Draymond Green has two teams: the Warriors and ‘Team Draymond’
A diverse group of influencers assist the Golden State forward in his day-to-day life
First there was Draymond Green’s suspension for Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals that sparked the Golden State Warriors’ collapse from a 3-1 lead to eventually falling to the champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Next Green reached a plea agreement that allowed him to avoid jail time after he allegedly slapped a Michigan State football player. And then for the encore, the forward apologized for posting a picture of his private parts on social media.
Fame, and his rise as a worldwide NBA star both hated and loved, became too heavy for Green to bear. So, in August 2016, Green quietly established “Team Draymond” with a long list of influencers to help get his life in order.
“What is most important is just really understanding where you were, where you are headed and where you are growing. For a minute, I didn’t grow with it,” the two-time NBA All-Star told The Undefeated. “My career and my life grew. It started to outgrow me, and I had to catch up. And some things took place in my life. Things like getting arrested. The Snapchat incident. Last summer taught me so much and made me really catch up with where my life was.
“I was still approaching it like I’m just a second-round pick playing basketball, having a good career. And I was someone who people were checking on. I became a household name. I became an All-Star. I became an Olympian. So, it just wasn’t that anymore. And I don’t say that in a cocky way. I say that in the humblest way as possible. But, your life grows, your career grows. It reaches different stages. And I wasn’t ready for the stage.”
To truly understand why the 27-year-old Green needed “Team Draymond,” you have to go back to where it all started in Saginaw, Michigan, to hear his rags-to-riches story.
Green was born in Saginaw on March 4, 1990, and was raised by his mother, Mary Babers, who worked as many as three jobs to make ends meet. Green recalled his mom having a house foreclosed when he was in the seventh grade. For the next two years, Green, his brother and mom moved into a two-bedroom duplex with his aunt and her son. His grandfather eventually bought Babers a home that needed a lot of remodeling. Green recalls his mom using her tax refund check to fix up the home and never allowing her children to feel like they were poor.
“Sometimes we slept on the floor with my mom on the couch,” Green said. “My little cousin had a bunk bed, so sometimes we’d sleep on the top bunk. We just made it work however we had to make it work for two years.
“From one job, I think my mom made $16,000. Working three jobs she probably brought in less than $30,000 a year, if that, and that’s probably pushing it. But you figure out what you’ve got, and that’s all you know, that’s all you know. You make it work.”
Green said the lack of money growing up made him “grind” as a basketball player.
Green’s mother told him growing up that he’d better figure out a way to make it big financially because he spent money quickly and wasn’t good at blue-collar jobs. Green wasn’t a heralded McDonald’s All-American selection or some prep school star. The former Saginaw High School standout was a fourth-team Parade All-American selection who ranked 36th in the ESPN Top 150.
Green said his aggressive and tough mentality on the floor is a product of his poor upbringing. Whether he is playing basketball or online dominoes with friends, he is playing to win “by any means necessary.”
“What are you going to do to survive?” said Green, a father of a newborn son. “It gave you that hunger and mentality that is hard to teach. It’s kind of something that you picked up usually from your circumstances. Usually, kids that grow up with a lot don’t have that survivor’s mentality by any means. They don’t have it because they’ve always had it.
“It’s something I honestly look at with my son and my daughter like, ‘They don’t have a clue.’ You try to simulate it as much as you can, but how much can you really simulate it?”
Green initially committed to play at the University of Kentucky for then-head coach Tubby Smith, but Smith left Kentucky to coach at Minnesota in March 2007. Green reopened his recruiting and decided to stay close to Saginaw by signing with Michigan State under coach Tom Izzo. Green ended his successful college career as one of three players in Michigan State history with more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
The 2012 Big Ten Conference Player of the Year wasn’t an elite NBA prospect despite being a well-rounded and tough player. His age, being viewed as undersized at his position and weight concerns hurt his draft stock. The Warriors selected Green with the 35th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, and he can still recite every prospect selected ahead of him. Green signed a three-year, $3.2 million rookie contract with the Warriors paying less than $1 million in each season. While the contract was mammoth by Saginaw standards, it was minimum wage by NBA standards. With his past in mind, Green had reason to be very proud of his first contract.
