Philadelphia 76ers fans like myself are in the process of saying goodbye to our signature player of the last few years. But he was traded by the Sixers to the Denver Nuggets on Aug. 9 after an era that had a lot of high points, but didn't live up to its promise. By the end, he was more valuable as trade bait as the Sixers needed to move on and start anew. In fact, Andre Iguodala is not even the first "A.I." in Philadelphia to go through the exact same thing.
Iguodala will never be mistaken for Allen Iverson, except for having the same initials in his name. Yet both Iguodala and Iverson wound up getting traded to the Nuggets at the end of their tenure in Philadelphia - tenures that didn't fulfill expectations for various reasons.
Iverson's era was far more noteworthy, of course, since he was one of the biggest stars in the NBA and willed the Sixers to the 2001 NBA Finals. But no matter what Philadelphia did and who it paired Iverson with, one conference title was all it could get with the first "A.I." And as the winning declined, Iverson's antics and attitude were no longer as easy to put up with.
By fall 2006, it was time for the Sixers to start over. They had already drafted the next "A.I." in Iguodala, who would lead the new core of Sixers in the post-Iverson era. But after Iverson was finally dealt to the Nuggets, the franchise tumbled further into mediocrity and Iguodala was put in place as a scapegoat.
As an heir to Iverson, Iguodala couldn't quite live up to his predecessor. Yet since he was the closest thing to a star in Philadelphia, he was held up as the prime example of why the Sixers couldn't improve their status. They were only good enough to be in the middle of the pack because their No. 1 player was only a middle of the pack star, or so the thinking went. As such, in order to start over, the Sixers had to deal another "A.I." away.
But unlike Iverson, Iguodala ended his career in Philadelphia on top. He became an All-Star for the first time in 2012 and hit the free throws that sealed the Sixers' first round upset over the Chicago Bulls. In addition, he was selected to Team USA and is in position to win a gold medal on Aug. 12 against Spain. His value had never been higher after this season - which made him perfect to give away now so Philadelphia could get a much bigger star in Andrew Bynum.
Still, the last time the Sixers sent an "A.I." to the Nuggets, they didn't exactly get better and Iverson began his decline soon after. Will Iguodala's skills decline after leaving Philadelphia as well, or was he dealt just in time at the peak of his career, unlike Iverson?
The Sixers certainly seem better off, since unlike in fall 2006, they are replacing one leader with an actual proven star in Bynum. For the first time since 1996, there is no "A.I." in Philadelphia at all, so this is truly a new era for Sixers basketball - but time will tell if this new era is really for the best.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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