Three years ago, Draymond Green was a longshot — the 35th overall pick in the 2012 draft, an accomplished and respected collegiate player whom many observers doubted had the size, skill and clear positional fit to make a major difference at the next level. Now, after using his determination, versatility and talent to hold onto a starting-lineup spot for a Golden State Warriors club that went on to win the 2015 NBA championship thanks in large part to his strong play — and after coming in second place in Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year voting in the process, with an All-Defensive First Team nod to match — Green's a known and highly valued commodity.
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We found out this summer just how highly the Dubs valued Dray, backing up the Brinks truck with a five-year, $82 million contract to keep the multifaceted and mouthy people's champ in the Bay for the next half-decade. Now that his ship has come in, Green has decided to share some of his newfound wealth, making a very generous contribution to the alma mater that helped make him the successful professional he is today.
How generous, exactly? A cool $3.1 million, "the largest [donation] ever made by an active professional athlete to his or her former school," according to Forbes' Jason Belzer:
The donation will go to support two of Michigan State’s top athletic priorities — facilities and endowments — in their Empower Extraordinary campaign. Specifically, Draymond’s gift will go to help build a new strength and conditioning room in the room in the Jack Breslin Student Events Center as part of an overall facility renovation.
“Michigan State means everything to me,” says Draymond. “I grew up in Saginaw and and was lucky enough to attend Michigan State University where Coach [Tom] Izzo believed in me and gave me the chance to succeed. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my Spartan experience and this donation reflects my deep appreciation to the University. This donation isn’t just about me. I want more kids to have the opportunities I had thanks to Michigan State and want to use this to stimulate all Spartans to give back to the best university in the world,” he adds.
That includes fellow Michigan State alum Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers — the team that Green's Warriors beat in the 2015 NBA Finals, and about whom Green shared some not-so-nice words during Golden State's championship celebration — whom Draymond upon to donate via Bleacher Report's "Uninterrupted" series alongside Gilbert's son, Nick.
Evidently, the Quicken Loans boss heard Green's call loud and clear:
Proud of my Spartan brother (excluding month of June) Classy&admirable move.Your man M.Hollis all over me.Stay tuned https://t.co/W77chA71j3
— Dan Gilbert (@cavsdan) September 11, 2015
(That M. Hollis, we're guessing, is Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, whom we suspect communicates with well-heeled alumnae like Green and Gilbert through slightly more personal methods than a form letter and a donation envelope.)
As you might expect, Izzo — who coached Green from 2008 through 2012, a span that included two Final Four trips, one Big Ten Tournament championship and, in Green's final season on campus, consensus First-Team All-American and NABC National Player of the Year selections — was pretty excited about his former charge's decision to give back.
"I'm so proud of Draymond," Izzo said in a school statement. "From his time as a student-athlete, he was always thinking of people other than himself — that's part of the reason he was so successful. I believe it's only fitting that his name be on the weight room. He would be the first to admit that he was out of shape when he stepped on campus as a freshman. But through extraordinary commitment and effort, he transformed himself into a national player of the year."
As Green tells it, his appreciation for Izzo's guidance was a major reason behind his decision to donate.
"I went to school a lost boy and I left there a well-guided young man" he told ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss."I owe a lot of that to Coach Izzo and his staff [...] I never thought I'd be in this position to give anybody $3 million, I've never been so excited in my life to give money away."
He expanded on those feelings after the official announcement of the gift on Thursday, according to Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press:
“I can say thank you all I want and I can talk to coach Izzo every day. But how do I do something to say thank you but to also help these guys over here have the opportunity that I have? One thing coach Izzo used to always tell me is ‘I'm living my dream. All I want to do is see you live yours.’ As a freshman, it's hard to believe that. The way he's on you, you don't understand it, it's hard to believe it. Once you realize, ‘This guy wants me to be successful more than I want to be successful,’ it develops that love and makes you want to come back and give back to these guys like others have done for me.”
Draymond Green talks about his decision to give MSU Athletics $3.1 million. http://t.co/4fITi8CUWs
— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) September 11, 2015
Green follows in the footsteps of fellow Spartan athletes like Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson, former NBA All-Star and Turner Sports broadcaster Steve Smith and five-time Pro Bowl NFL offensive tackle Flozell Adams, all of whom have made significant donations to the university in years past. None have matched Green's generosity in a single donation, though; while we don't doubt that he's sincere in expressing his excitement about being able to give back, we're guessing he doesn't mind having those bragging rights, too.
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