curmudgeon. Though still an elite athlete, he's a crotchety wise man, hair sprinkled with gray, dispensing his knowledge via ornate critique. His rebukes usually end with a smile, thankfully.

Known by a few Warriors as "the smartest teammate I ever had," Iguodala can be inscrutable at times. He obsesses over process, but gives little to no indication as to whether the result brings happiness. "All my trophies still in bags," he said after a victory in Denver. "I don't care too much, yet. Maybe [it's] me. Maybe I'll never care. I just like playing ball."

While icing his knees after a long practice, Iguodala spoke with ESPN.com about his process, his past and his ambitions.


Ethan Sherwood Strauss: You've said before that you're like a crazy coach on the floor. I'm wondering, when did that start for you?

Andre Iguodala: I think it was in me. I just didn't know it as a kid. You wanted to do everything really well. Like I can remember when we did left-hand layups in practice. I wanted to be the first guy to make a left-hand layup in a game at a very young age and I was happy. Everyone was like, 'You made a left-hand layup.' That was what was important to me, to do everything well on the court. So it just kind of evolved into bigger roles as I've gotten older.

In college [at Arizona], we had certain principles. Don't drive baseline. We wanted to penetrate middle. I wanted to do all the things really well and effectively and it's kind of translated to the NBA, and as an older [player], playing with younger guys and the second group, we gotta do everything perfect. Like, crisp pass, come to a jump stop. Pivot out of a trap. Get to the fourth or fifth options. Can we do that? Can we challenge ourselves? It's just, I don't know, it's just a crazy part of me. You do something for so long, you just want to keep evolving.

Strauss: Do you like teaching? Do you find it more gratifying or more frustrating?

Iguodala: It's more frustrating to teach. That's why I like to show by example. This is how we should do it. This is how it's done. When we go over this in practice, translate it to the game and when it's translated to the game, I'm really cheering for guys. I'm really like a fan of the guys, like 'Oh, OK, you get it, you're getting better every day.' I'm seeing improvement. I'm not really teaching them; I'm seeing them take something they've learned and implement it into the game.

Strauss: You like seeing people grow. That's something that's gratifying to you.

Iguodala: Yeah, so, I'm on Ian [Clark], I'm on [James Michael] McAdoo, I'm on Festus [Ezeli] a little bit. And it's like, 'Every play, you find something wrong.' I'm like, 'If I find something wrong, I'ma' say it cuz I want you to be great. I want you to protect what you're doing. I know you can't be perfect, but I want you to maximize all your time while you're in the NBA.' Because tomorrow's not promised, right. For everybody.

Strauss: I know your aspirations are bigger than basketball, but when you're talking about this, you sound like a coach. You sound like you want to be that in future.

"It's more frustrating to teach. That's why I like to show by example. This is how we should do it. This is how it's done. When we go over this in practice, translate it to the game and when it's translated to the game, I'm really cheering for guys."

Andre Iguodala

Iguodala: Nah, I don't think I can coach. I mean, [if] Luke [Walton] gets a head-coaching job, if I get bored, I might help him out. ... I see myself doing that for a year here, a year there, but just because I'm bored. There's other things I think I can do that I feel like is bigger than basketball, that I'm really excited about.

Strauss: I don't think people really know about the courtside scene at Oracle right now, how it's this scene for all these tech billionaires. I'm wondering, are you working the room a lot these days? Is that your scene?

Iguodala: Not in Oracle. I try to let the people I do business with off the court know that I'm serious about my business off the court. So I try not to mix the two. I don't want to be a basketball player that's a businessman. I want to be a businessman that's a business. I try to parlay if you can. I want them to know that I'm serious about what I'm doing and it's a priority to me.

Strauss: What attracts you to the tech business? Is it the technology or is it just the money?

Iguodala: Both, obviously. But I think more than anything, if you can find a market to disrupt, and the whole building process. It's not even about the money. The building process, setting out a plan, setting out a business plan, setting up the game plan, it' s just like playing basketball. We be practicing something every day, you're preparing for something 10, 15 years of your life, and then you finally, in reality it comes true. It's the same thing. Come up with a business plan. First, it's like investing: You find little companies you invest in, you're seeing them grow, you're helping them out, you're helping the company grow. Then when you find your own company, and you build that, that's a lot of fun. And I'm in the process of starting something with a close friend and we're going to be amazing when it starts to really grow and I'm really excited about it.

The tech titans and the tech guys who I most admire are the ones behind the scenes. Building companies, they're the ones that are making the most profit, because they're putting everyone in a position, they're placing CEOs. They're placing CFOs. They're really putting the infrastructure of the company together as they're investing in it. It's like being a GM, but you'll never hear their names. Those are the guys that I admire the most.

