By John Celestand,
Word In Black
It’s safe to say that in my days as an athlete, I’ve seen my fair share of scuffles, dustups, and physical altercations. With so much adrenaline, testosterone, and just macho chest-thumping behavior in team sports, it’s a given that tempers will flare, manhood will be tested, and competition will sometimes boil over into a fracas.
And if the Golden State Warriors are playing, the person in the middle of any melee, upheaval, or ruckus will almost certainly be Draymond Green. He’s a player who seems to thrive off of getting under opponents’ skin, a competitor often looking for a reason to motivate himself to be even more physical of a player than he already is.
Are we now supposed to excuse a chokehold? A choke where he drags another Black man by the neck across the court in a 0-0 game where nobody has even scored a basket yet?
I must admit, many times, I even tune in to see this type of behavior. Sometimes, to see some internal fight is a sight for sore eyes. Especially with today’s NBA players who make such an extraordinary amount of money, finding so many reasons to take a day off, to sit out, not compete, and perform for the fans that are somewhat responsible for the game’s rising global popularity.
But even the nosy schoolyard kid that still lives inside of me, that nosy kid who couldn’t wait to stand outside in a circle to watch the two elementary school kids rumble after school, even that snarky kid’s soul that is still alive somewhere deep inside me couldn’t stomach seeing Draymond Green be involved in another incident on Tuesday as he inserted himself into a fracas that he wasn’t even a part of in the first place.
Maybe it was the chokehold that I witnessed Green put Minnesota’s Rudy Gobert in that gave me such a traumatic feeling. Sports talking heads can dance around the situation all they want and try to label it as a “headlock,” but I know the difference between a headlock when someone’s head is bent forward and a chokehold when someone is restraining you from behind around the neck.
Or maybe it is the 80s baby in me who grew up on WWF wrestling and watched Rowdy Roddy Piper use the “Sleeper Hold,” which looked eerily similar to Draymond’s move, to put his opponents to sleep or force them into submission. Whether theatre or not, as kids, we used these wrestling moves in real life, and sometimes really hurt each other in the process.
Or maybe it’s the number of times Draymond has been involved in questionable basketball dustups, such as the multiple times he kicked Steve Adams from OKC in the groin in the same game, or when he stomped on the chest of Domantas Sabonis, or when got suspended for Game 5 of the 2016 Finals in a tussle with LeBron James, costing his team the series. Or the time he was caught on camera furiously arguing with his former teammate Kevin Durant in their huddle, an argument that was said to be the icing on the cake leading to Durant’s future departure.
Or how about the time when Green was caught on camera sucker punching and knocking out his former teammate Jordan Poole in practice. Green is 6’6, 230 lbs, while Poole is 6’4, 194 lbs. Poole is now playing for the Washington Wizards. It is believed that neither their relationship nor the camaraderie of the team was ever the same after that incident.
Green is not the first agitator to ever compete in the National Basketball Association. There is a long list of agitators and enforcers known for getting into altercations. Dennis Rodman, maybe the best rebounder the league’s ever seen, spent a considerable amount of time being suspended for his on-court antics and questionable decisions, once even kicking a camera operator on the sideline. Rasheed Wallace was known for his fiery temperament and is third all-time in technical fouls.
Ron Artest, later known as Metta World Peace, was an elite defender and rebounder who was suspended for running in the stands in Detroit and punching multiple fans, leading to an all-out riot that would later be coined “The Malice in the Palace.” I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the deplorable behavior of the Detriot fans, who started the situation by throwing a beer at Artest while he lay on the scorer’s table.
Vernon Maxwell, aka Mad Max, a guard on the Houston Rockets 1994 and 1995 NBA championship squad, was another that sometimes became unhinged — one time running into the stands and punching a fan, and another time getting into a brawl with then-teammate Gary Payton in 2000 leaving two of their teammates, who tried to play peacemakers, hurt.
I mention these former players to not leave Green on an island, single him out, and label him as the originator of these bad boy antics. He is simply the latest in a long line of physical, tough, defensive-minded players who thrive off altercation and agitation.
But for some reason, I’ve reached the end of the line. And I keep trying to go deep inside to understand why I’ve finally drawn the line with Green. Folks can say he didn’t throw a punch, he didn’t throw a kick, but are we now supposed to excuse a chokehold? A choke where he drags another Black man by the neck across the court in a 0-0 game where nobody has even scored a basket yet?
Green has his own podcast and is very smart and thoughtful in his own right. Maybe this is why I now expect more of the potential future Hall of Famer.
He’s a four-time champion who has been through the fire. When do the antics end?
In the end a five-game suspension, in my opinion, is not enough. Honestly, who else does Draymond Green have to put in the “sleeper hold” for the NBA to finally wake up?
John Celestand is the program director of the Knight x LMA BloomLab, a $3.2 million initiative that supports the advancement and sustainability of local Black-owned news publications. He is a former freelance sports broadcaster and writer who covered the NBA and college basketball for multiple networks such as ESPN Regional Television, SNY, and Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia. John was a member of the 2000 Los Angeles Lakers NBA Championship Team, playing alongside the late great Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. He currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and son.
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