There’s a reason professional wrestling has remained popular for decades, even though the action is scripted. The business understands that to sell a story there must be a hero and a heel. Cheering is fun, but mocking is cathartic. In team sports, the heel is automatically included like the charger with a new phone. You are rooting for your favorite team against all the others. However, there are some heels that surpass simply competing in another city’s jersey.
Players like Draymond Green have the ability to become everyone’s least favorite player who isn’t the Golden State Warriors – or are from Saginaw, Mich.
Green’s antics absolutely get on my nerves. The groin kick bothered me a lot. Also, except for his press conference after a video of him gobbling up Jordan Poole went viral last season, Green is never quick to apologize when his aggression objectively goes too far. Even with those flaws, I appreciate his value to the NBA product. Without players willing to put Rudy Gobert in a headlock while surrounded by television cameras, the NBA would be much less interesting.
That act will cost Green nearly $1 million. On Wednesday night, the NBA announced that Green will be suspended for the Warriors’ next five games. The act of snapping Rudy Gobert’s neck is of course worthy of punishment in itself, but just like when Green was suspended during the playoffs for Domantas Sabonis stompsthe NBA gave him a lifetime achievement award.
Anyone who thinks an NBA penalty in 2023 is going to cause Green to change his reckless behavior toward opponents is sadly mistaken. He was suspended for an NBA Finals game seven years ago. A game in which the Warriors LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Instead, that 73-9 team ended up losing in seven games to a team that featured Tristan Thompson and a 35-year-old Richard Jefferson among the Cavs’ top-five in minutes.
No suspension or fine will change how Green plays basketball. He was suspended from a game against the Cavaliers on Saturday. After that he posted on Instagram, “Don’t get a tech … blah blah blah. 12 years later and you’re still trying to coach me on how to be ME?”
He is right. Green punched a teammate in the face at practice last season, and the video was leaked. The player he punched recently signed a $100-plus million contract. Poole will play the 2023-24 season with the Washington Wizardsand the Warriors signed Green to a second four-year, $100 million contract during the offseason.
His team appreciates him and so do I. For the NBA to be at its best, there has to be a player who is the carnal equivalent of “I know a song that gets on everyone’s nerves.” Green’s aggression, and limited regard for the well-being of his opponents, made him a star. Stephen Curry’s legendary offensive production is the main reason for the Warriors’ dynasty, but without Green’s aggression, there is no way they would win four championships in eight seasons.
Green knows his role with the Warriors and he has been outstanding in it. That role starts with his defensive and offensive play. Being a player in the NBA, especially one of consequence, requires expert basketball aptitude. Bill Laimbeer was named an All-Star four times with the Detroit Pistons. Three of those were consecutive, and the Pistons won only a single playoff series during that span. He earned those with no championship bump.
Dennis Rodman won Defensive Player of the Year in 1990 and 1991, several years before he first dyed his hair. To be a true NBA heel, players must be able to do much more than clock their opposition.
Green is quotable, skilled and unapologetic about the way he plays. I believe the NBA doesn’t pay that much attention to it. He is part of the league’s Ocean’s 11 play-in tournament ad.
The league knows it needs its own version of Triple H to maximize interest. No one is better in that role right now than Green. As offensive as his behavior can be, TMZ leaking that viral video of him punching Poole benefited everyone who makes money from the NBA. Green’s name resonates far beyond my favorite NBA nerd podcasts.
He was out of line Tuesday when he put Gobert in a chokehold, but the league would be a worse place without those types of antics. Sometimes All-Star caliber players also have to be loathed by fans for more reason than simply wearing a different jersey.
When there’s consensus that one of the league’s better players is a regular lineman, it’s all the more reason to watch the game. Admiring Curry is fine, but being mad at Green is a spice that makes the NBA meal taste better.
I have no qualms with the league suspending Green for five games. He deserves it. Players should not suffocate their opposition. This is a ridiculous way to behave that very much deserves a severe punishment.
However, if Green didn’t behave like this, the NBA would be a lot less entertaining.