A Knight’s Edge: Draymond Green
Draymond Green is one of the larger-than-life personalities in the NBA. A polarizing figure during the Golden State Warriors run of three championships in four seasons, Green has experienced a level of success some can only dream of.
He is viewed as the heart and soul of one of the greatest teams ever assembled in professional sports history, and his drive to succeed comes from within.
Read more to find out how Green’s Knight athlete type and mindset has had an impact on the course of his career:
It would be fair to describe Draymond Green as someone who plays with a tremendous chip on his shoulders. There were 34 players selected before him in the 2012 NBA Draft, and to this day, he can still name those 34 players in order– it’s something he hasn’t ever forgotten, nor will he.
This has been a common theme in Green’s life. Growing up, he had to fight just for a chance to use the courts at the local rec center. In high school, he was a pear-shaped teen, and while in college he earned the “tweener” reputation, known as a player with no set position due to size and athleticism in the NBA.
All of these trials in his life has given Green the edge he’s known for. As Martin Gallegos wrote in his SLAM magazine cover story about Green, “Green doesn’t just want to win—he wants his due respect. He wants his victory topped with high regard. He wants a legacy.”
The Making of a Knight
“You have to be joking right now! You cannot really be talking about me! You cannot,” Draymond Green yells. “You think you’re stronger than me? You’re not. You think you’re going to bully me? You’re not. You think you’re going to score on me? You’re not.”
This is the scene Lee Jenkins sets in his Sports Illustrated profile about Draymond Green, and that attitude is a key part of the core of who Draymond Green is. Knights have a strong, and sometimes hidden value system.
For Draymond Green, this value system and drive was something he developed from a young age.
“He values winning more than anything. He might value it too much,” Warriors general manager Bob Meyers said in an interview for GQ about Green. “As far as a healthy, balanced life, that may not be his thing. He’s calm in chaos. In times of peace, I don’t think he feels calm.”
This value for winning and competition comes straight from Green’s upbringing. His mom loved him dearly, but was stern on him in order to toughen him up to survive in the neighborhood he grew up in.
“You have water, light, a roof over your head, food to eat—that’s what you’re supposed to have,” his mother told GQ writer/reporter Clay Skipper. “Everything else you feel like you deserve, get it yourself.” Growing up in the inner city of Saginaw, Michigan, “he didn’t have a net. He didn’t have somebody who was going to rescue him.”
When he was just starting to pick up basketball, Green would have to fight for time on the court at his local rec center the Civitan, often against grown men.
As Lee Jenkins puts it, “He fought anybody who messed with him and anybody who messed with his more reserved older brother, Torrian. Every other day, it seemed, a manager named Tyrone Davis had to kick him out of Civitan. Draymond would occasionally leave with a busted nose, as well as a game ball, which he would boot over the nearest fence.”
“Those big boys eventually learned,” said his mom, Mary Babers-Green, “that my baby better get his next.”
Protecting his brother, who wouldn’t speak up for himself, shows the Knight mentality of Draymond Green.
The fire that he developed while growing up has carried over and become a part of who Green is both in life, and on the basketball court.
“People always wanted to paint me as this villain, this problem child, this guy who can’t control himself, this dangerous guy. I had heard that [stuff] my entire life,” Green said.
During his childhood, Green was connected with Detroit Pistons legend Ben Wallace, who, like Green was seen as undersized and devalued when he first entered the NBA.
“I see huge similarities between the two of us,” Wallace told Slam Magazine. “From a kid at 10 years old, he would ask me, ‘What do I need to do to improve my game?’ He’s one of those guys that never stops studying the game. He’s always looking for knowledge. A true student of the game.”
Knights often respect their mentors and for Green, Wallace was the perfect mentor.
In Wallace, Green found someone who could understand him and the labels he was given. Wallace and Green are very similar both in life, and in basketball. “We both got it out the mud,” as Green puts it. “Nobody gave us a shot in hell.”
When he finally got to college, Green was prepared to continue being the emotional and vocal player he always had been– but ready to prove his doubters wrong.
“People told him, ‘You’re too fat, you’re too short, you’re too slow,’ ” his college coach Tom Izzo told Sports Illustrated. “I’m the one who told him half those things.”
Izzo and Green formed a tremendous bond, and although Green could be a headache every once and awhile, Izzo knew he was always bringing the edge needed to win Michigan State basketball games.