“Hell, yeah, I was excited when I signed that contract,” Green said. “I was at my apartment in East Lansing called Beaumont. I got it through FedEx. And, I open it up and I’m just looking at the numbers. And even then, I’m looking like, man, I’m about to make like $850,000. I think my contract totaled up to like $3.2 million or something like that. Three years, $3.2 million.
“I took a picture and put it in the group chat. I sent it to my boys like, ‘Yo, this is crazy. I ain’t never seen no money like that.’ I sent it to my mom. Like this is nuts, $850,000 a year? I couldn’t believe it.”
Green had the NBA contract, but he wasn’t supposed to receive a penny until the season arrived. In need of money, Green said, he asked for and was granted a $60,000 advance on his contract from the Warriors.
Green was welcomed to the real world of finances once his first check arrived, as taxes made their presence known immediately.
“What people didn’t understand was once I signed that contract I was still broke as hell,” Green said. “People think you get that money right away. You got to wait for the NBA to approve the contract. Then you got to wait for an advance. You don’t get your first check until Nov. 15th. I remember I took an advance for $60,000 on my first-year salary. I got that. And that was like the most bittersweet day when I got the wire to my account. I was so broke still, dog.
“It was $31,000 [after taxes]. And it was like the most bittersweet day of my life because I was like, ‘Man, I got $31,000 in my bank account? Man, where did the other 29,000 go?’ But, I was happy as hell to have that $31,000. Then I had to use a lot of that to move out here to the Bay. I still didn’t have any credit, so I had to put money up to get an apartment, get furniture and all this stuff. I was renting a car that the Warriors were paying for until I got my first check. And then all that s— came out of my check. So, I was still really broke when I got the first check.
“People don’t understand this. Out of your first check, you’ve got rookie dues coming out. You got escrow coming out. People think like you just balling from the jump. If you ain’t one of these top guys, getting endorsement deals and stuff out the gate, you still broke, man. But, you know, it’s still more than I’ve ever had.”
Green came off the bench for the Warriors during the Vegas Summer League in 2012. Golden State also had two first-round picks before selecting Green: forward Harrison Barnes, the seventh overall pick, and center Festus Ezeli, the 30th overall pick.
Green became a solid role player who made occasional starts and several notable plays during his first two NBA seasons. The 6-foot-7, 230-pounder hit gold in the 2014-15 season as he dropped 20 pounds, kept a starting forward job from an injured David Lee and helped the Warriors win their first NBA championship since 1975. Suddenly, Green went from second-round pick to household NBA name.
From a financial standpoint, Green’s timing could not have been any better, as he was a free agent during the summer of 2015. After an initial stalemate, he and the Warriors agreed to terms on a five-year, $85 million fully guaranteed contract extension.
Green went from making $915,243 in his third NBA season to $14.3 million the next.
“Once I signed that deal, it made the $850,000 look like pennies,” Green said. “So, I’m looking through that contract. My mom was here. That’s when we did the press conference and stuff, and I went up and signed it right before. And, I’m looking at that f—— contract like, ‘What the f—?’
“Five years. The first year I’m making 15-something, then 16-, then 17-. What in the world is going on here? My goodness, I couldn’t even fathom the numbers. That was amazing. I was just ecstatic.”
Even with the incredibly deeper pockets, Green’s former personal manager Jacquail “Juice” Jacox said the Warriors forward was responsible with his money after the mammoth pay hike. Green said his “financial people” wouldn’t allow him to buy anything outrageous, and he finally rewarded himself and bought an expensive watch this year. Jacox said Green once considered getting a private jet after a last-minute decision to take a trip with four other friends to Los Angeles from Oakland, California, but Green ultimately listened to him and bought Southwest Airlines tickets to Burbank instead.
“Still, to this day, he’s still the type of guy who says, ‘I’m not spending that type of money on that,’ ” Jacox told The Undefeated. “I would call it, I’m not going to say cheap because he’s not a cheap person. But he spends within his budget. His financial team does a great job of giving him a budget.”
