Suns Retorter: Gerald Green With No Envy

When you hear the name Gerald Green the first thing that comes to mind are the dunks he perpetrates on opponents. Rim rockin acts of art that could keep a poster company in business for years and that find their way onto the Top 10 lists on what seems like a weekly basis. From windmills to birthday candle blow outs and leaps that leave his head in danger of hitting the rim or finding its way into the clouds, his high-flying-abilities are what he’s been defined by for years. If you spend time with him though, what jumps out at you is something very, very different.

There is more to Green than being the architect of stuffs even the most creative video game designer with ADD and an imagination that won’t stop -- imagine a geeky Robin Williams -- couldn’t come up with. He has many layers not only to his game but to him as a person as well.

“We’ve got to stay humble. We’ve got to continue to work. ”

— Green on Keys to Success

After seven years of bouncing around -- literally on his dunks and metaphorically on rosters -- between the NBA, D-League, Europe, China and yes, even Indiana, Green's passion and hunger for the game has it looking like he’s found a home in Arizona. He’s caught fire early in this season as the team’s sixthman, but has also gotten starting nod when Eric Bledsoe or Goran Dragic has been out with an injury (which has happened more than he or anyone on the team would like). He’s become the perfect fit for Coach Jeff Hornacek’s free wheeling offense, putting the Green in green light by embracing the opportunity to shoot threes.

His hot start has seen him average 15.2 points per game, three rebounds and has made 42 percent of his threes in his first 13 contests. The most refreshing part though, he’s done it all with a smile and a humble disposition. When you talk to him about his stats or highlight reel he is polite but dismisses the notion that they mean anything.

“I feel like I haven’t done nothin’,” Green quips.

The quote may come off as angry but it is was a quiet and genuine moment. It had more to do with proving the misconception about his game wrong than anything. He wants to be viewed as welcomed member of the NBA family than a sideshow to be wheeled out on special occasions. (See: All-Star Saturday)

That attitude is thanks in large part to his travels. Green knows the value of being a team player and has focused more on wins than anything of a personal nature. He wants to be known as a team builder, not a dunker. A tall task when he does the later so impressively that one would assume a genetics test would show he was part kangaroo.

“It’s just a play to get the fans out of their seat,” Green said of his dunks. “I’m just doing it for the fans. Just trying to get them to come back and support us.”

His recipe for success, beyond showing he has more hops than a German brewery, is simpler than the one found on the back of a Ramen Noodle package. Instead of just adding water, it’s all about just staying focused.

“We’ve got to stay humble,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to work. We just have to listen to coach. Coach has given us great guidance and a great path to follow. As long as we follow his lead success is right around the corner.”

The 27-year-old basketball veteran appears to be doing just that. But it was what happened right after those quotes that was the most impressive part of Green’s repertoire this season. He simply looked at me, smiled, shook my hand and thanked me for interviewing him. While I’ve had plenty of professional athletes sarcastically thank me for asking them off-the-wall questions over the last decade, I’ve never had one do it genuinely. It wasn’t a one time occurrence either.

Over the weeks that followed the initial interaction, I witnessed Green thank numerous writers and even had him thank me again. In a day and age where some athletes have gone from thanking teammates and coaches to thanking their own hands or skills, the Suns' swingman has decided to thank people he never had to.

Not enough to endear you to him? Try this one on for size. Before a recent game, Green randomly appeared in the media cafeteria in his pregame shooting shirt with “Phoenix Basketball” across the chest, practice shorts and his purple and orange Shaqtus Reebok Pumps. He wasn’t there to confront a reporter about a recent quote, or to gain any attention. No, he simply snuck in -- well, about as a well as a 6-8 guy can sneak into any room -- grabbed a tray, stood in line right behind me and got food.

It was that moment that solidified the fact that Green is simply just an everyday kind of person ,just like you or me, who has simply been given the gift of hammering home dunks and towering leaping ability that bring fans to their feet.

Just don’t make the mistake of thinking of Gerald Green as simply a dunker or a freak athlete. He’s much more than that. He’s a team player who values the opportunity he’s been given and isn’t afraid to thank those who helped make it happen. Even sometimes those who just happen to be along for the ride.