The mutual respect was an important part of their coach/player relationship– a typical case for most successful Knights.
“Draymond and I probably had more talks in the next four years than I had with my wife,” Izzo said. “And later at night, too.”
As Lee Jenkins describes their relationship, “The coach put up with Green kicking missed shots to the rafters in practice and challenging play calls in timeouts—’Some of our huddles were a freaking war zone,’ Izzo laughs—because [Green] was the rare player who cared as much as he did.”
While at Michigan State, the school he dreamed of going to his whole life– Green flourished into a winner, and one of the most storied players in the University’s history. Green left his mark at Michigan State, an impressive feat at such a storied basketball program.
Then, after two Final Four appearances and countless accolades, Draymond Green fell all the way to pick number 35, in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft. This lit a fire under an already passionate Green.
“It pissed me off,” Green recalls. “National Player of the Year in college and I go in the second round? That doesn’t even add up. It was one of those things where I was like, OK, I’ll prove them wrong again. But then it’s also like a slap in the face. How much more do I need to prove?”
The Savant and Leader
It’s said that having a Knight around is more valuable during the offseason than it is in the regular season, because of what they bring to the team.
Knights are disciplined and will bring a workman-like atmosphere with them in the offseason, during film sessions, etc.
A story in Lee Jenkins profile of Green speaks to how he was unafraid to challenge his teammates in the NBA. Hoping to get the best out of everyone around him, Green pushed the veterans on his team, despite being a rookie.
“A few days after Green lost his first preseason game in Denver, the Dubs practiced in Portland, and the brash rookie upbraided veterans David Lee and Jeremy Tyler: ‘I’m going to push you, David! I’m going to push you, Jeremy! If I cuss you out, don’t take it the wrong way: I’m pushing you!’ His new teammates looked at him as if he were possessed.”
He has continued to develop in this way, dissecting offenses in the NBA and becoming a vocal leader both on and off the court.
— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) June 16, 2018
Green can read and analyze things that are happening on the court in part because of his uncanny basketball IQ, but also because of the preparation he puts into the game. In college, he would help his teammates by preparing scouting reports for them on in-conference opponents, and in the NBA he has carried over that leadership role.
“He also reads the game better than any player I’ve ever been around,” former Warriors assistant Brian Scalabrine said.
A good example of this was another anecdote found in the SI article about him, “After Lakers forward Julius Randle singed Green in the preseason with his go-to stutter-step move, Green asked Warriors special assistant Nick U’Ren for every clip of the move, going back to Randle’s days at Kentucky. ‘I studied the s— out of that move,” Green says, “and figured out what I needed to do to stop it.’”
Although a Knight will not typically be as outspoken as Green, he does exemplify the traits of being great at listening and also having a strong value system.
Green values winning and his teammates very deeply, and goes out of his way to listen to legends who are willing to help him improve his game in order to improve his role and effect on his team and winning.
One of the legends of the game he reached out to was fellow competitively driven superstar, Kobe Bryant. “He called me up and asked me questions about the game, about leadership, about winning,” Bryant said. “And it was very similar to how I approached the game coming into the League. So because of that, I feel a connection to him.”
Green is protective of his teammates, a major sign of a true Knight.
Warriors GM Bob Meyers describes Green’s fire as an essential component of the basketball juggernaut that is Golden State. Meyers describes Green as giving the Warriors a mental, spiritual and emotional edge.
“95% of the time, [his energy] comes out in a positive way. And 5%, it comes out in a different way. You live with that. We need it. Because otherwise—I wouldn’t characterize us as too nice but to win at any level, and succeed consistently, you need to be a little uncomfortable. And he makes us a little uncomfortable.”
While Green and his fire are essential to the team and his success, he knows he still has room to improve.
“My fire is my gift and my curse,” Green says. “I harness it 95% of the time, but the 5% I don’t, it works against me.”
Continuing to be the spark plug of a historically dominant team where he can enjoy winning and playing with teammates he truly cares about will allow Draymond Green to develop in his own way, and for him that’s all that matters.
“Most people would say I’m a superstar now. I don’t think so,” he told GQ. “I averaged ten points a game last year (2016). That’s very modest. So if you do think that, that means I did it a different way. That means I did it my way. And that was always my number one goal: do it my way.”