Al Green (basketball)

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Al Green
Personal information
Born (1953-09-03) 3 September 1953 (age 63)
The Bronx, New York
Nationality American / Australian
Listed height 188 cm (6 ft 2 in)
Listed weight 78 kg (172 lb)
Career information
High school Maine Central Institute
(Pittsfield, Maine)
College
NBA draft 1979 / Round: 3 / Pick: 64th overall
Selected by the Phoenix Suns
Position Point guard / Shooting guard
Number 15, 10
Career history
As player:
1981 Crispa Redmanizers
1981–1984 West Adelaide Bearcats
1985–1990 Adelaide 36ers
1991–1993 Newcastle Falcons
As coach:
2013–2015 Forestville Eagles
2015–present South Adelaide Panthers
Career highlights and awards

Al Green (born 3 September 1953) is a retired American-Australian professional basketball player who played his career in the Australian National Basketball League from 1981 until his retirement in at the end of 1993. Green obtained Australian citizenship in 1984.

School/College career[edit]

Born and bred in the South Bronx in what he calls "the real ghetto", Al Green and grew up playing basketball with future NBA All-Star player Bernard King. He attended Maine Central HS following which he attended Arizona Western Junior College. He then switched schools and went to North Carolina State University where he was a member of the NC State Wolfpack before again moving one last time to Louisiana State University to play for the LSU Tigers. During his college career for NC State and LSU Green would come up against the likes of future NBA Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson.[1]

Green entered into the 1979 NBA Draft where he was a third round selection (64th overall) by the Phoenix Suns, though he would never play in the NBA. In the draft, Green was selected before future NBA All Star center's - 6'11" (211 cm) Bill Laimbeer (65th - Cleveland Cavaliers), 7'2" (218 cm) James Donaldson (73rd - Seattle SuperSonics), and 7'4" (224 cm) Mark Eaton (107th - Phoenix).

1979 NFL Draft[edit]

While attending Louisiana State, Al Green was selected as pick #269 in the 1979 NFL Draft as a Defensive Back by the San Diego Chargers, despite never having played organised football. The choice was made primarily on Green's size, speed and jumping ability. Green and his agent spoke to the Chargers but despite the money he was being offered to change sports, he decided that he wanted to continue playing basketball and felt that there had to be somewhere in the world he could play.

Professional career[edit]

After failing to gain a contract with Phoenix, Green, a 6'2" (189 cm) guard, reasoned that if he didn't want to play football, there must be somewhere in the world he could play basketball. This led him in 1981 first to the Philippines for the Crispa Redmanizers, and later to Adelaide in South Australia and the West Adelaide Bearcats who played at the 3,000-seat Apollo Stadium. The Bearcats played in the fledgeling National Basketball League, which in 1981 was then heading into just its third season after starting in 1979. For Green, Australia was a perfect choice as not only was there no language barrier and the Australian lifestyle, which during the 1980s was being influenced more and more by the USA, was similar to what he was used to. Green, who could run faster, jump higher, and dunk the ball better than just about anyone else at the time in the fledgling league, was an instant star in Australia and in his first season he helped the Bearcats to a third-place finish and was selected to his first All NBL First Team.

The 1982 NBL season saw Green continue with the Bearcats, who made the NBL Grand Final against the Geelong Supercats. West Adelaide won their only NBL championship, winning 80–74 at the Broadmeadow Basketball Stadium in Newcastle. Green had a supreme season in his second year in Australia and was voted the NBL's Most Valuable Player in 1982, but controversially was left out of the All NBL First team. It was the first of so far three times that the league MVP has not been selected in the All First team (Owen Wells in 1983 and Joe Hurst in 1988 being the others). During 1982, Green averaged 26.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He also shot a career best 58.7% from the floor. During the year Al Green also gained selection to the first ever NBL All-Star Game played at the Apollo Stadium in April.

