Not since the playing years of Christian Okoye (Kansas City Chiefs) and Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets) has any Nigerian athlete in major United States sports won a major recognition for individual efforts playing Sports.
Christian Okoye won the Rushing Title, as a Running Back– with National Football League’s (NFL) Kansas City Chiefs in 1989. He was such a bruising, power Back that he was nicknamed the “Nigerian Nightmare.”
Then came Hakeem Olajuwon of National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Houston Rockets. Olajuwon won the coveted MVP in the Final games 2 times in a back-to-back fashion (1994-1995. Now a Hall of Famer, he set numerous NBA records that still stand till today. Like his fellow national, Okoye, he was also fondly called “The Dream” by NBA fans –given the way he played Center position.
And now Andre Iguodala of the NBA World Champions Golden State Warriors. He has helped his current team win the 2015 NBA championship, 4 games to 2 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But before joining the Golden State Warriors, Iguodala was the top pick of the Philadelphia 76ers, right out of the University of Arizona, in 2004 and played alongside Allen Iverson. But he was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2012, and was acquired by his current team in 2013.
Without his Basketball IQ and the way he defensed LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors would not have won the 2015 NBA championship. LeBron James is like an alloy of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan –both needing no introduction– and the best NBA player, perhaps ever. But Iguodala almost made LeBron look like an ordinary NBA player. Not an easy task and more like pushing Molue.
Though the Warriors are loaded with talents –including an upstart Nigerian, Festus Ezeli– but James could have really pulled off the impossible of winning the championship with an undermanned team. That was until Steve Kerr, coach of the Warriors benched Bogut and made Iguodala the starter, with the assignment of chasing LeBron James.
Before Kerr made that switch, James and the Cavaliers came within reach of going up 3-0 against the Warriors, were it not for a Cleveland Cavaliers shooting in the final seconds of the first game ricocheted out of the cylinder to send that game to overtime –where the Cavaliers shot poorly, with only 2 LeBron’s points and the Warriors took game 1.
With Iguodala as starter, the Cavaliers where stoutly put in check –even as they too put Stephen Curry on check.
With this performance and fitting MVP recognition, Iguodala, who never hoped to retire with a championship, can now begin to think Hall of Fame –especially if he plays solidly the next 2 seasons, though he doesn’t have to win the MVP Award again. Good luck to him and congratulations to the rest of the Golden State Warriors for their stout performance since the start of the just concluded 2014/2015 NBA season.