LOS ANGELES, CA (FR) – A.C. Green’s playing style is not the only thing about him that has made headlines in the sports media. This “Power Forward” for the Los Angeles Lakers – the 1988 NBA champions for the second consecutive year – is not your typical highly paid professional athlete in the celebrity/pleasure mecca of America. Instead of partying until the wee hours of the morning in any of L.A.‘s hotspots, Green spends much of his free time praying, reading his Bible, and sharing with others about his Christian faith.
He’s been dubbed the Lakers’ “resident straight arrow” by a local columnist. This past season, with an unprecedented three seven-game-series NBA championship victory, has obviously been a successful season for the team, but also a hard one for Green. One of his darkest moments was when forward Kurt Rambis replaced him on the starting lineup half-way through the season.
“The media really played that up,” Green said. “They would ask me, ‘Why aren’t you guarding? Why aren’t you playing?’ They tried to spark animosity between us. But I didn’t give into it.” Moments such as these usually reveal if a person’s beliefs are only skin deep; Green obviously passed the test.
“I could have complained,” he continued. “I could have gotten angry, but I decided to see what was best for the whole team.” In retrospect, the move has worked to his advantage; he was back on the court by the time the playoffs began – and he was dubbed “the enforcer” at the end of the season.
What kept the team going through the tiring three seven-game-series? Green says it was “a lot of heart. We usually play 82 games during a regular season, and when you get far into the season, you don’t have that much physical strength. It was a lot of heart and determination. We saw the goal and the opportunity at hand. We might never be able to do it again, but there was a lot of fire in the whole team.”
Coach Pat Riley had opened up the 1987-88 season with a pledge to recapture the championship. Green said, “The guys were surprised to hear it, but the pressure was really more on the coach than on us.” Besides improving his game throughout the last season, he says many of his teammates have asked questions about his relationship with Jesus Christ. “A lot of them come up to me and tell me what they believe, and I just share with them what happened to me.”
Green was able to hold Bible studies with the players while they were on the road. “My teammates are very respectful of what I stand for. I don’t have to say anything … but there is a greater awareness of what Jesus means to them.”
Sports reporters have asked Green how he reconciles his aggressive playing on the court with his “turn the other cheek” Christianity. “God wants his people to be warriors,” he told a journalist with The Los Angeles Herald. “And I don’t mean waging literal warfare or getting into fights. What I mean in being a fighter is doing your best in your chosen profession. I don’t think any Christian should be a passive kind of person. If he is, then he’s going to be headed for a lot of problems in his spiritual walk.”
“I’m ready to battle when I step on a court. I expect to fight – not a physical fight when people exchange punches, but a fight to get rebounds and to score points. Just look at God’s warriors in the Bible. They were always ready to fight, to destroy their enemies, and possess their land. It’s that spirit of might that moves me. I don’t start anything, but I won’t back down from anybody, either.”
At the end of the 1988 playoffs, during the Detroit games, Green says he was reading in the Bible how Jesus’ life affected so many people. “I later explained this to the assistant coach,” said A.C., “and explained to him how the One affected the many.” Ever since then, during the intense moments of the game, the assistant coach would stick one finger up to signify “the One affecting the many.” After the final game, he told Green, “You’re right, A.C. one person can affect the many.”
Green says he believes the Lakers can repeat last season’s victory, but it won’t be easy. For the next season, he wants this season’s performance to be a springboard; “I usually shoot for 15 points per game or 10 rebounds. I was happy with this past season’s performance, but not satisfied,” he commented.
His goal is also to see athletes come to a relationship with Jesus. He wants to see men that aren’t influenced by the world of entertainment but who will be humble in the midst of publicity: “I want to see guys who won’t be egotistical or prideful but submissive to Jesus. That’s where real power comes from.”