Green had established himself as the premier guard in the NBL and in 1984 set scoring records in the league that still stand. He scored a league record 71 points in a game against the Frankston Bears, shooting 26 from 44. He also scored 60 points and 59 points in other games through the 1984 season on his way to a league-leading 39.5 points per game in 21 games played despite the Bearcats finishing 11–13 for the year. His 39.5 points per game in 1984 is the second-highest average ever in an NBL season, beaten only by Andrew Gaze of the Melbourne Tigers (who would go on to become the NBL's all-time leading scorer) who in 1987 averaged 44.1 points per game.

After the 1984 NBL season, West Adelaide pulled out of the NBL and some players from the Bearcats, including Al Green, 1980 Moscow Olympian Peter Ali, former Aussie Boomer Ray Wood, and young outside shooting swingman Mike McKay, joined the Adelaide 36ers in 1985 as Adelaide's only team in the NBL. The 36ers, coached by the Bearcats 1984 coach Ken Cole, included players such as future Boomer Darryl Pearce, as well as import players in 6'9" (206 cm) centre Bill Jones and 6'7" (201 cm) rebounding sensation Mark Davis, finished the regular season second on the ladder (but equal with minor premiers Brisbane Bullets), and after a record 151–103 win over Newcastle in the Semi-Final were into the NBL Grand Final, where they faced the Bullets at the Sleeman Sports Centre in Brisbane. Al Green was held to 15 points and fouled out of the game midway through the last period as the Bullets, led by Green's former 1982 championship teammate Leroy Loggins with 41 points, won easily 120–95. As he was fouled out, Green, who had always been an emotional player, reacted to a taunt from Bullets captain Larry Sengstock and threw the ball at his head, giving away a technical foul in the process.[2]

On 21 April 1985 during the 36ers home game against the Melbourne Tigers, with his 8th of an eventual 22 points for the game Al Green became the first player in NBL history to have scored 3,000 career points.

At the start of the 1985 season, coach Ken Cole faced the choice of playing either Green or 6'2" (188 cm) guard Darryl Pearce at point guard for the 36ers as the only other point guard in the team was veteran Ray Wood who was in the twilight of his career. Both Green and Pearce were more natural shooting guards, though Cole ultimately chose Green to run the floor, despite him being in the top two or three scorers in the league since his 1981 debut. Most of the reason for the choice was that it was felt Pearce was a better outside shooter than Green while Green, who wasn't afraid to drive to the basket for a lay-up or slam dunk, was a better passer of the ball, the trademark of a good point guard. Although not completely happy with Cole's decision, Green accepted the move and excelled in the role of point guard and for the first time led the his team with 5.1 assists per game in 1985. His form in 1985 for Adelaide saw him win selection to his second All-NBL First Team.

Green and the 36ers continued to dominate the NBL in 1986, going 13–0 at home at the Apollo Stadium and finishing the season with a 24–2 record. The team, known as "The Invincibles", again faced Brisbane, this time in a best of three Grand Final series. After splitting the first two games, Adelaide won their first and Al Green won his last NBL championship with a 113–91 win at home. Green averaged 15 points over the three-game series. His scoring prowess seen from 1981-1984 was slowed by Cole choosing him over Pearce as the 36ers point guard. Green, not a natural PG, successfully changed his game and actually led the team in assists per game rather than just in points.

Al Green continued to play for the 36ers until the end of the 1990 NBL season. In that time, the team never made another Grand Final but finished the 1987 and 1988 regular seasons in first place. Following the 1990 season, and after 164 games for the 36ers, Al Green wasn't re-signed by the club and he found a new home with the Newcastle Falcons.

He played three seasons with the Falcons (1991–1993) before retiring from the NBL at the age of 36 after 340 games and 7,520 points scored, finishing with career averages of 22.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.

