Draymond Green, the Big Brother from Saginaw

There is an unwritten law that many obey throughout their life: when you make it, make sure you give back. Giving back can have different definitions and/or interpretations. On one hand, it could mean give back in a monetary sense, such as building a gym or playground when you’re financially stable. On the other hand, it could mean be a mentor and show the ropes to the following generations that are proceeding you. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors superstar, does both. He prides himself on returning the favor, by being a “big brother” to the up and coming players. Green isn’t vocal about this part of his life because he doesn’t seek praise or recognition for something he feels he’s supposed to do.

 

“Number one, that’s how I was raised, said Green. You kinda take the guys underneath you under your wings. And I think it’s all about giving back to the game. I got guys {who’ve} been big brothers to me. Mo Cleaves, Z-Bo…and the list go on. Given back to the younger guys have always been important because you have to show them the way….So that’s just something I have always prided myself on.”

It fulfills him because there were people there when he was young trying to find his own way.

Where this All Started:

If you’re not familiar with the story of Draymond Green, it is similar to one we hear about too often in the NBA. A young black kid, growing up in the poverty-stricken community of Saginaw, Michigan. Riddled with gangs and drugs, some of the most vulnerable people are counted out before they are born. The expression, “it takes a village to raise a child” would be fitting to describe his upbringing. Before Green became the NBA Champion we see today, there were people in his corner helping him stay on track.

Reflecting back on his days as a Michigan State Spartan, Green had Tom Izzo as a coached who challenged him on a daily basis. Izzo’s tough love approach helped build a strong character for Green. During his time in East Lansing, he learned what it takes to not only to become a better basketball player but a better person and becoming a mature man in the process.

Even when Draymond got drafted to the Golden State Warriors, his initial role was coming off the bench being a spark plug under then head coach Mark Jackson. After the organization made a change in the coaching staff, his current coach Steve Kerr gave him a bigger role and trusted Green with bigger responsibilities. This regime change and faith in Draymond catapulted him into the superstar we see today where he’s one of the centerpieces of the Warriors’ offense and defense.

Mentors can come from even the most random people who are trying to look out for you. Hall of Famer, Rasheed Wallace is someone that helped Green get to where he is today. Green mentioned that Wallace told him that he didn’t want anything from Draymond when Draymond made it, only to continue to give back to the younger generation.

 

Being there for Brian “Tugs” Bowen:

Giving back and being a big brother is what Draymond does. Being able to do those things for someone that’s from Saginaw makes it that much more special. Brian Bowen, known as Tugs by many, is a 2017 recruit who is a McDonald’s All-American. Bowen is about to make one of the biggest decisions in his basketball career; deciding which school to commit to. Whether it’s basketball or life advice questions, Green is always available.

“I’ve known Tugs since he was young, real young,” said Green. “It’s hard not to know guys from Saginaw. Just always try to be a voice of reason for him, always being available anytime someone has a question and need to be called on….sometimes you don’t want to talk to your dad about certain things. Trying to be that guy, alright you can call me for anything.”

Bowen, though young, is an inspirational story hailing from Saginaw. He’s that bright spot on days of darkness for his community that has been through so much over time. Seeing another native of this city make it out doing something positive helps people get through the day. Green agrees that these types of stories are bigger than he and Tugs because of the motivation it provides for an entire community. Knowing that a life of drugs and crime isn’t the only way to make a living can inspire many of the young people in Saginaw to be better and do more with their life. That inspiration comes from guys like Draymond Green and Brian Bowen.

“It says a lot. You do hear the negative side that’s all they show on the news, the negative things. But it says a lot to have guys doing positive things out of these cities. Showing guys that it is possible. Showing guys that it’s important that you stay on the right track because it is a way out!… There’s a way out. {I was once the same guy in your shoes} You can do better than me. You can do a lot more than me. But you have to stay on the right track and believe that, that is possible. I think that is always important.”

A Lesson We Can All Learn:

Over the course of Green’s career, he’s seen it all. He knows what it takes to win a championship and he also knows how it feels to have a title slip from his hands. He’s been doubted before and written off time and time again. Now he’s in a position to pay it forward and teach the young players the rights and wrongs of being a basketball player and give them the tools to be successful.

 

“Number one, just working,” Green stated when asked what are some of the things he tries to instill in the up and coming players. “When you look at this game. You’re blessed if you get 10 years out of this. To say you can’t work hard for 10 summers? Out of an 80-year life to get all that you can get out of yourself is crazy. Preaching that work ethic. Staying on the right track you know and doing the right things make sure you can get all you can out of your career. Not taking this for granted. I think that’s important also. So you try to preach that to the guys as well.”

 

Basketball fans can debate whether they like Draymond Green or not. You can criticize Green for his antics, gameplay, even his demeanor. However, everyone can agree that his message is clear. Giving back to the younger generation is needed to sustain the game of basketball. It’s much bigger than just basketball, though. Regardless, of what career path a person takes, being there for the people who want to get in your position is sometimes even more valuable than writing a check.

Brian Bowen will face adversities on and off the court. Bowen will have to learn how to use social media the correct way because if not it can be harmful to his image. He will deal with the media and must know how to conduct himself in a professional manner. There will be times when people will come to him and try to influence him in a negative way and having someone like Draymond Green in his ear steering him the right direction is what will really help him navigate his upcoming journey.

This is why many other basketball players must take the time out and invest in the youth. There’s nothing wrong with writing a check from time to time, but money comes and goes. The true values and life lessons these young players will learn from the older guys like Green will stay forever.

 

Joshua Vinson

Joshua Vinson

This season is my 5th year covering the NBA. I specialize in feature stories and exclusives are what I do best. During the NFL season, I'm now covering the Carolina Panthers. This is my second year covering the NFL. Feel free to connect with me. I live by the following quote: "A journalist who doesn't value deeply an audience's loyalty should be in another line of work." --- Peter Jennings

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