LeBron James played against the Los Angeles Lakers three times on Christmas Day in Staples Center.
On one of those occasions, in 2010 when James was with the Miami Heat, a young basketball wannabe from Sydney, Australia, got the Christmas present of a lifetime when his parents took him to America and Josh Green got to see his childhood hero, Kobe Bryant, playing against LeBron.
“Growing up, my favorite player was always Kobe,” Green said. “I always liked to pretend like I was (Kobe) in the driveway with the shot clock (ticking down) and everything. One Christmastime it was the best Christmas present ever to be able to come and watch that game. To think I’m going to play Christmas Day in Staples Center is awesome.”
The Mavericks and Green will be at LA to play LeBron and the Lakers on Christmas Day. It will be Green’s second NBA game after being drafted by the Mavericks last month.
Not a bad way to get initiated into the league.
“It’s going to be an awesome experience for me to do that,” he said.
Green, the 6-6 guard out of Arizona who the Mavericks got with the 18th overall pick in the draft, is entering the NBA a little differently than draftees of the past. There was no summer league, no rookie orientation in New York and no time to get adjusted to a new city and a new way of life.
Gone are the days in the Arizona desert after one season with the Wildcats.
“It’s been hectic, being drafted to the Mavs to coming out here, finding a place,” Green said. “But my main focus right now is just practice. Practice as hard as I can and learn as much as I can.”
Green, who turned 20 last month, comes in with the reputation of being a willing defensive player, which fits in with coach Rick Carlisle’s strategy of making the Mavericks stickier on that end of the court.
And Green already has said all the right things. When asked about how he hopes to have an impact defensively, he said:
“It starts off the court. I like to watch film of players you’re going to be playing against. I enjoy playing defense. A lot of people don’t enjoy that side of the ball, but I really do.”
It’s a willingness to do dirty work that makes any player better on the defensive end.
Green has that attribute.
“Little things matter,” he said. “There’s a lot more than what the stat sheet shows after every single game. If I’m able to do little things that help the team out – not everybody can shoot the ball every single time – for me and a lot of young players, it’s about figuring out what you can do to help. At the end of the day, your main goal should be to win the game.”
Green did his share of that during his freshman season at Arizona. The Wildcats went 21-11 and spent most of the season in the top 25 until the season was halted by the pandemic in mid-March.
From there, it was a long hiatus from competitive basketball until he heard his name called on draft night last month.
“It was awesome,” Green said of getting picked 18th. “I got a call from my agent at like the 16th or 17th pick. And when I got that call, my heart was beating like crazy.
“When they told me the Mavs were going to pick me, I was still shocked. It’s a huge dream you have your whole entire life. I just felt very starstruck.”
Even moreso when you find out you’ll be playing against LeBron James at Staples Center on Christmas.