A.C. Green knew what it was like to be a member of the Los Angeles Lakers on two different levels. He came in as a rookie, playing with the Showtime group featuring Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He then returned late in his career, mentoring a young Kobe Bryant and helping ease the tension between Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
Green recently explained that there were three groups during his second stint with the Lakers. There was the Kobe group, Shaq group, and the veteran group. He recently revealed how the veteran group took charge.
A.C. Green is the Cal Ripken of the NBA
The Lakers drafted Green out of Oregon State with their first pick in the 1985 NBA Draft. After missing three games in his second year, he went on to play in 1,192 straight games, becoming the Cal Ripken of the NBA.
“From a physical standpoint, you’ve got to do what you can do. You’ve gotta play your part,” he said of the streak on Byron Scott’s Off the Dribble podcast. “So you gotta get in that gym. You gotta get in that weight room. You’ve gotta bust your behind and you’ve gotta have your guys hold you accountable to go to the weight room and get your repetitions in.
“The spiritual aspect, honestly, it’s all those things that are out of your control. For the 99.8 percent of the games that I played in, that had a big part in it. You’re always airborne. You’re always going up in the air. the landing is so important. You just don’t know where you’re gonna land, how you’re gonna land.
“All that stuff plays a part. I am grateful. I am beyond blessed just to look and at it now and see what God has done.”
Green won three championships with the Lakers, winning in 1987, 1988, and 2000.
His consecutive-games streak began on November 19, 1986, and went on until the final game of his NBA career on April 18, 2001. He missed three games in his 16 years in the NBA.
A.C. Green explained how he and the Lakers veterans handled the Kobe vs. Shaq feud
Green spent the first eight years of his 16-year NBA career with the Lakers. As a rookie, he started one game and averaged 6.4 points per game. The next two seasons, he won championships. After eight seasons, he signed with the Phoenix Suns as a free agent.
He spent time with the Suns and Dallas Mavericks before returning to the Lakers for the 1999-00 season.
When he was back with the Lakers, it was quite the difference from his time there as a rookie. He became the veteran leader and spent much time dealing with the feud between Bryant and O’Neal.
“I remember in our team locker room, Phil (Jackson) was having a meeting, a film session, and we’ve got our two superstars not seeing eye to eye,” he said. “We got the Shaq group, the Kobe group, and the veteran guys who have already won a championship. We’re like in the middle, looking at one another like, ‘You know what we gotta do, right?’
“Next thing you know, we’re like, ‘Coaches, can you all leave the room for a minute?’ Let’s just say some choice words were exchanged. Some voices got high. Some furniture got moved. The point got across and the mission got on. Then we went on another winning streak, and they finally started to see that this is how you win, and this is how you actually start to look out after one another.”
The Lakers went on to win the first of three straight championships that season
Green’s veteran presence helped ease the tension in the Lakers locker room. The team gelled, at one point winning 30 of 31 games down the stretch.
They finished with a record of 67-15 and outlasted the Portland Trail Blazers in seven games in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers won the first of three straight NBA Finals when they knocked off the Indiana Pacers in six games.
The team was loaded with talent. They just needed to figure out a way to make the personalities work. Adding Green to the mix helped.
With Green, the Lakers knew what they were getting when they resigned him. They added a guy who had been there and a guy you could count on being there with his Iron Man streak. It paid off in the form of a championship.