Green, A. C. 1963–
A. C. Green 1963–
Professional basketball player
A. C. Green played in 1, 192 consecutive National Basketball Association (NBA) games between 1986 and 2001, an all-time record that some observers think may never be broken. But he stood apart from his fellow NBA players in other respects as well. Green startled the public in the 1990s by announcing—close to the time former Philadelphia 76ers center Wilt Chamberlain was bragging of his 20,000 sexual conquests— that he had never engaged in sexual intercourse. In an age when prodigious sexual activity among professional basketball players was common enough to be almost a stereotype, Green stated that he planned to enter into a sexual relationship only after marriage. He devoted much of his time and energy to trying to convince young people to follow the same course.
Born in Portland, Oregon, on October 4, 1963, Green grew up in a religious family. By high school he was already a top-flight basketball player. When he was 17, he was named Oregon’s Player of the Year and a high school All-American, and he led his team, Benson Tech High School, to a state championship. Heavily recruited by college scouts, he seemed on top of the world in the brand new car he was driving and a bright future as a basketball star ahead. Like his teammates he bragged about his sexual activities, keeping his virginity a secret.
Then, at a church in Hermiston, Oregon, on August 2, 1981, Green heard a preacher give a sermon entitled “Do You Want to go to Heaven or Hell?” Three times the preacher asked for congregants to come forward and accept Jesus Christ as savior, and after the third exhortation Green went up to the altar. “Since then the golden rule has come alive in my life,” Green told Vibrant Life.
Joined Los Angeles Lakers
Green’s strength under the boards—he stands six feet nine inches and weighs about 225 pounds—once again impressed the scouts who saw him play at Oregon State, but, he believed, they were unnerved by his religious fervency. Sometimes touted as a potential top draft pick for 1985, he was selected 23rd, at the end of the first round of the draft, by Los Angeles Lakers coach Jerry West. On the court, Green’s performance was solid from the start; he played in every game in the 1985–86 season, averaging 6.4 points and 4.6 rebounds
At a Glance…
Born on October 4, 1963, in Portland, Oregon. Education: graduated from Oregon State University. Religion: Christian.
Career: Professional basketball player, position of forward. Los Angeles Lakers, 1986–94; Phoenix Suns, 1994–96; Dallas Mavericks, 1996–99; Los Angeles Lakers, 1999–00; Miami Heat, 2000–01; broke NBA record for most consecutive games played, 1997; holder of all-time record of 1, 192 consecutive games played at retirement, 2001; worked to promote sexual abstinence.
Member: A. C. Green Youth Foundation, founder; Athletes for Abstinence.
Awards: NBA All-Star, 1990.
Addresses: Office —A. C. Green Youth Foundation, P.O. Box 1709, Phoenix, AZ 85001–1709.
per game while playing just under 19 minutes per game on average.
Coming to the Lakers in the midst of the team’s years of greatness, Green was never intimidated by the presence of legendary players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Earvin “Magic” Johnson; he often attempted to share his religious beliefs with his teammates. “Kareem and I talked to him,” Johnson recalled to the Los Angeles Times. “We told him, ‘Everybody might not have the same beliefs as you. You have to understand them, and they have to understand you.’” Soon Green was a functioning part of the well-oiled Lakers machine, and though he missed two games in the 1986–87 season, he joined the starting five the following year. It was 15 years before he would miss another game.
Even if he never became a star on Johnson’s level, Green was often noted as a mainstay of the Lakers’ winning efforts in the late 1980s. Averaging well over 10 points per game every year between 1986 and 1993 (with the exception of the 1990–91 season), Green was the team’s second-leading rebounder and a consistent defensive player. An aggressive player on the court, he justified his physicality with a reference to Scripture. “I look in the Bible in the Old Testament,” he said in an interview with Sport. “That’s where I find most of the butt-kicking going on in a sense of God’s army.” He was a member of two Lakers’ NBA championship teams, in 1987 and 1988, and was briefly the subject of controversy in 1990 when enthused Laker fans voted him to the NBA All-Star Game starting team over legendary Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone.
Green’s importance as a player was underlined in 1993 when he signed a five-year contract, worth more than &15 million, that induced him to move from the Lakers to the Phoenix Suns. That contract would have been even larger had it not been for the NBA’s recently instituted salary cap rules, but in addition to the money Green was drawn by the possibility of winning another NBA championship with the up-and-coming Suns. Green’s salary negotiations, however, were knocked off the sports pages when journalists discovered some of his old pronouncements about sexual abstinence, questioned him anew about them, and found the 30-year-old player undiminished in his commitment to his philosophy.
A fresh round of articles and interviews in 1998 yielded the same result. In an essay published that year in Ebony, Green wrote,”Being different, being unusual, being odd is not a problem for me. I am who and what I am, and I’m quite comfortable with that. I’m a virgin because, first of all, that’s what God has designated for me at this time, being a single man …. Secondly, I choose to be abstinent because of the self-respect and high regard I have for my body.” Green pointed out that he was not taking a lifetime vow of abstinence but was simply saving himself for marriage. Hoping to propagate his views, Green founded an organization of his own, A. C. Green Programs for Youth, joined with two other NBA players to form Athletes for Abstinence, and released a video entitled “It Ain’t Worth It” that included an abstinence rap of the same title.
During the 1996–97 season Green jumped to the Dallas Mavericks, and soon his growing streak of consecutive games pushed even the abstinence talk out of the headlines. Even losing two teeth in a collision with New York Knickerbockers player J. R. Reid did not sideline him—he underwent emergency root canal surgery and returned to the lineup the next day. Green broke the record with his 907th consecutive game on November 20, 1997. Hairsplitters quibbled that another player who had played part of his career in the defunct American Basketball Association had notched yet a longer streak, but Green pressed on and passed that record as well. Despite his physical style on the court, he fouled out of only three games over his entire career.
Dubbed the NBA’s “Iron Man,” Green finally began to slow down near the end of the century as he approached his late 30s, playing fewer minutes per game and scoring less. But he was still signed to multi-million-dollar contracts as he returned to the Lakers in 1999, and then moved to the Miami Heat in 2000. With the Lakers he finally had the satisfaction of contributing to a third championship team. After Green scored only 4.5 points per game with the Heat in the 2000–01 season, the streak came to an end at 1, 192 games when he found himself without a contract the following fall.
Accepting the end of his career with his usual placid confidence, Green became involved with the marketing of a sports drink and with a Los Angeles-area auto dealership. He continued his active involvement with his youth activities—the A. C. Green Programs for Youth had grown into the A. C. Green Youth Foundation, with offices in three cities. “I’m at peace,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s honestly how I feel. I thank God for [the streak] more than anything.”
“It Ain’t Worth It” (abstinence video).
“Why I Have Refused Sex,” Ebony, August 1998, p. 138 (essay).
Chicago Sun-Times, November 5, 2000, p. 142.
Jet, January 10, 1994, p. 48; December 8, 1997, p. 51.
Los Angeles Times, December 26, 1991, p. C9; February 2, 1993, p. C1; September 29, 1993, p. C1; November 30, 1999, p. Dl; October 31, 2001, p. Sports-10.
Sport, March 1993, p. 64.
Sports Illustrated, November 17, 1997, p. 42; December 13, 1999, p. 100.
Vibrant Life, November 1998, p. 20.
—James M. Manheim
"Green, A. C. 1963–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 20, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/green-c-1963
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