The Instant National Bestseller The standout memoir from NBA powerhouse Andre Iguodala, the indomitable sixth man of the Golden State Warriors. Andre Iguodala is one of the most admired players in the NBA. And fresh off the Warriors' fifth Finals appearance in five years, his game has never been stronger. Off the court, Iguodala has earned respect, too--for his successful tech investments, his philanthropy, and increasingly for his contributions to the conversation about race in America. It is no surprise, then, that in his first book, Andre, with his cowriter Carvell Wallace, has pushed himself to go further than he ever has before about his life, not only as an athlete but about what makes him who he is at his core. The Sixth Man traces Andre's journey from childhood in his Illinois hometown to his Bay Area home court today. Basketball has always been there. But this is the story, too, of his experience of the conflict and racial tension always at hand in a professional league made up largely of African American men; of whether and why the athlete owes the total sacrifice of his body; of the relationship between competition and brotherhood among the players of one of history's most glorious championship teams. And of what motivates an athlete to keep striving for more once they've already achieved the highest level of play they could have dreamed. On drive, on leadership, on pain, on accomplishment, on the shame of being given a role, and the glory of taking a role on: This is a powerful memoir of life and basketball that reveals new depths to the superstar athlete, and offers tremendous insight into most urgent stories being told in American society today.
Andre Iguodala is an American professional basketball player who has played for teams including the Philadelphia 76ers and the champion Golden State Warriors. The swingman was an NBA All-Star in 2012 and has been named to the NBA All-Defensive Team twice. Carvell Wallace is an author and podcaster based in Oakland, California. He has covered sports, culture, music, race, and the arts for ESPN, MTV, The New Yorker, GQ , and others. He is a regular columnist on Slate and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine .
01 Early Lessons The Midwest makes a certain kind of person. Even-keeled, simple, and without drama. Where I come from, you get all four seasons with all their fullness and all their difficulty. The winters humble you. There are no mountains or tall buildings to stop the winds, so they just come at you like you don''t matter. It''s so cold that you can feel it in your bones. You think your skin is going to break, and your body seems like something not too well designed for this intensity. Winters in the Midwest make you feel small, and they help you know your place. You can''t compete with the winter and wind out there. You are just a person. Your body is all you have and it''s not much. But the summers kill you another way. The air is blanket-thick and lays on top of you like it wants to suffocate you. Mosquitoes, gnats, and flies dog your every move. Your clothes get soaked with sweat, dry up, and get soaked again six different times a day, and you get used to the feeling of being dried up and salty, and pounding pop and Kool-Aid, sucking on ice cubes or freezy pops. You never feel 100 percent right in the summer, and you never feel 100 percent right in the winter. You never feel right at all. You learn not to expect too much. You just get used to it. My hometown of Springfield, Illinois, has a population of 115,000, and about 20,000 of those people are black. And from the perspective of my early childhood, the black world was the only world there was. Officially, Springfield is not a segregated town, but officialities don''t matter in race. Springfield is segregated. It always has been, and it always will be. That''s not accidental. In 1908 Springfield experienced one of the most violent and intense race riots in American history. Two black men were accused of rape and attempted rape of a white woman. The town sheriff transferred the men to a jail in another town to avoid mob justice, but 5,000 white citizens nonetheless decided to attack the black neighborhood as a whole. They killed fifteen black people, lynched two, and burned bodies in public. A baby died of smoke inhalation. An eighty-year-old wealthy black business owner, himself a friend of Abraham Lincoln''s, had his throat slit by a white vegetable merchant. By the time it was done, there had been what today would be over $4 million in property damage, including attacks on white businesses that were thought to be too friendly to black customers. Despite taking place in a northern town, the Springfield Race Riot was the primary reason for the founding of the NAACP. The woman who was said to have led the mob, Kate Howard, wrote that after visiting the South, she was inspired by the efficiency of Jim Crow segregation''s ability to "teach the Negro where he belonged." She killed herself before she could be brought to trial. The woman who launched the rape accusations, Mabel Hallam, later admitted that she had made up the story to cover for her husband''s physical abuse. She was never convicted of a crime. A town doesn''t fix itself after a thing like that, unless the people really work very hard to address it. And Springfield didn''t. The Illinois General Assembly didn''t even formally acknowledge the event had occurred until 2008. Instead what happened is that over the generations, this trauma just seeped back into the skin and calcified into the town''s DNA. Black people stayed on one side, white people stayed on the other. Both remained insular and suspicious of the other. By the time my generation came around, things were just that way, subtly but persistently. It never occurred to any of us that they didn''t have to be that way. In Springfield it rarely occurred to most people that things could be any other way. We had our