Green did quickly spend $3 million in his new contract, but that was for a donation to Michigan State.
“He called me before he signed the contract to figure out how much money he wanted to give back to Michigan State. I mean, who does that? Nobody does that, that’s bugging them. Guy’s a unique guy, in a lot of ways. Not only his game but his whole personality,” Izzo told The Undefeated.
Green had money beyond his childhood dreams, became an NBA All-Star for the first time in 2016, had the ear of the media, landed commercials and became a love-him-or-hate-him player because of his no-chaser words and wayward on-court kicks that he professes have always been accidental. USA Basketball also named him a member of its 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games team.
But after the Warriors’ collapse in the 2016 NBA Finals sparked by his Game 5 suspension, his arrest and his sexting snafu, Green realized he needed to get his life in order and couldn’t do it alone.
“It was like the Finals and then the arrest, and then [Snapchat]. And it’s like, ‘f—.’ It was just so many things, and that was like the last of it all. [Warriors general manager] Bob Myers called, and he was like, ‘Are you done? If not, just tell me. We’ll figure it out. But are you done?’ I said, ‘Bob, I’m done. I got to get my s— together. I’m good. I’m done. I’m on the right track. I’m headed in the right direction.’ And that was it. The Snapchat thing was where it was like, ‘All right, it’s catching up to me,’ ” Green said.
Green believed he needed to get a diverse group together that he trusted and that loved him, had his best interest at heart and wanted to help. This collective group of men and women from diverse backgrounds all serve an important role to Green. And he refers to them as “Team Draymond.”
“To define it in one instance is tough because when I say, ‘Team Draymond,’ it’s covering basketball, it’s covering endorsements, it’s covering everything I do public relationswise,” Green said. “Everything I do community relationswise. It’s covering everything I do in business. That team covers all those things. Someone in this team covers all those things. And it covers my day-to-day life.”
Team Draymond already had several members, but the complete formation of it fell into place in August 2016. The members of the team:
- Agent B.J. Armstrong: The 1994 NBA All-Star won three titles with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The former Bulls front office member joined Wasserman Media Group in 2007 as a player agent and was elevated to co-manage Wasserman’s basketball department in 2010. Armstrong also represents New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose and former Kansas guard Josh Jackson, a top-five draft prospect.
“B.J. educates you so much. Business itself, how to grow business. B.J. is a sounding board for anything I do,” Green said.
- Tom Izzo: A Naismith Hall of Famer who has coached Michigan State for 22 seasons and has 544 wins. Izzo is very close to Green and typically attends several of his Warriors games a season.
“We have a unique bond. And the unique bond is, I’m a little crazy and he’s a little crazy. And I have a great appreciation for who and what he is,” said Izzo, who added that he speaks to Green regularly.
- Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium principal owner Stephen Ross: One of Green’s most beloved mentors, Ross is a Michigan native who Forbes magazine says is worth $15 billion. Ross is also the founder and chairman of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress. Green is a member of the advisory board.
- Warriors co-executive chairman Peter Guber: Another one of Green’s beloved mentors, Guber is also chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment and Mandalay Sports Media and owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Green and Guber regularly have deep powwows over foodie meals.
On Ross and Guber, Green said: “They are advisers and people who I trust who I know understands business. When I look for business decisions I may ask, ‘What do you think of this? If you were in this situation, what would you do? How did you handle this when you were starting out investing?’ I like having people like that in the corner.”
- Jacox (who is now the CEO of All in One Sports): The former Middle Tennessee State guard spearheaded Green’s Christmas charity event at an Oakland YMCA. Former NFL lineman LaMarr Woodley, who is from Saginaw, introduced them.
“Juice is like a jack of all trades. He’s all things community. He’s sometimes meeting people and bringing dudes to the table,” Green said. “But yet he stays in his lane. If there is someone he meets and it’s about marketing, he takes it to the marketing team. One of the most important things I’ve learned is having everyone stay in their lane. One thing about Juice is he’s an amazing people person. And so he just meets people that bring different opportunities to the table.”
