He played 16 years in the NBA and missed only three games at the beginning of his second season as a result of thumb injury, but what followed is a record-setting feat that will unlikely ever be broken.
Once he was back on the mend, A.C. Green played an amazing 1,192 straight games with the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat, earning the nickname “Iron Man” for the lofty achievement.
“When I look at it and put it into perspective, it’s a remarkable record that I was able to set, and I’m just blessed to have been given the opportunity to do it,” said Green, who was in South Pasadena this week towering over kids taking part in his basketball camp, now in its sixth year in the city. “You don’t think about the record as you’re going through it. You just do it. Your mindset is, ‘This is what you’re here for.’ You go to practice everyday, play the games and don’t really think about it.”
The streak began on November 19, 1986, and while he’s proud of it, his main focus today is in helping develop youth become better citizens. In 1989 he launched the A.C. Green Foundation to build self-esteem and character in young people, and teach moral and ethical principles that will help them make responsible decisions.
While the camp at South Pasadena High challenges participants in all aspects of play on the court – shooting, passing, dribbling, ball handling, rebounding and defense – it also provides important information off it through a series of workshops on proper nutrition, character development and financial literacy.
“In the nutritional classroom, we talk about healthy eating, the necessity of water, why hydration is so important,” explained Green. “We talk about hygiene, why dental work is so important, the need to take care of the body with a good diet. We talk about a lot of simple things that need to be reiterated to kids.”
In the financial literacy area, instructors address money issues, the value of a dollar, not wasting funds and the importance of saving at a young age, Green saying: “We provide the philosophy and mindset ‘I get a dollar, I don’t have to spend a dollar. Maybe I can spend 20 percent of it or 30 percent of it, but not the whole thing, and save money,’ They learn they don’t always have to spend money.”
The character development aspect of the classroom side of the camp focuses on the “kids becoming servant minded,” he said. “They must care for themselves but, more importantly, they must care for others in acts of kindness. They must understand there’s a lot of value in that on the court in sharing the ball and helping a teammate out who might be having a tough day if they miss some shot or two. We want them to encourage their teammates to keep trying and to not give up and stand up for themselves in life if someone is picking on them. It’s going to be okay and that’s it’s not nice to be a bully.”
Campers are left memorable life lessons to “help make them a better model citizen,” said Green who stresses sportsmanship and teamwork throughout the camp experience, which is part of the South Pasadena Educational Foundation’s (SPEF) series of summer camps, which provide students with fundamental skills, knowledge, and opportunities for character and leadership development in a variety of topics, including art, golf, soccer, tennis, science, dance, and, of course, basketball – the most popular of them all.
“I just think it’s the positive environment that AC provides,” noted SPEF Executive Director Stacey Petersen, explaining what makes the camp so popular. “It’s his philosophy of using basketball to talk about making good choices in your life. Everything leads back to who you are as a person as opposed to just being about basketball.”
Green, along with his team of young high school age coaches, uniquely teach all the necessary basketball skills, while weaving the financial literacy, nutrition and character development into it with the ultimate desire of providing a fun experience for each child.
And it seems to work as Petersen explained a lot of campers return year-after-year to be a part of it.
About 100 participants arrived on Monday to be a part of Green’s vision “that young people must develop morally, ethically, educationally, physically, and mentally to fulfill their dreams and goals in life,” while pointing out in his Foundation’s website that everyone is a winner at his camp. “The underlying theme throughout is to accept each person for who they are, in an unconditional atmosphere of love and respect. We must educate and assist the youth to ensure a better future.”