Ask Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr if All-Star forward Draymond Green is the key to making things work for the team this season, and he doesn’t hesitate. “Yes,” he responds immediately, “and I told him that, too. There’s going to be an adjustment, but Draymond is always going to be at the center of everything we do.”

In case you haven’t heard, the Warriors, coming off the best regular season in NBA history, signed four-time scoring champion Kevin Durant this past summer, providing even more firepower to an offense that already boasted two-time MVP Steph Curry and sweet-shooting two guard Klay Thompson. Green’s teammates are legitimate superstars, with the awards and offensive records to match, but he is a different sort of player entirely. He shot 39 percent from the three-point line last season, but Green’s true value is as a creator on the offensive side and a disruptor on defense. He’s an undersized center with an oversized motor—and the mouth to match. And even with Durant on board, that won’t change. 

Green, 26, is the glue to the team, and he knows it. “That’s definitely a part of my role,” he says, dressed in a slim-fitting burgundy bomber, polo shirt, joggers, and black slip-ons at the Impact Hub, a hip cooperative workspace in downtown Oakland. “Making sure everything comes together; making sure nothing comes in between us.”

A second-round pick out of Michigan State in 2012, Green has rapidly risen through the Warriors ranks, ascending from bit player to bench mainstay to starter to All-Star. Over the last two seasons, he anchored the “Death Lineup,” along with Curry, Thompson, the since-departed Harrison Barnes, and 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. Together they were a fury of threes on offense and switches on defense that befuddled opposers to the tune of an NBA championship in the 2014–2015 season and a record-breaking 73 regular-season wins in the 2015–2016 season. But the Cleveland Cavaliers managed to solve the lineup during last year’s finals, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to hand Golden State an unprecedented defeat.

For Green, the loss added insult to injury. He’s Golden State’s most vocal leader, and throughout last season, he was frequently criticized for his brash, unapologetic nature. In the playoffs, a number of flagrant fouls he committed prompted pundits and players alike to label him a “dirty player.” 

But off the court, he’s nothing like his rep.

He has begun investing in affordable housing, both back home in Michigan and in the Bay Area. In 2015, he made a record $3.1 million donation to his alma mater, whose East Lansing, Michigan, campus will now feature the Draymond Green Strength and Conditioning Facility. “It’s kind of funny,” he says, “since I came into Michigan State probably 25 pounds overweight.”
Those extra pounds are gone now. But Green’s core, the drive that took him from the courts of his hometown Saginaw, Michigan, to the packed Oracle Arena, is still the same. He has made it so far already, but he’s not satisfied. Not even close.