In November 2014, Dallas Mavericks guard Josh Green was excited to begin his new life in America. He peered out the plane window and all he could see was the vast expanse of Phoenix’s dry desert. Fear and doubt crept in.
Green was leaving behind Australia, his school, his friend and the life he had built for 14 years. At that moment, he thought there was no chance he would ever play in the NBA.
Growing up outside of Sydney, Green played every sport imaginable. He picked up tennis and soccer at first, then moved on to Australian football and basketball, which both his parents played.
“I love Australian football,” Green told NBA.com during a Zoom call last week. Although, he wasn’t initially interested in the sport, but was convinced to give it a try when his fifth-grade teacher told him he could take two days off school if he made the team. That was enough for Green. “Ever since that day that I tried it for the first time, I didn’t want to stop,” he said.
Green was so enthralled with Australian football as a young teenager that he almost quit basketball. It felt like a much easier path to become a professional Australian football player than it was to be a basketball player.
In the end, he didn’t have to choose between the two. His father was offered a job in Phoenix, and the Green family couldn’t pass up the opportunity to move to America. Australian football didn’t exist in the States, so it was make or break with basketball.
Green couldn’t wait to be in America. The glitz and glam of U.S. developmental basketball camps where players matched their shoes with their uniforms was all he could think about. “I wanted to leave Australia because America’s so cool,” he said. “I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.”
Once Green arrived in the Phoenix, reality set in. Arizona wasn’t quite the image that Green had spent his childhood dreaming about. It was difficult at first, adjusting to American life and even American basketball, which stylistically differs from Australian basketball.
When Green first attended his older brother’s (Jay) AAU games in Phoenix, he noticed a stark difference in the way Jay played compared to the other players. Jay made extra passes, utilized cuts, and employed defensive principles – the fundamentals they learned in Australia. It seemed like everyone else was on a solo mission to rack up as many points as possible.
“It’s not selfish basketball, but it’s a lot different,” Green said said. “I was lucky to be young enough to make the adjustment.”
And make the adjustment he did. Green went from an unranked prospect to a top ten recruit in the country in a just few short years. After making a big impression in Phoenix, he transferred across the country to the notorious IMG Academy in Florida. By the end of Green’s senior year, he was a McDonald’s All-American, a national champion, and was heralded Australia’s next big star.
“Everything that I said I wanted to do when I first moved to America was everything that I was living,” he said.
Green’s stellar play at IMG caught the eye of fellow Australian and NBA star Ben Simmons. Simmons reached out to Green on Instagram, and the two met for dinner in Miami after a Philadelphia 76ers game in South Beach. To this day, the two Aussies remain friends, and even their dads are close mates.
“It was good to have somebody who you looked up to as a kid,” Green said. “They helped me out a lot, you know, adjusting to American life.”
Green chose to continue his basketball career at the University of Arizona, averaging 12.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game in his freshman season. After a stellar campaign, Green declared for the 2020 NBA Draft where he was selected No. 18th overall by the Dallas Mavericks.
Green has improved each year of his career, and in 2022-23, he is averaging career highs across the board with 9.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, and a top-tier 41.7% 3-point shooting percentage.
Green’s Australian roots are evident in his game, including his ball-hawking defense, nifty passing, and quick, unexpected off-ball cuts. His elite athleticism—a trait he’s had since he was an adolescent in Australia– is seen in how he chases down and ambushes opponents, and how he explodes to the basket for high-flying, rim-rocking slams.
To his teammates, Green is competitive. Mavericks’ play-by-play announcer Mark Followill dubbed Green ‘Mr. Electricity’ for bringing the energy in key moments and making the right plays.
“At the end of the day, I’m trying to win,” he said.
“It’s refreshing to have a new face,” Green said. “It’s a new sense of energy for the team. It makes you pumped and ready to go.”
The Mavericks made the Western Conference Finals last season before falling short to the eventual NBA Champions Golden State Warriors. Green is confident in his team getting back to the West Finals and hopefully even further with the goal of an NBA Championship in mind.
Green remembers those first days when he arrived in America in 2014. He thought his goal of making the NBA was far out of reach. Now, at just 22 years old, he’s an Olympic bronze medalist and a key piece of a Dallas Mavericks team vying for an NBA title.
“No dream is too big,” he said.