By Kellen Bulger
Like some twisted love child of Charles Barkley and Bill Laimbeer, quite possibly the most polarizing figure in professional sports today enters the scene — Draymond Green.
Whether it be a flying foot to the crotch of Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams or accidentally posting a picture exposing himself on his public Snapchat story, Draymond Green is controversial. Most recently the three time All-Star turned heads when, after receiving his 11th technical foul of the season in a game against the Clippers, he exclaimed, “They can get a new crop [of referees], a whole new crop,” Green lamented. Now, whether or not you take stock into Green’s claims about officiating in the NBA, the real question I want to ask is: Would the NBA be better off if more players like Draymond Green spoke with this level of honesty on a regular basis?
At first glance, it may be easy to say that Draymond has the right to say whatever he wants and that we should encourage athletes and public figure alike to speak frankly about issues that they care about. This is an especially easy conclusion to come to when thinking of the Warriors as a whole. This is the same team that notoriously declined their invitation to visit the White House after winning the NBA title in 2017. The same team that’s led by Steve Kerr and superstar Steph Curry, who regularly speak out in opposition to our current president. However, placing Draymond in a group with them is short sighted at best.
When Boston Celtics’ All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving made headlines earlier this year by confirming that he believes the earth is flat, many NBA stars either joked or followed in line with sentiments expressed by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stating, “Kyrie and I went to the same college… we may have taken different classes.” However, Green damn near doubled down on Irving’s problematic claims by stating, “I’m not saying I think it’s flat. I don’t know. But it could be.”
Okay, well we can’t expect our professional athletes to all be scholars … so what if they peddle conspiracy theories … right? No. The fact of the matter is that Draymond Green is undoubtedly a role-model for children worldwide who listen to his words. He has a powerful platform. And despite what you think of him rationalizing pseudoscience, it’s not even close to being his only questionable quote. Draymond has a history.
Earlier this month, the Warriors played a marquee game at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Early on in the game there was a collision involving Green where he came away bloodied at the mouth. Green then proceeded to plea to the NBA’s sole female referee Lauren Holtkamp, leading to Green’s ejection from the game. While being upset at an official’s call is a regular occurrence for him at this point, the Warrior’s forward was heard calling Holtkamp a “f***ing b****.” Draymond falls far from the progressive, socially aware Warriors in Kerr and Curry.
Draymond Green represents what we don’t want to admit we love about America. He’s deeply flawed, unapologetically blunt, he’ll do absolutely anything to win, but most of all he reminds people of themselves. When your average 45-year-old man watches a nationally televised NBA game and sees a referee make a call that he deems as “soft,” which player is likely to get involved or make his opinion well known? And what player can we expect to “tell it like it is” in the postgame interview? Draymond.
Why else is Green a microcosm of what we love in America? No matter what you think of him or his character, he continues to exceed expectations. Green came out of college from Michigan State as someone who stayed all four years in school, (a rare sight these days for NBA players) but he wasn’t heralded in any way. Selected 35th overall and in the second-round of the draft, people had questions of the now two-time NBA champion. “From a physical standpoint, Green is a below average prospect at best, as he’s severely undersized with underwhelming athleticism and struggles at times with his conditioning due to his hefty frame,” said Jonathan Givony of Draft Express back in 2012.
And here’s the thing: Givony and experts alike weren’t wrong. If you are an NBA Draft prospect and you are six foot seven inches tall coming out of college and you can’t reliably shoot from outside the arc, you are simply not an NBA player. However, the winner of NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 is different. When Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr was asked why Draymond has improved so drastically over the past six-years, he responded, “He’s worked and scrapped for everything he’s got and he’s gotten there through sheer determination.”
That’s where I and many people are at with Draymond. We respect the hell out of the man who pulled himself from relative obscurity as far as the American public goes, to a bonafide superstar and top-15 player in a professional sports league that brought in nearly $6 billion in revenue over the course of the 2016-17 season.
So, while I certainly hope that Draymond is one of the literal last people that kids are paying attention to when it comes political and social issues, to completely disregard the man is to not understand the American public and the archetype in which we glamourize. In a sense we’ve been spoiled with athletes like LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick who transcend the sport in which they made a living off of and are more eloquent when touching on difficult subjects than many elected officials to the U.S. Congress. However, that does not mean that people like myself, who have a difficult time separating ideas from the character of the person who utters those ideas, can’t appreciate people like Draymond.
And, at the end of the day, even with Green’s behavioral antics, fighting these people isn’t the best use of our time. It’s not like our elected officials are spending time on social media sparring with figures in the sports world. Right?