Green's an Ironman in More Ways Than One

BOSTON – The scar that runs down the center of Jeff Green’s chest is a daily reminder of the challenges he faced in the past. The challenges he’s overcome.

The challenges that turned him into a real-life version of Ironman.

Green reached a crossroads in his career in December of 2011, shortly after he signed a brand new contract with the Boston Celtics. During a routine physical to complete the contract, doctors discovered an aortic aneurysm that would require Green to undergo open-heart surgery.

Jeff Green Ironman

Many have called Jeff Green 'Ironman' since his open-heart surgery, and the forward has grown fond of the nickname.

Green went under the knife on Jan. 9, 2012 under the careful eye of Dr. Lars Svensson at the Cleveland Clinic. When he awoke from the surgery, his NBA career was in doubt.

Prior to Green, there had been only three NBA players in the previous decade who had undergone open-heart surgeries during their playing days. Two of them, Ronny Turiaf and Etan Thomas, returned to be rotational players in the league. The third, Fred Hoiberg, called it a career after undergoing surgery.

No offense to Turiaf, Thomas and Hoiberg, but Green wanted to accomplish more on the court than they had post-surgery. Hanging up his sneakers wasn’t an option. The only option in his mind was to return to the court and continue his ascension into the upper echelon of NBA players.

Fast-forward to two years later and Green is well on his way. He just completed his best season as a pro, averaging a team- and career-best 16.9 points per game. Green also set new career marks in field goal attempts and free throw attempts per game.

Those numbers, however, aren’t what make him an Ironman. This number does: 169.

Green returned to regular season action on Oct. 30, 2012, nearly 10 months after Dr. Svensson had opened him up and sewn him back together. He’s been conjuring up thoughts of the original Iron Horse ever since.

The Iron Horse, of course, would be Lou Gehrig, who was given the moniker after playing in 2,130 consecutive Major League Baseball games. Green is nowhere near that mark, nor is he close to the NBA record of 1,192 consecutive games played, but he has been unbelievably durable since his return. The Boston Celtics have played 169 games over their past two seasons. So has Green.

The 27-year-old has not missed a single game since returning to action for the 2012-13 season. That’s 169 straight games, including 105 starts. He pulled off the impressive feat of starting in all 82 games this season. No one has done that in a Celtics uniform in nearly a decade, since Paul Pierce did so back in 2004-05.

Remember, this isn’t just any streak of consecutive games played. Green has played in 169 straight games after returning from open-heart surgery. From open-heart surgery!

Green’s comeback has been one for the ages. An Ironman-type comeback. He has played in 169 consecutive NBA games, and he also has the scar to boot.