During his career, Green was often accused by the media of not being able to handle the pressure of big games such as Grand Finals, mostly stemming from sub-par performances (by his standards) in the 1982 and 1985 Grand Finals where he scored 11 and 15 points respectively compared to his season averages of 26.5 and 31.0. Green's answer to those who claimed he couldn't play big games was that "At least I got there and won two championships".[citation needed]

Athletics[edit]

Al Green wasn't only a professional basketball player. He was also a professional runner who won Adelaide's famous Bay Sheffied sprint race held over 120 metres in both 1983 and 1984. Starting off a 4.75 mark and running the equivalent of 6 yards (5 m) inside even time, Green won the 1983 Bay Sheffied in a time of 12.0 seconds and by a margin of approximately 3 metres. Earlier in the year Green had finished 2nd in Australia's oldest and richest short distance running race, the Stawell Gift. Starting off a 2.0 mark in 1984, Green won his second Bay Sheffield in a time of 12.67 seconds, becoming the first man in 80 years to win back to back Bay Sheffield's (H. Smith won in 1902 and 1903). He also became only the third man after G. Clarkson (1890–91) and Smith to win back to back.

After he became a naturalised Australian in 1984, Green announced his retirement from professional running with the intention of running for Australia at the 1986 Commonwealth Games as a 400m runner. Green's decision to try for the Commonwealth Games saw him forced to give up his attempt at a historic third Bay Sheffield in a row. Ultimately, like he did when he was drafted into the NFL in 1979, Green again decided his true home was on the basketball court and he went on to help the 36ers to their 1986 NBL Championship instead of pursuing a place on the Australian Team for Edinburgh.

Al Green was inducted into the Bay Sheffield Hall of Fame in 2008.

Current[edit]

After his stint with the Newcastle Falcons ended at the end of 1993, Green returned to Adelaide where he is currently the coach of the South Adelaide Panthers senior men's team in the Central Australian Basketball League, as well as the current coach of the Westminster School open A's and B's. He remains a staunch supporter of the 36ers, and is also a regular coach at both the Adelaide 36ers and Tristar sports camps which are held every January for kids.

As of 2016, Green lives in Adelaide and works as a US basketball tour guide.[3]

Honour roll[edit]

NBL career: 1981–1993
NBL Grand Final appearances: 4 (1982, 1983, 1985, 1986)
NBL Finals appearances: 9 (1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1993)
NBL Championships: 2 (1982, 1986)
NBL Most Valuable Player: 1982
All-NBL First Team: 2 (1981, 1985)
NBL Leading Scorer: 1 (1984)
Australian Basketball Hall of Fame: 1999

NBL career stats[edit]

Note: The Three-point line was only introduced to the NBL in 1984.

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
Denotes season(s) in which Green won an NBL championship
Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
1981 West Adelaide Bearcats 23 23 NA .500 NA .733 NA NA NA NA 26.0
1982 West Adelaide Bearcats 28 28 NA .587 NA .743 4.7 2.4 NA 0.0 26.5
1983 West Adelaide Bearcats 26 26 NA .567 NA .763 3.7 2.3 1.0 0.2 29.6
1984 West Adelaide Bearcats 21 21 NA .523 .349 .760 6.4 5.0 1.9 0.3 39.5
1985 Adelaide 36ers 28 28 NA .541 .366 .793 6.0 5.1 1.3 0.3 31.0
1986 Adelaide 36ers 30 30 NA .505 .389 .689 4.5 3.5 1.1 0.5 19.4
1987 Adelaide 36ers 29 29 41.0 .537 .368 .720 5.0 3.2 0.8 0.4 23.1
1988 Adelaide 36ers 26 26 36.3 .542 .325 .728 3.9 3.9 1.4 0.6 20.0
1989 Adelaide 36ers 25 25 37.7 .528 .366 .783 3.5 3.8 1.2 0.2 14.7
1990 Adelaide 36ers 26 NA 22.5 .505 .400 .750 2.1 2.2 0.9 0.3 9.8
1991 Newcastle Falcons 26 26 41.1 .533 .383 .702 5.1 2.1 1.0 0.2 22.2
1992 Newcastle Falcons 24 24 34.4 .548 .414 .805 5.8 3.0 1.1 0.4 18.9
1993 Newcastle Falcons 28 28 32.0 .413 .310 .683 4.3 2.7 1.1 0.2 10.3
Career 340 NA NA .531 .364 .748 4.2 3.0 1.0 0.3 22.1

References[edit]

External links[edit]