Each player has a characteristic that defines them. For Draymond Green, flexing, grunting and his tenacious will represent his style.
Each component was displayed during the final minute of the Warriors' 124-119 victory over the Celtics on Dec. 11, 2015, when Green barreled his shoulder into Amir Johnson, drove to the lane and gave Golden State a three-point lead before flexing Boston out of its own building.
By the end of the evening, Green finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, helping the Warriors overcome two overtimes, two injuries to key players and one potential blemish to the best start in NBA history by providing one of his best games to date.
Green's performance continued a historic trend for the atypical regular-season Goliaths. Warriors coach Steve Kerr was intermittently replaced by Luke Walton after complications from offseason back surgery sidelined him just months after winning the team's first title in 40 years. Still, the budding rock stars didn't miss a beat, winning 50 of their first 55 games.
Lead singer, er, guard Steph Curry averaged 32.5 points through the first 24 games, a blistering start that culminated in the only unanimous MVP season in league history. His backcourt mate, Klay Thompson, played his way into his first All-Star Game, and Andre Iguodala rounded out a supporting cast that helped Golden State win a league-record 73 games.
In the star-studded fray, Green resided in a unique space. A generously listed 6-foot-7, the pudgy forward doesn't look the part of an elite rebounder or defender. Of the 2016 season-opening starting lineup, Green was the only player drafted outside of the first round. Though talented, he wasn't even the second-best player on the roster. Nonetheless, he was the team's heartbeat, displayed by the grit that often made him a loner as a youth.
"I took [the game] so seriously," Green said in November. "I didn't have a bunch of friends. Even in the NBA, I don't have a ton of friends. It's different for me. If you don't got what I got as far as passion goes, as far as the hate for losing that I have, you would never understand it."
The timing of Green's Boston outburst was noteworthy. Months removed from his first title, Green's tenacity earned him a five-year, $82 million contract. But it hadn't cost him yet.
Two months after the win over the Celtics, Green berated Kerr during the intermission of an overtime win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Three months after the tirade, he was suspended for Game 5 of the 2016 NBA FInals after picking up his fourth flagrant foul point of the playoffs when he took a swipe at LeBron James' groin near the end of Game 4. Green's suspension was the turning point in the Cleveland Cavaliers' historic comeback to win The Finals.
"If you're passionate about this s--t, like I'm passionate about this s--t, we don't bump heads," Green added. "That's just what it is. If you're not as passionate about this as I am, if you're not as passionate about winning as I am, we're going to bump heads, and that's just a fact."
Green shares that mentality with Kerr.
"We are equally as competitive and we are equally as likely to blow up," Kerr added in December. "Either one of us will snap -- he'll get a T, I'll break a clipboard. It's just the way we're built. That's how much it means to us."
But on that 2015 night against the Celtics, Green's powers led to winning plays. When the Celtics left him open beyond the arc, he drained two 3-pointers. When the defense collapsed, he found the open man, finishing with a team high in assists.
Talent aside, Green is first to admit his professional existence is built on two factors. The first is his knowledge of the game. Last season, he predicted the final minute of Duke's 77-76 NCAA Tournament win over Central Florida. As Green's predictions kept proving right, a crowd formed around the TV in the center of Golden State's Oracle Arena locker room. Each successful call led to Clairvoyant Dray basking in his own accuracy.
"I told you, K!" he screamed over and over to teammate Kevin Durant.
The second, more appropriate attribute, is Green's ability to find angles defensively. His first display against the Celtics came 10 minutes into the second quarter when he blocked Jared Sullinger's shot, leading to a fast-break layup. Ten seconds later, Green jumped straight up to contest Isaiah Thomas' charge to the basket, knocking the ball off the sub-6-footer and out of bounds.
But Green's best play came a quarter later, when an errant pass from Curry led to a three-on-one fast break with only Green back for the Warriors. Unfazed, the forward calmly waited for a pass to Avery Bradley and blocked another shot, momentarily preserving Golden State's six-point lead.
Green's play lifted his undermanned squad in double overtime, as he went 50 minutes. His night, like the rest of the season, was defined by the boost he gave when he was on while showing the same grit that later doomed them at the end of the season. But for an evening, he flexed, grunted and willed his team to a win.
Draymond Green's 2015 game vs. Celtics was Warriors star at his peak originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area