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Meet NBA’s AC Green,who played come broken tooth or sore neck

Imagine not missing classes from the first grade right through to the final year of graduation.

Imagine not missing classes from the first grade right through to the final year of graduation. Former NBA player AC Green pulled off a 15-year streak of non-stop action on the courts from November ‘86 to April 2001,all the while sharing the arclights with basketball’s marquee names Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar,and later,Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Pitching a tent for the NBA as America’s ultimate brand in basketball tries to make inroads into a cricket-crazy nation,Green is hoping his resilience will pay similar dividends in India.

In Mumbai for the court dedication of the refurbished Nagpada patch,the 45-year-old former forward-centre says it was his grace through a career where he won three titles with the LA Lakers that he values most.

In Mumbai though,he is unscrambling the mysteries that go with his name. “It’s a secret. My dad was AC Sr,so I’m AC Jr. The name’s interpreted differently wherever I go,” he said. He’s also trying to unravel the mysteries of the country he is in. He’s just tasted fresh mango juice in the land of Alphonsos. But try as he might,he fell asleep while watching the India-New Zealand Test match when he thought of warming up to cricket. “I tried hard,” he says,“but I got sleepy. It needs patience,but it’s your No 1 game. You need more than one team to follow,something more than the national team in basketball. So if the NBA can develop roots here,build opportunities,give kids teams to support,you might just find a star who’ll go to the NBA or WNBA,” he says.

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Standing at 6’9”,he fusses about the seating space,choosing a chair at the breadth end of the table because he needs leg-room. But then he never fussed over anything for 16 long years,when he played uninterrupted save for just three games. A crick in the neck with two days to go against the Philadelphia 76ers in LA was the closest he came to thinking of excusing himself from what later ended as a 1,192 continuous games spree. “I did my pre-match ritual with that awkward neck. In the match I got knocked down,,but even for a jump ball,I couldn’t look right or left. Then it suddenly cured itself,” he says.

Elbowed by a rival player once,he found he had a tooth missing,and got the whole team to hunt for it,repeatedly chanting: “Where’s my tooth?” Having found it,he was ready to fly off to play the Utah Jazz the next day. He also suffered from the rare condition — singultus — which meant chronic hiccups when he wasn’t playing or running. “You can get over any obstacle. I could never make it an excuse,” he says.

“Coach Pat Riley always said defence won you games,and playing against top-quality players meant I never had a night off.” He never took a day off,either. It’s the sort of long run he hopes for the most recent country he’s visiting.

First published on: 09-04-2009 at 11:51:42 pm
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