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What's Up Magazine

Washington Wizards forward Jeff Green

Nov 02, 2018 12:00AM ● By Brian Saucedo

Six years ago, Jeff Green worried about bigger things than a thriving NBA basketball career. Doctors discovered Green had an aortic aneurysm during a routine physical with the Boston Celtics, and he underwent open-heart surgery that left a nine-inch scar down his chest as a permanent reminder of how close he came to death. 

Since recovering, he has played six solid seasons, including a trip with the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James to the NBA final last year. Green, a forward, had a memorable Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals win over Boston by scoring 19 points to help the Cavaliers advance.

Now, he’s ready to embark on an even bigger career highlight—playing for his hometown Washington Wizards. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound Green grew up in Hyattsville, attended Northwestern High, and went on to lead Georgetown to the Final Four in 2007.

He’s no stranger to the home of the Wizards, Capital One Arena. Green attended the team’s games as a fan and the Hoyas played their home games there. His family can watch him play again on a regular basis instead of seeing him come into town as an occasional visiting player.

“It’s amazing and an overwhelming feeling,” Green says. “I have a lot of great memories, and hopefully those memories will continue to be great.”  

Green joined the Wizards on a $1.5 million contract in July and he’s made nearly $70 million in his 11-year career, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Washington’s trio of stars, John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr., also made the Wizards attractive. They’ve made the playoffs in four of the past five seasons. “I thought it was the perfect fit with the talent on this team, and the opportunity that is at hand,” Green says. “I think a lot of guys are hungry to get to the Eastern Conference finals. I’ve been there and this team has the pieces.” 

Green, like many of his teammates, left school early for the NBA. He entered the draft after his junior year and Boston selected him fifth overall in 2007. There was a positive that came out of Green’s heart surgery. He returned to Georgetown to complete his bachelor’s degree in English. He also remains close to his former coach, John Thompson III, whom he calls a father-type figure.

The Wizards will be Green’s seventh NBA team. He admits not being fond of talking to the press, but he opened up with What’s Up? Media about his heart surgery, his status as a journeyman, what he wants to do after basketball, and his charity work.

Were you a Wizards fan growing up? If so, playing for your hometown team must be special for you?

Yes, of course. Intimately. After I got drafted, I was traded by Boston to Seattle and I was all Supersonics. Now, it’s great to be in D.C. I am representing the city and this organization. Every guy wants to play where they are from. Now, I have that opportunity. I think it will be great. I am looking forward to it.

How thrilling was it to play in the NBA finals?

It was beyond amazing. Seeing what it takes and having that experience, hopefully I can bring that here. Hopefully, I can get everybody on the same page and get everybody to understand the sacrifices you have to make. 

It has been six years since you had open-heart surgery. Has that changed your outlook in life and playing basketball?

Yes. I am grateful every time I step onto the floor no matter what jersey I have on. Everybody has something to say about me going from team to team in the last couple of years. I am blessed to be on the floor and playing. I am not worried about people say.

Did you ever wonder if you would play basketball again?

Of course, that was the first thing that went through my mind. Would
I play again? I just prayed, and God allowed me to continue to play. More importantly, I just wanted to be healthy and be able to lead a normal life.

Has playing for so many teams been the toughest thing about pro ball?

You have no control of how your career is going to go. It’s business. I have been through a lot of things. You learn that as you grow up in this league. You don’t really know that when you are young and entering the league. 

What is the biggest positive with playing for seven teams?

I’m blessed to be saying I am going into my 11th year in the NBA. A lot of guys don’t make it to this point. No matter how many teams I have played for, I am still thankful that I am able to play this game. I appreciate it knowing what I have been through. At the end of the day, it’s still basketball no matter what team is on the front of that jersey. Basketball is what I live for. I am happy, and my life is good. I can’t complain. 

How important was it for you to get your degree from Georgetown?

It was very important. Having that year off following surgery, it was a great opportunity to do that. I took a chance. Being the first person in my family to graduate from college with a degree really meant something to me. 

What do you want to do after basketball?

I want to be a father. I want to continue to be a great father and spend more time with my family. I travel a lot. I have two daughters. I want to be able to wake up every morning and take them to school, plays, or whereever they need to go. 

How much are you into the Capitals?

I am a big Caps fan and a big Alex Ovechkin fan. He signed a jersey for me and I am grateful for that. A few summers ago, I had the chance to meet (defensemen) Mike Green and John Carlson. I respect them and had some good conversations with them. 

What kind of charity work have you focused on during your career?

I am big into the American Heart Association, helping raise awareness
to heart problems. My wife (Stephanie) loves giving back to foster children.
We focus on inner-city kids. We like taking them to a lot of games. I also love to go to schools and talk to the kids about sports and life.