Spurs shooting guard Danny Green has made 19 of the 28 three-point field goals he attempted in the NBA Finals, a blistering 68% on the brightest stage playing for the biggest prize. Through four games, Green leads the team in scoring with 16.5 points. He is among veterans, a trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili specifically, whose 100 playoff victories together rank second all-time amongst trios. While Green has held his own among the battle tested starters in the Spurs lineup and against the elite competition of the Miami Heat, let’s break down some of his other numbers.
46: The spot he was drafted in 2009 by the Cavaliers.
115: The number of minutes he played in 20 games during his rookie campaign.
0: The number of minutes he played in the 2010 playoffs with Cleveland. The Cavaliers lost 4-2 vs the Celtics in the Conference Semifinals.
8: The number of regular season games he played in his first season with the Spurs in 2010-11.
66: The number of games he played in the next season with the Spurs (every game considering it was a shortened season). He started 38.
80: The number of games and starts in 2012-13.
115: The number of 3-pt field goals made in his first three NBA seasons combined
177: The number of 3-point field goals made this season, ranked 8th in the NBA.
47: The number of 3-point field goals made this postseason, which leads all players.
18: The number of playoff games he started for the Spurs in 2013.
32: The number of minutes he has played per game in the Finals vs former teammate LeBron James.
The path to greatness is often cloaked in rejection. Green’s NBA career, after four seasons at UNC, has been defined by the consistent need to prove himself in a game that is as much about opportunity as it is talent.
He spent time in the D-League. He was waived. And waived again. Talent without opportunity is just a promise, often unfulfilled. Green’s opportunities would come, and he stayed ready.
In Game 3 of the NBA Finals, with the series tied 1-1, he erupted for 27 points to lead all scorers. He shot nine of 15 from the field, including seven of nine from beyond the arc. LeBron James, the teammate Green once cheered on from the bench and scrimmaged against in practice, was limited to 15 points in the loss. While it is certainly not a James vs Green matchup or comparison, there is an element of irony in the Finals face-off. For James, the four-time MVP and 2012 Finals MVP, this stage has been expected, if not almost predestined. For Green, a place in the league seemed like a long shot at times. He could have won a championship with the Cavaliers as an afterthought. With the Spurs, he is integral.
In the postgame press conference, Green reflected on his childhood days as a fan watching playoff games and press conferences. “I watched hundreds of them…I never thought I’d be up here talking to you guys now,” he said.
Asked by a reporter if he thought he would ever be in a position to outscore former teammate LeBron James in an NBA Finals game, Green responded, “No. Never thought in a million years that would happen.”
While the numbers don’t define Green, they represent the tangible evidence of an ongoing journey. Many players face similar obstacles, as the road ahead is filled with the uncertainty of whether opportunity will ever be afforded and talent will ever be realized. The only constant that connects journeymen–players of different ilk looking for their shot, their chance to prove they deserve a place–is that good things can only happen if one stays ready for them.