With the 2017-18 NBA season a few days away from tipping off, we’re seeing a rollout of basketball-centric pieces from many publications. This was the case with GQ, which released Clay Skipper’s piece on Draymond Green on Thursday.
Because Green was involved and interviewed, you knew there were going to be some gems in this one courtesy of the All-Star forward. From the beginning, he did not disappoint.
Ten days after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers to win his second NBA title, 27-year-old Draymond Green still has some shit to talk. He’s in the brick-walled New York offices of Maverick Carter, LeBron James’ longtime business partner, here to film a promo video for a celebrity soccer game in which he’ll coach a team opposite Drake.
“They didn’t stand a fucking chance,” he says of the Cavs, who lost in five games. “It pissed me off we didn’t sweep them, though.”
Sitting in the offices of one of King James’ business partners, Green throws some serious shade at the kid from Akron’s way. But within that champion’s boast, one sees exactly what drives Green. Even though the Warriors won the title in fairly dominating fashion, he wasn’t happy because it wasn't perfect, it wasn’t dominating enough. Green is letting us see that drive, that desire to be better that will keep him (and the rest of the Warriors) from resting on their laurels this season.
Continuing and dropping enough F-bombs to make you think you were watching a Martin Scorsese movie, Green makes it clear what he thinks of these other teams cobbling together their own super teams to try and take down the Golden State juggernaut.
“It’s so funny sitting back and watching this shit,” he starts, before pausing to pull his phone out of his jeans, looking through the Golden State Warriors’ group chat. (The team has one, and the Hampton Five—Green, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Kevin Durant, the five guys that were in the Hamptons in the summer of 2016 to recruit KD—has another.) He wants to relay something that Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey had said in an interview, reacting to the Warriors' title. The team had texted it to each other: “They are not unbeatable. There have been bigger upsets in sports history. We are going to keep improving our roster. We are used to long odds. If Golden State makes the odds longer, we might up our risk profile and get even more aggressive. We have something up our sleeve.”
Then he pauses, scoffing at Morey’s comments.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” he says to me. “They are really trying to rethink their whole strategy”—here he bumps a table repeatedly with his hand for emphasis, getting excited—“because teams know they don’t have a fucking clue.”
Green’s incredulous reaction to the actions of teams like the Rockets (acquiring Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers) or the Oklahoma City Thunder (acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to play with Russell Westbrook) gives us a glimpse into the Warriors' mindset as they head into this season. They look at these teams and the moves they made and see opponents that have not really put themselves on the Warriors’ level. These teams thought that the lesson of the Warriors was to amass talent and have done that when, in reality, that is not the lesson at all.
But Skipper’s piece wasn’t just about Green boasting and roasting his competitors in the NBA. He also reflected on 2016 and the difficulty of that year. Describing how he felt about that year with its myriad controversies and failings, Green said:
“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 shit my entire life. And like: Motherfucker, you can't tell me I'm this or that. I got good grades and I graduated college, and I'm never in trouble. Like real trouble. Getting a fucking tech is getting a tech—it's basketball. But to get in trouble like that, and finally give people who've always wanted to say, ‘I told y'all, he's this type of guy, or he's a distraction’—for the first time in my life, I gave them room to say that. I did that. And it fucking destroyed me.”
This is the best part of the piece, with Green turning inward and letting us readers know how he was affected by the events of 2016. Green also points to the ways in which opposing teams' fans perceptions of him are skewed and thus led to them to see Green as something he is actually not. To be certain, Green is a physical player playing in a way that contrasts with the beautiful game Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson play. But that he is automatically cast as a villain, on the court but also off, is patently absurd. Errors and slip-ups that emerged because of his physical style of play and emotional nature should not make Green feel as though he’s failed and reinforced those negative characteristics that are falsely associated with him.
Green being seen as one who is “dangerous” or “can’t control himself” also reflects the real issues with race that we must confront as a country. This is the narrative that has persisted with Green and the number of people who choose to see him this way reflects a long history of racial stereotyping.
Green, who is an admittedly passionate and emotional player, being talked about in these violent or menacing terms reflects how our society stereotypes African-American men on a daily basis. If they are passionate or emotional, they are automatically seen by many as being somehow dangerous or violent. If a white player possessed Green’s characteristics and trademarks, things that help push the Warriors to higher levels of success, he would be referred to as “gritty” or “fiery” but never “dangerous.”
On the other hand, we also bemoan how professional athletes now are so... professional and thus boring. But when Green exhibits personality and emotion, we chastise him for it. While the boring-ness of professional athletes appears to transcend race, it is also worth noting that it is an African-American man that draws most of this kind of criticism. Green’s comments in this piece about these things should call our collective attention to these issues and their reality in the present world of sports.
While many teams might see an emotional and free-speaking player as a negative, Warriors GM Bob Myers makes it clear that the Warriors understand and appreciate just what Green brings to this team.
About his energy, Myers says, “95% of the time, it 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 outsiders (or those who just don’t want to see) might regard Green’s emotion and passion as something the Warriors don’t need, for the Warriors to be at their best they need Green to be Green. It adds a different dynamic to a team that, between Curry, Thompson, and Durant, can trend toward the too-laid back and cool. Great teams need both the hot and the cool. Green provides that heat, that fire, that fuels the Warriors to reach those great heights and accomplishments.
Rather than being someone who is regarded as a dangerous player or one who symbolizes a bad element within the NBA, Green proves himself to be someone that people should look to as something of a—yes—role model in this piece. We see the most admirable quality to Green in the following quote.
“To win championships and to continue to create a different lane for guys. If that's on a team with three other superstars, then that's on a team with three other superstars. Great. I'm fine with that. I don't feel the urge to be the guy. I think I am the guy in what I do. And that's enough for me.”
Being able to humble oneself for the good of the team, knowing and recognizing the value in helping others even if it means you don’t get as much credit, these are lessons we could all benefit from learning. The self-awareness and thoughtfulness that Green displays throughout Skipper’s piece stands out just as much as his trash talk directed at his on-court rivals. It might not change anyone’s mind about him, but it made this Warriors fan once again appreciate the numerous great things Draymond Green brings to this basketball team.