Strauss: Do you aspire to become a billionaire?

Iguodala: If that's what comes of it.

Strauss: It's about the process for you?

Iguodala: The process is so much fun. The process is a lot of fun, even if it doesn't amount to a billion dollars or what you see, even if you lose money, it's just learning from it and then starting the next one. Learning from that and starting the next one. Because from ourselves, I know what it takes to put in the work and get somewhere like this place. Like it's only 400 guys in the world playing NBA basketball. That's one of the hardest things to do is to make it as a professional athlete. So I know the work ethic and I see it and I know the time that I have to put in to get there. It's the challenge that's a lot of fun.

Strauss: I know you're really on the ball with [the tech industry] and you're really knowledgeable about it (having invested in several companies), but do you feel like there's this barrier because people don't know that about you and might make assumptions about you as an athlete?

Iguodala: Oh yeah, that's always there, but that's another challenge. You just going to have to overcome, they just think you've got an amount of wealth that you think you can just play around with. You're not as well-versed as them, but you're more experienced than they are, actually. Because, what I've done to get to where I'm at can translate to success of other tech companies. I may not have done it in that world, but I've done it in my world and I will bring some of the things that I can to that world and then finding my deficiencies, hiring the best people to fill those deficiencies and I think that's how you grow and build.

Strauss: Would you rather be broadly understood by the public as who you are as a person or as a basketball player?

Iguodala: I'd rather be as a person, obviously. Because as a basketball player, if you read anything negative, it's 'basketball player Andre Iguodala.' If you read anything positive it's 'basketball player Andre Iguodala.' That takes away the person. Sometimes they forget that you're actually a human being. They forget that you can make a mistake. I curse, I might say something bad about someone, I pray like everybody else, most people, I need sleep like most people. I get tired, I get drained, I get emotionally up and down. They forget about that and they kind of put you on a pedestal and, I shouldn't say it but they're almost like waiting for your downfall and they're waiting to attack you. But I think it's getting better because with social media, you can kind of use it the right way, you can connect with people a little bit better and they start to understand who you really are.

"... what I've done to get to where I'm at can translate to success of other tech companies. I may not have done it in that world, but I've done it in my world and I will bring some of the things that I can to that world."

Andre Iguodala

Strauss: I have a theory with you where people didn't initially know how smart you are and some of the things about you because you look athletic.

Iguodala: Exactly. Exactly. And they don't understand that, I try to use my brain on the court and off the court. So I know like, in order to play in this league 15 years, I gotta eat right, I gotta lift weights. So when I get on the court I look a certain way and they're like, 'This guy's cut up, he's just a physical specimen, he's just an athlete,' and then that's all they see and it's like, no, I actually put time into having my body look this way. And you gotta have, some guys it's just in them, they're just going to be physically gifted, but over a long sort of period of time, it may not always be like that. But we can talk on and on and on about that.

Strauss: Is there any sort of moment you remember where people made that kind of assumption and didn't know the real you?

Iguodala: Oh yeah, I mean it's just like high school. Like, in high school people always assume that, even in middle school actually, teachers didn't know that I was in the higher-track classes because they weren't my teachers. They just assume that I was good at basketball ... but there was like, two of me in that class. There were only two of us that looked like that.

Strauss: Looked like what?

Iguodala: That had this type of, this dark ... There was only two of us in that class and even my teammates didn't know. And I think my senior year I was athlete of the week and then I was in the paper a few times for student athlete of the week, and I had 3.8 GPA. I go to the barber shop and it was like, 'Yo, you got straight A's in school?' And I'm like, 'Yeah.' Everybody shocked. Black people, the white people, everybody just like, because that's all they identified me as, just a basketball player. They never saw me. That's what they associated me with.

Strauss: I'm guessing you were good at math.

Iguodala: Yeah, that was my favorite subject. Pre-calculus was a tough subject, but Ms. White, that was my favorite teacher, and she always wanted me to be a math teacher. She was like, 'You should become a math teacher because there aren't many African-American male athletes [who are teachers]. You can have the biggest presence among students, so I always had a special relationship with her.

Strauss: The interview setting postgame, it's really sort of awkward, right? It's like, there are a lot of reporters bothering a lot of players who don't want to answer questions. I feel like you like to shake up that dynamic and remind people of it. Why?

Iguodala: That's more or less just me having fun, and it's kind of like my dry sense of humor and that's how I move myself from the tension, you understand? I think the best way to go about dealing with media is just having fun with it. And for me having fun is just, I'm laughing with myself. Nobody else may understand it, but that's what I enjoy by myself. I'm laughing, but what's so funny it's just, I like to laugh with myself. It sounds weird, but that's what I like to do.