Video and audio caught Green calling out the officials during the Warriors Game 5 victory over the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night at Chase Center. The dispute came in the latter stages of the first quarter, when Nuggets guard Bones Hyland drove to the hoop and put a knee into the groin of Golden State’s Otto Porter. The referees called Porter for a foul as he writhed on the floor in pain.
Green, ever authentic to his personal brand of brash outspokenness and team loyalty, was up off the bench immediately and in the ears of the officials, recalling his own famous suspension for a similar play during an NBA Finals game six years before.
“That’s a review! That’s a knee to the nuts!” Green shouted from the sidelines as he moved toward center court. “I got suspended from a Finals game for that! I got suspended from a Finals game for that! Review that s***! Review that s***!”
The referees honored Green’s request for a review, though they chose not to hit Hyland with a flagrant foul, deeming the action inadvertent and absent malice.
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The Groin Shot Heard Round The World
The personal saga Green referenced in his rebuke of the officials Wednesday night continues to live on in Warriors basketball lore, as it perhaps changed the very course of NBA history.
Golden State was up 2-1 on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals, coming off of the best regular season in league history (73-9) and seeking to claim back-to-back titles. During Game 4, Green got caught up with LeBron James near half court and ended up hitting the deck. James stepped over Green, an action to which the Warriors forward took exception. As Green picked himself up, he threw a closed first upwards between James’ legs.
Though Green was not ejected from the game at the time, the NBA League Office reviewed the play after Golden State’s victory, ultimately assessing Green a flagrant foul. Due to an accumulation of flagrant foul points, Green was suspended from Game 5. The Warriors went on to lose that contest at home before dropping Games 6 and 7 to fall to Cleveland 4-3.
Green’s Suspension May Have Changed Course of NBA History
Most Warriors fans, and a good number of basketball analysts, believe that Golden State would have won its second consecutive championship if Green had played in Game 5 of that NBA Finals six years ago.
Strong arguments can be made on both sides of that debate. What is harder to argue is that what happened next would have gone down the same way if the Warriors were two-time champions.
The NBA’s salary cap spiked approximately $25 million the following offseason due to a massive new television deal, which gave the Warriors the spending power to add a superstar talent to a team that was already full of it. While the cap jump was coming regardless, Kevin Durant may not have arrived in Golden State along with it had the Warriors just completed a second straight run to a title.
Durant’s legacy has been both helped and hurt by his three years with the Dubs. He won both of his championship rings, both of his NBA Finals MVP trophies, and earned three of his four trips to the NBA Finals while wearing a Golden State jersey. However, his lack of success prior to and after his stint with the Warriors has led some to criticize his decision to join the team as “taking the easy path” to a couple of rings.
Whether Durant would have ultimately joined the Warriors had they won the 2016 title is unknown. But the trajectory of his career, and that of the Warriors overall success, might look very different if Durant had remained with Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder or changed conferences and joined the Boston Celtics, a team that recruited him heavily that offseason.
Instead, Durant joined forces with Green, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to create arguably the best team the NBA has ever seen. The Warriors built a dynasty and from there, as they say, the rest is history.