LONDON – The U.S. men’s basketball team is an Olympic force with its dominant presence on the court and larger-than-life players.
However, 6-foot-6, 210-pound Andre Iguodala, a former University of Arizona standout, is still wary of this city’s infamous pickpockets.
“Walking down the street last night to go to the ATM, the first ATM I skipped because there was somebody just standing right next to the ATM,” Iguodala said. “I think he was waiting on somebody so he could rob them or something. So I walked past that ATM and walked down the street to hit another one around the corner.”
But around the corner the Philadelphia 76ers star saw someone else who seemed ready to pounce.
“I ran into a kid and he was so excited to see me, but he wasn’t from America so it was weird,” Iguodala said. “He was like, ‘Andre Iguodala!’ and it was crazy. It was too late for him to be out, but he was with his parents so we took some pictures and just chatted. It was pretty cool.”
Making his first trip to London, Iguodala has planned tourist trips and time with his family around his basketball schedule.
“I think I’m going sightseeing on Wednesday. I heard Big Ben was nice and the old church was nice,” Iguodala said. “I’m looking forward to every game and the experience. Hanging out with the guys is a lot of fun.”
U.S. teammate and former Arizona State University star James Harden said the ASU-UA rivalry hasn’t come up yet but added that has the edge over Iguodala.
“I never lost to U of A in basketball, so I can always brag to him about that.”
Iguodala may also face some Arizona-related flak Thursday when the team plays Nigeria, home of former Sun Devil Ike Diogu.
Tourist opportunities and old rivalries aside, Iguodala’s focus is helping the U.S. bring home gold. With that in mind, he’s eager for the team to step up its play despite a seemingly effortless 98-71 win Sunday over France.
The team wasn’t sharp, Iguodala said.
“Once we settle in and we get everyone back, we’ll be locked in,” he said.
The U.S. plays Belgium Tuesday.
Iguodala said that while playing abroad the team faces unusual circumstances, such as jet lag and a grueling schedule, with games one day and practices the next, a lot like the NBA playoffs.
Playing in a foreign market also means adapting to inconsistencies in the weights of basketballs – and the troubles that inevitably ensue.
“It doesn’t seem like a big point, but the ball is a little different from what we’re used to. It’s a different texture, it comes off your fingers a little bit different,” Iguodala said. “It can vary in weight from game to game. One game it can be a few ounces off to the next game. You have to adjust your shots. Some days you might have a great ball where it’s going in for you because of the ball and other days you have to adjust to it.”
Those challenges aside, Iguodala said he and his teammates are ready to face any team – well, almost any team. His take on whether this squad could beat the 1992 Dream Team, on which Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were just some of the big names, will have to come later, he said.
“Hopefully, if we get a gold medal I’ll be able to answer that one,” Iguodala said.