The All Alphabet league wanders into I territory. Perhaps we should make it sound a little more modern: the iTeam, anyone?
Small Forward – Andre Iguodala
In time, Brandon Ingram will likely take this slot in the iTeam, but with only one season as a positive contributor to his name, Iggy holds his place.
Iguodala is most renowned for his time as the sage 6th man and defensive stopper with Golden State, where he won three titles and (somewhat controversially) an Finals MVP. His peak as a player, however, was in Philadelphia where in eight seasons he gave the Sixers 15.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.7 steals and outstanding two way play.
He has an All Star appearance and a pair of All Defensive Teams to his name, and is perhaps unlucky not to have more. From 2007 through 2010, it’s almost inconceivable that Iggy couldn’t have made an All Star roster in the weaker Eastern Conference. In his early days, he was an athletic marvel. Just look at some of these plays:
Whilst he’s never been a knockdown shooter – his game was built on the ability to drive and finish – he’s knocked down many timely shots through his career.
Iguodala’s a bit of a riddle. His career has perhaps been a touch overrated due to his time with the Warriors, but he could also quite rightly claim to be under appreciated (and under rewarded) through his early career in Philly. He should also have a Dunk Contest crown to his name. He was robbed blind in 2006. His slam at the 2:35 mark of this video is still one of my favourite dunks:
Perhaps he came along at the wrong time? It would have been wonderful to see his prime coincide with his iTeam running made Iverson.
Power Forward – Dan Issel
Issel’s is one of the more unlikely Hall of Fame careers, with the high scoring forward being an 8th round draft pick in 1970. A Hall of Famer he was, though. The Horse averaged 22.5 points and 9.1 boards per game over his 15 year ABA/NBA career, leading the ABA in scoring in 1971 with 29.9 points a night. He was often to physical for power forwards, and after a mid career switch to playing the ‘5’ full time, Issel was simply too fast for the lumbering centres of the era.
Most remember Issel as a Denver Nugget, where he spent the last the last 10 years of his career, having his #44 jersey retired, and playing in a pair of All Star games – one in each of the ABA and NBA. Issel was also a Coach, General Manager and President of the Nuggets at various points. As a coach, Issel masterminded the 8th seeded Nuggets famous upset of the Sonics back in 1994.
His best years as a player were spent in Kentucky, both in college where he was twice named All American; and in the ABA with the Kentucky Colonels, where he spent the first five years of his career. As a Colonel, he made five All ABA teams and played in five All Star games. Alongside Artis Gilmore and Louie Dampier, he led the Colonels to the 1975 ABA Championship.
Issel remained a productive player to the end, averaging 12.8 points in only 21 minutes per game, coming off the Denver bench as a 36 year old.
Centre - Zydrunas Ilgauskas
The Big Z rounds out our I Team.
A giant of a man, Ilgauskas’ career was – like his fellow 7’3” countryman Arvydas Sabonis - short circuited by foot and leg injuries.
After missing his first NBA season with a broken foot, Ilgauskas debuted in Cleveland in the 1998 season. After a promising rookie campaign in which he gave the Cavs 13.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per night (crucially, he didn’t miss a game), his 2nd season was a write off. Another broken foot meant that Ilgauskas only suited up on five occasions. He continued to suffer injuries over the next two seasons and his productivity dropped off markedly.
Despite being robbed of much of his agility and whatever quickness he had because of his lower body issues, Ilgauskas’ body eventually came good, missing an average of only 3.8 games over the next six seasons. In that span the big Lithuanian played in a pair of All Star games, averaging 15.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
Still the games and blocks record holder in Cleveland, Ilgauskas retired at the age of 35 after a season alongside his great friend LeBron James in Miami. As it was earlier in his career, his big body just couldn’t hold out any longer.