Led by Magic Johnson and a venerable cast of stars and role players, the Showtime Lakers left an indelible stamp in NBA history books. Though his game lacked the same flash as some of his teammates, A.C. Green’s timeless work ethic consistently provided a spark during both of his stints with the Lakers. More than anything, Green regularly reminded fans and other NBA players how fortunate they were to play basketball for a living.
For A.C., playing in the NBA for 17 seasons was just as much about the love of the game as it was about simply showing up for work and collecting a hard-earned paycheck. That is exactly what the NBA’s ultimate iron man did, playing in a league record 1,192 consecutive games. To put that staggering number into perspective, Kobe Bryant—widely considered one of the NBA’s great warriors today—amassed a streak of 235 consecutive games played that ended earlier this year.
Green hardly watched the clock while he was “on duty,” as he was a pivotal role player on three championships squads (1987, 1988 and 2000). In fact, he led the Lakers in rebounding in six of the nine years he played for the team, boosting his career averages to 7.4 boards and almost 10 points per game. His play was rewarded through selections on the 1990 All-Star team and the 1989 All-Defensive Second Team.
While many fans remember the unselfish forward for his deep religious beliefs off the court, A.C. was also a devout and loyal teammate who was willing to do whatever it took to help his team. Green’s even-tempered attitude was hardly representative of his on-court play though, where his tenacious defense and all-out commitment served as his bread and butter. A.C. was crafty player who was fundamentally sound on both offense and defense, always boxing out in the most advantageous spot or ready to nail a baseline jumper.
In many ways, experienced, savvy veteran role players like Green have become some of the most coveted players in today’s NBA. In the same way that Derek Fisher’s contributions have been instrumental to the past five Lakers titles, championship teams need players like A.C. to fill in the holes around their stars, to remind them that winning takes a whole lot of hard work too.