From the time Draymond Green was in the second or third grade, his grandmother encouraged him to write the Bible verse Isaiah 54:17 on a piece of paper and tuck it into his shoe or sock before basketball games. “No weapon formed against me shall prosper,” the verse reads, and the message from Green’s grandmother was simple.
When you take that court, you stand on that word, she’d tell him.
The ritual helped lay the foundation for Green’s basketball career, one where he’s always derived strength from his shoes by using them as a means of expression and energy. Beginning as a freshman at Michigan State, Green treated his sneakers like a canvas to celebrate parts of his identity. Whether it’s Bible verses to acknowledge his faith, highlighting family members, or simply writing the name of his high school or college, a glance to Green’s feet have long provided a glimpse into his life.
“I like to do things that are authentic to me, things that have meaning,” Green tells Dime. “There’s always a story that can be told behind that sneaker. I think you can take people through your journey with sneakers.”
Green’s progression from a piece of paper to scribbling words of inspiration on his shoes led him to a partnership with Converse in March 2020. Earlier this year, they collaborated on a player edition of the company’s latest release, the BB Shift.
They’re unique to him and remain an extension of the vision his grandmother fostered decades ago. In designing them, Green aims to “to do things that resonate with (him),” which begins with his children.
“No. 1 is involving my kids. I think that’s something that’s obviously near and dear to me,” he says. “That’s super cool for them to come to a game and see their name on the shoe.”
Beyond that, his motives are more ambiguous, though continue to be linked by the theme of authenticity. Anything that carries gravity in his life, both personally and professionally, are considered an option.
Green’s decision to partner with Converse two years ago can, in some capacity, be traced to a single word: swag. It’s a word that constantly arises as he discusses what distinguishes Converse from past brands he’s worn — “it’s definitely the swaggiest brand out now.” Style, he says, is integral to the success of any shoe company.
A reference to Jordan Brand unfolds as Green explains the importance of aesthetics. The brand persists as highly popular and lucrative more than 20 years after Michael Jordan retired. It’s not because contemporary teenagers grew up watching Jordan dominate the hardwood and were enamored with his game. Instead, Green says, it’s “because those sneakers are sick.” To really flourish in the sneaker industry, aura and appearance are vital.
“When you look at Converse as a whole, whether it’s the on-court sneakers over the last few years, whether it’s the off-the-court shoes, it’s just a very swaggy, clean brand,” he says. “That is huge in today’s NBA. Our tunnels are runways. So, I think that’s a huge part of footwear and style.”
Compare today’s NBA to the NBA of 25 years ago and fashion as a mode of individuality is far more prevalent. But in recent years, “guys have found their voice,” Green says. The expansion of vivid, exclusive on-court kicks are, in part, a summation of that. Years ago, the league had strict rules enforcing that the color of sneakers aligned with a team’s uniforms. Those guidelines no longer exist after a change in 2018 now allows players to wear shoes of any color.
Before that amendment, Green, for instance, could only wear red shoes on specific days, like Chinese New Year. In 2022, if he pleases, red could be his color of choice every night. Players across the league have taken advantage of this alteration to help shape their public personas. A brand like Converse nailing the style aspect holds greater weight today than prior decades.
“Guys express themselves through kicks often. Even if that’s just expressing that P.J. Tucker (says), ‘I’m the swaggiest guy on the court.’ That’s how he expresses himself,” Green says. “P.J. Tucker wants you to know he’s the best-dressed player in the NBA. He wants you to know he got the craziest kicks in the NBA. That is him expressing who he is.
“I think that’s a big deal in this league. It’s not like that in all leagues.”
Green’s messaging on his shoes and Player Edition BB Shifts are not his sole outlet for expression. Back in January, the 32-year-old inked a multi-year deal with Turner Sports to appear on Inside the NBA, as well as other Turner Sports programs.
He’s always been reliably candid with the media, both in the basketball insights he shares and the way he aims to help improve media coverage. As he ventures further into this sphere, his “ultimate goal” is to enhance viewers’ knowledge of the sport because he feels misinformation and ignorance are abundant.
“Basketball is a very beautiful game, but if not handled correctly and delicately, it gets screwed up in mass discussions,” he believes. “I think … people can figure out the offensive side a little bit more than they can the defensive side. But people, when watching the game, they don’t have a clue about defense. I think it does a total disservice to the game of basketball as a whole.”
Green is entirely disenchanted by the “distasteful” side of media wired to stir up controversy and produce clickbait. He wants to focus on educating the public to best discern what exactly is happening on the floor at any moment, something he accomplishes every time he provides commentary on Inside. His presence is undoubtedly a boon to basketball fans, and his ability to concisely break down on-court developments is rivaled by few, if any, others around the NBA media landscape.
Whenever his playing career unwinds, a transition into a full-time media role if he so chooses will only further ameliorate discourse and understanding of the game, just as it has with his current gig. By instantly succeeding, while avoiding any of the sensationalized aspects of media, Green knows none of that is needed to produce worthwhile coverage.
“You could have integrity and still do a great job,” he says. “You can do it the right way, you can speak on the game and teach the game. You can be very interesting. You can be critical of guys without trying to destroy a guy. So, I’ve learned that a lot of people in the industry are very distasteful and lack integrity, and it’s totally unnecessary. Ultimately, those that don’t do that, last in this business a long time and those that do, they end up on the outside looking in.”
Given the way Green approaches this job, he seems destined to last for a long, long time — at least whenever he decides he’s done tucking that slip of paper into his sneakers.