Jacox started working for Green in 2015, managing his schedule and building relationships with potential business partners. But Green encouraged Jacox to depart to start his own business, All in One Sports, last year. Jacox is also still employed by Wasserman Group, a side job he landed through his connection to Green.
“We talked about it and he said, ‘If you want to grow, you can’t be up under me on a day-to-day basis,’ ” Jacox said. “ ‘I have to give you an opportunity to grow, and this next move will help you get to where I’m trying to get to.’ ”
- Marell Evans: A regional executive for Okta, a Silicon Valley company that provides secure identity management. Green’s closest personal friend keeps him abreast of what is going on in the business world and Silicon Valley.
“Marell is a sounding board,” Green said. “I like to surround myself with people, and everyone that I’ve named to you, that will tell me, ‘You’re wrong.’ Marell is the biggest, ‘Day, I love you, but you are wrong. Day, I love you, but you were on bulls—.’
“We hang out and vacation together. He has his own things going on. But I can call and talk about the tech space, too.”
- Jordan Dumars: A former Michigan guard who is the son of former Detroit Pistons guard and general manager Joe Dumars. Jordan is one of Green’s longtime and closest friends who has connected him to Evans and several other notable people. Hall of Famer Joe Dumars also mentored Green as a teenager.
“Draymond and I spent a lot of late nights with my dad in his office talking about basketball, women, anything,” Jordan Dumars told The Undefeated.
- Former Michigan State guard Travis Walton: The former D-League Salt Lake City Stars assistant coach trains Green during the offseason and works with him during playoff workouts. Green’s former Michigan State teammate also breaks down his film with him and worked him out during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“Whenever Travis is around, I feel like I am at the top of my game and my sharpness,” Green said. “He is there when I come into training camp. Travis and I worked out for the entire summer, and then when he comes back right before the playoffs … he just gets me into a groove and a rhythm and a confidence level that no one else can really get me to. He’s all things basketball.”
- Maverick Carter: Famed marketing mogul, businessman and Cleveland Cavalier forward LeBron James’ business partner.
“Mav has a relationship with everyone,” Green said. “Being able to have Mav as a soundboard, it’s important. Man doesn’t have what you would call an everyday role in Team Draymond. But he plays an important role because all big decisions I’m going to ask his opinion.”
Other Team Draymond members include: Focus Financial partner Daniel Sillman, Nike basketball representative Adrian Stelly, crisis public relations expert Adam Mendelsohn, Wasserman senior director of client services Lindsey Fitzgerald, newcomer personal assistant Nicholas Matthews, Denver Bronco and former Michigan State wide receiver Bennie Fowler, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment partner Jill Smoller and commercial agent Rob Koslowsky, Manteca Ford owner Phil Waterford, and businessman Gary Shiffman.
Adjusting from having nothing as an unknown kid in Saginaw to having millions as an NBA star with the Warriors wasn’t easy for Green. Izzo believes Green is finally on the right path with Team Draymond behind him.
“He had a lot of things that happened in a short period of time,” Izzo said. “He had to re-look at everything. And what I told him is, ‘You’re not the guy that’s hidden anymore. You know?’ And they need him to be the spokesperson. That’s his personality, and that’s part of his talent, but with that goes a responsibility. Like all of us, he’s learning, he’s growing, he’s better than he was. I mean he has his moments, so I kept telling him, ‘Don’t even waste the technicals in the regular season. They’re needless.’
“I talk to some of them [the Team Draymond members], that I know are really good people, too. He’s smart enough to realize that we need some people around us. He’s got some people around to help him with different things, and I think it’s worked out very well. I mean there are problems. I get to be part of that, I’m just not on the payroll.”
Green and the Warriors are now one win away from their second championship in three years entering Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the host Cavaliers on Friday night. Members of Team Draymond who are expected to be at the game include Izzo, Jacox, Armstrong, Walton and Sillman, with hopes of celebrating another championship with their work-in-progress Warrior.
“The most important thing is just being an organized group that’s about our business,” Green said. “Being organized and trying to make the best business decisions possible to put ourselves in the best position we can to take advantage of where we are and the platform that we have.”