LOS ANGELES -- Love him or hate him, Draymond Green has cemented himself as one of the most entertaining, polarizing and outspoken figures in the NBA.
Green, the Golden State Warriors' unquestioned emotional leader, says exactly what's on his mind. He's boisterous, forthright and unapologetic. And he learned it from his mother, Mary Babers-Green.
"My mom. Growing up with her, she always taught us to say whatever. Like, 'You think something, say it. Don't bite your tongue for people,'" Green told ESPN in an exclusive sitdown interview. "I think there's a fine line with that, but at the same time I'm a firm believer in speaking your mind. Part of it is definitely the way I was raised, but part of it is, s---, I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. No matter what, s---, if you didn't speak up, you were going to get ran over."
Just this season alone, Green has delivered some strong statements, calling out Paul Pierce, criticizing Boston Celtics fans for booing Kevin Durant, issuing a warning to teams not to give the ball to the player he's guarding with the game on the line, and most recently suggesting the league office enroll in kinesiology courses in order to properly assess where his feet should land.
For Green's standards, such comments are merely considered a normal day in the basketball office. He said one of the reasons his quotes are dissected more than those of his peers is due to his candidness.
"It's genuine," Green stated. "I think when you look around this league, so much is scripted. And not scripted in a sense that the league is scripted, but when guys talk, it's like, 'Say this. Yeah, come out and say that.' Like, nah, I'm not doing that. I'm going to say what's on my mind. I'm going to say what's on my heart. It's just genuine speaking. I think a lot of stuff around this league, you're coached up to say this or somebody told you to say that.
"I know anytime I say something when I'm going to face heat, but I'm willing to face that heat. It's not like I'm going to run from it. I don't run from anything."Draymond Green
"We've got great P.R. people and I think they do an amazing job. They've never told me anything wrong; nonetheless, I like having my own voice. I know anytime I say something when I'm going to face heat, but I'm willing to face that heat. It's not like I'm going to run from it. I don't run from anything."
But, as the leader of the team, he has learned to walk carefully at times.
"I think being in this position that I'm in, you can't necessarily say everything you want to say."
The thought of Green as someone who holds back is mighty difficult to believe.
"Nah, trust me. Trust me. There's a lot that I hold back," Green reiterated with a big grin. "Most of the time, it's just for the betterment of my team. I think in certain situations, especially when you're in a team sport, sometimes you have to take into consideration what others can handle. It's not necessarily what you can handle. And I know some of the stuff I would say, the things that it would bring and it would probably be a distraction, so I stay away from it. I definitely hold back quite a bit."
If Green says something that goes viral, he will frequently seek the opinion and counsel of Warriors general manager Bob Myers.
The two have formed a unique, tight-knit bond.
"Bob is like a life coach," Green said. "Sometimes I will say something and Bob will be like, 'Yeah, but think about it like this.' And I'll be like, 'Damn, that's right, Bob. All right, you made me look at something from a different perspective.'"
"He'll call me with suggestions," Myers told ESPN, "and he'll ask what I think, but it's a relationship with good reciprocation. I'll ask him how's the team doing or what direction do you think we're going in. Is it good or bad? When he says the things he says, he's obviously in the media to a degree because of our team and who he is that allows him to have a position to say what's on his mind. And most of the time he's great.
"I'll just ask him why he says certain things and what he's hoping to accomplish. And if he does say something [controversial], he doesn't say a ton that I don't like, but I'll ask him did he think about what that might sound like to other people.
"But the biggest compliment it pays me is I think he listens. They don't have to listen. Just because I'm a GM, that doesn't mean they listen to you. A title is fine, but if that's all it is you're not going to get through to a player in my opinion."
When asked if he'd like to have back any of the controversial comments from this season, Green just began to laugh.
"Not really," he replied after a pause. "I think there's been a few things that I've kind of looked at from a different perspective, but it was still absolutely what I meant to say and I still feel that way."
Green's bravado might make people feel uneasy, but it's a trait Myers loves about him.
"I tell him that's my favorite quality in you is that you can't stand losing. But there's character flaws that come with that." Warriors GM Bob Myers
"A lot of people walk in the room and you don't know if they're there or not. You know when Draymond is in the room and when he's not," Myers said "and that to me is a compliment."
"He's the most vocal guy in this locker room," Varejao said. "It feels like when we're playing a tough game out there, it feels like he always knows what to say. Everything starts with him, especially our defense. He gets everybody going. He's a guy that everybody respects a lot and I respect him even more since coming over here and seeing how hard he works."
Added Myers: "I tell him that's my favorite quality in you is that you can't stand losing. But there's character flaws that come with that. I think the most competitive people in life don't love to win, they hate to lose. And people that hate to lose sometimes can rub people the wrong way. Kobe Bryant, I think he hated to lose a ton more than he loved to win. So we talk about that and what's the best way to go about that. But that's Draymond. He makes you want to win, he makes you want to be better."