Black History Month Inspirations | A Path of Perseverance
The following article is based off the script for the second installment in the 76ers Podcast Network's Black History Month Inspirations mini-series of the same name.
For the better part of the last 15 years, winning has been Danny Green's way.
From an NCAA title his senior season at the University of North Carolina in 2009, to an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, to rings each of the past two years, first with the Toronto Raptors in 2019, and then with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020, Green boasts an impressive resume.
His three NBA titles tie him for second-most among active players, trailing only LeBron James, who currently boasts the most championship wins, with four.
Considering Green's modest NBA beginnings as a second-round draft pick who had to break in through the G League, he's had a pretty good run.
"Lot of luck man," Green said. "I've been lucky enough to play alongside some great players, and guys who also know how to win.
"When I got a chance to play for some true professionals, playing for Coach Pop [Gregg Popovich], Timmy [Tim Duncan], Tony [Parker], Manu [Ginobili], that stigma kinda sticks with you. Then everybody winning makes it easier to be part of other organizations. You want to be on board. You learn a lot from those guys. The little things, the details, and the good part of it is being kinda lucky."
Clearly, Green is a skilled deflector, but his modesty shouldn't bely his skills.
He's one of the top 3-point marksmen in the game, and is an all-league defender.
His new head coach feels Green shouldn't sell himself short.
"He knows how to play off of talent," said Doc Rivers, "and that's an art."
"A lot of these guys make it easier for you to play basketball when they're All-Stars, superstars, Hall of Farmers," Green said. "Just come in, depending on what the roster looks like, the fit looks like, the coaching system looks like, and the organization looks like, and you figure out how to be that translator, but also what the team needs, the organization needs. If it needs defense, which you always need defense, I gotta bring defense. If it needs offense, I might need to be aggressive, and score it, I might need to be a facilitator, a screener, guy who gets people open, or who creates a mismatch. If the team needs that or rebounding, offensive rebounding, tip outs, whatever it may be, you gotta do those little pieces and figure that out along the way as you're getting better as a group."
It's a process that Green has had to perfect the past few seasons.
After playing for San Antonio from 2010 to 2018, the 33-year old has been a man on the move.
He's opened each of the last three seasons with new teams.
That Green now sports Sixers' red, white, and blue was something that - back in training camp - he was still wrapping his head around.
"Tough to believe and get used to, these colors. I kinda feel it's been manifesting for some time. When I would go to restaurants, people would say come here, come here. Just trying to do what they brought me here to do, which is lead this team. We've got a lot of depth, pieces to go for a title."
When it comes to value, it's a no brainer why any team in the NBA would want Green.
He's got the pedigree, the personality, and a 3-and-D prowess to space the floor.
So when the Oklahoma City Thunder made Green available on draft night, just two days after they acquired him from the Los Angeles Lakers, the Sixers pounced.
"I think the first step for me [was to] just build rapport with guys in the locker room, earn trust, and build from there, and also with the coaching staff as well, then kind of find a niche and role and be a messenger from players to coaches," said Green. "We're trying to build trust now, build some camaraderie, bonding, teamwork, because that goes a long way. That's more important than anything else. You got to have chemistry first."
Green is taking lessons from the past, and applying them to the present.
"I've been part of some great organizations, great teammates, but also we kinda figured it out. Everybody has lost themselves in the game and been selfless when it comes to wanting to win. Hopefully we can do that this year with this group. Hopefully we keep the streak going, keep [my title] streak alive."
Danny Green was born in 1987 and grew up on the South Shore of Long Island, in North Babylon.
It's essentially the next town over from Islip, where now-teammate Tobias Harris was raised.
"I've known him and his family since I can remember - since I was a teenager," Green said. "I remember when he was young. Back then Tobias was a little heavier set kid, he was a little chunky guy.
"Out of nowhere, he grew five to six inches in the summer. I was like, 'Damn, how'd you all grow so fast?!' He took the game seriously, worked every day, was in the gym - him and his brothers. All the hard work paid off for him. I'm happy to see it."
Green is about five years older than Harris, but their shared roots have always been a source of respect.
"He's been one of the best talents to ever come out and prove that Long Island has some ball players," said Green. "I've been watching him grow, and couldn't be more proud of a guy, seeing him grow up as a youngster to where he is now, and being a teammate of his now. Hopefully we can make something special happen and bring it back to Long Island - not just the City of Philadelphia, but bring it back to Long Island as well."
Wherever Green has gone, he's taken the formative influences of life on Long Island with him.
Specifically, his relationship with his father, Danny Green Sr.
"He raised me since I was young, and he put the basketball in my hands. He taught me this game, taught me how to drive, taught me everything."
Green's mother left home when he was young, leaving Big Danny responsible for the family.
"He was a single dad at one point, and raised me and my brothers - there's now five of us total - but there were three of us [then]," Green said. "He taught me the game, taught me about life, taught me a lot about lessons of life."
Teaching came so naturally to Green Sr. that he made it his profession. He also made it his duty at home, sharing stories with his children about world-changing Black leaders past and present.
"A lot of those things, a lot of things they went through have always stuck with me, how they operated, how they fought through so many tough times and issues and still stood tall," said Green. "Learning from him, learning from them, I can't just list or say one name that was one inspiration. They were all inspirational to me, from MLK to Malcolm X to Nelson Mandela to Barack Obama now. The list goes on."
In March of 2006, the bond between Green and his dad faced another substantial test.
Days after his freshman season at UNC came to a disappointing end with a second-round NCAA Tournament loss to George Mason, Green learned his father had been arrested back on Long Island.
Green Sr. has always maintained his innocence.
While the initial charges were dropped, another conspiracy charge was brought up. Green Sr. pleaded guilty to avoid a possible eight-to-25 year prison sentence.
He ended up serving nearly 22 months, and got out in March 2008.
The terms of Green Sr.'s parole prevented him from traveling out of state to watch Green in that year's Final Four.
In 2009, he got his chance, and saw his son and UNC win a title.
Danny Green said, "It's so significant to have, not just male, but any father figure, and a mother figure - you don't realize how important it is until you don't have one. You need that guidance. You need for boys to be taught how to be a man, and also how to treat women. You need both of those figures there, but also the things you go through as a Black male - the things they went through and that you'll probably see and be prepared for and how we're behind, we have to do the extra work to be equal to most people in this world.
"Those are a lot of lessons I was taught as a youngster, a lot of things that I had to see on my own, about racism, how people might see you as less than them, and how you might not get certain opportunities because of the color of your skin. A lot of those things I would not know if I didn't have my dad or my father figure or those people to look up to around me."
More than a decade later, Green and his family have reaped the rewards of their collective perseverance.
He's one of the most respected, successful role players in recent NBA history, and now hopes to bring his championship touch to a new team, in a new city all over again.
"It's been a whirlwind for me," said Green. "2020 has been crazy up and down - COVID-19, [the NBA season] starting and stopping, a short offseason. I was traded, then traded again after only six weeks off. Being with a new team helps me get fresh. I'm looking forward to the task, this season. I'm still riding the wave, but we're back to work with no championship, and gotta prove ourselves again. I'm ready for the challenge."