own world, the black side, and within that world I had my own little community. My mother, my brother, my grandmother, all my cousins, my rec league coaches, and me. That was Andre''s world. I remember the summers, waves of heat rising up off of the asphalt, and the fields had grasses as tall as my head. My grandmother''s name is Poletha Webster, and she was the biggest influence on my early life. She was a tough and loving woman, and I can still see her standing in the sun, tending to her vegetable garden, which she did with great care while I ran around the house making games out of everything. She cared for that garden like it was her lifeblood, and from it she could produce the most beautiful vegetables you''ve ever seen. Perfect tomatoes and Technicolor-ripe squashes that she would use to make pies and casseroles. Sweet peas and strawberries. Her hands were always busy, and those early summer afternoons were quiet and magical for me, a small child, with my grandmother beside me and my hands in the dirt, warmed by the sun. That peace, however, came at a price. You had better keep your behavior buttoned up and not cross Poletha. She was always loving, she could be sweet when she needed to be, but if you ended up on her bad side, you would regret it. I remember a day when I learned that lesson the hard way. My grandmother''s house functioned as a neighborhood foster home, and she took in kids whose parents couldn''t care for them for some reason or another. So along with me, my brother, and my cousins, there were always three or four kids staying with her. I never knew exactly what their stories were-maybe they had parents who were locked up or on drugs. But whatever their stories were before, my grandmother would take them in, receive a small stipend from the county, and make them, for as long as they lasted, part of our family. We ate together and played together all day long. One afternoon when I was about eight years old, I was outside shooting basketballs in the rickety old hoop she had next to her house. All of us were outside, with some of the kids playing in the field next to us and others running around in the garden. But a lot of times I preferred to be alone. Just me and a basketball and the hoop. My grandmother had been tending to chores all morning-cleaning, hanging up laundry outside-stopping occasionally to yell at one of us to quit acting up or stop menacing the other kids with a stick, but mostly leaving us to our own devices. I guess one of the foster kids had peed in the bed the night before, so she had pulled one of her old mattresses out to let it air-dry. She placed it down next to the house and went on about her business. Obviously, a mattress outside is just too interesting for most kids to completely ignore, so one by one they started drifting over to it and jumping on it. Next they were doing flips and Superman dives, and pretty soon they were making a game of it, seeing who could push who off the mattress. They were yelling at me, "Come on, Andre! Come play with us!" It did look like fun, and as one of the youngest, I always felt cool whenever I was included in what everyone else was doing. But then I thought about it. She hadn''t said so specifically, but I had a pretty strong feeling that my grandmother would not be pleased if she saw what was going down. As tempting as it was, I made a decision to stick to my basketball. But when you''re a kid, things like this are hard to resist. Everybody looked like they were having so much fun bouncing around and giggling that, after a while, curiosity got the better of me. Slowly but surely, I drifted over there to start jumping on the mattress too. It seemed like I had been over there for less than, I swear to God, three whole seconds before my grandmother appeared from nowhere, like a damn ghost. She was right up on me. All the kids had scattered and I was left. Caught red-handed. I tried to explain, the way kids do, that it wasn''t my fault-I was just shooting hoops and minding my own business. They were the ones who started it! But she wasn''t buying it. She just looked at me and said, "You were shooting that ball in that hoop, over there? But when I found you, you were over here, where there ain''t no hoop?" I didn''t have an answer. Every cousin, kid, friend, whoever who was out there that afternoon, caught a whooping from my grandmother, including me. That was one of my first life lessons and maybe the most important one: if I just keep my head down and focus on basketball, I''m generally better off. Poletha Webster came from Arkansas. First, she moved to Kansas City with my mother''s father. He was a man I met only once. I was so young at the time that I don''t even remember saying anything to him, just seeing this tall, dark-skinned man and being told that he was my mother''s father. I believe Poletha lived in Kansas City for a good while. In fact, my great aunt Jean lived in Kansas City, Missouri, until she passed away in 2017. When my mother was in high school, they moved to Springfield. Poletha had divorced her first husband, my mother''s father, and moved to Springfield, with my mother in tow, to be with her second husband. I never met him either. By the time I was born, Poletha was on her own. I think she preferred it that way. I was at Evergreen Terrace for only a short part of my childhood. Soon she moved to a two-story house on Carpenter Street in a working-class section of Springfield. That house became the center of my childhood. My mother, brother, and I lived in the attic from the time I was in early elementary school until my mother got married when I was in middle school. My childhood was solid, safe, and fun, and in some ways even beautiful. I was a mama''s boy. I never wanted to be away from her. That was my first true identity. Everybody used to tease me about it, but if my mom was gone for one night, I couldn''t last.
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