A Q + A with former NBA player Sean Green.
Sean Green doesn’t play baseball. That might not clear things up much either. Sean Green (not Shawn Green) was born in Cali, but grew up in Queens, N.Y.’s notorious Queensbridge neighborhood (most famous for producing hip-hop icons like MC Shan, Nas and Mobb Deep) and left his mark as one of the hood’s best basketball players.
After playing attending August Martin High School, Green transferred to Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. He was recruited by the late Jim Valvano to attend North Carolina State as part of a freshman class that included three NBA players and a N.C. State team that won a National Title a few years prior and had a few pros on roster already. Green quickly transferred back up north to Iona College in New Rochelle, where he wowed fans with his high-flying, high-scoring ways.
Green came into the league as a second round draft pick of the Indiana Pacers in 1991. He played two seasons under Bob Hill, in which he struggled to find his groove among a guard-heavy line-up. He was dealt to Philadelphia in a quick change for a draft pick before. Though he thought the trade would provide a fresh start in Philly, Green ultimately failed to get significant playing time. However, he was soon after involved in a trade that sent Jeff Hornacek to Utah for Jeff Malone. He was out of the League all together by 1994, but managed to have an eight-year run as a pro overseas.
After his experience playing pro basketball, he shifted his attention to health and fitness. Working as a personal trainer, Green began competing as a triathlete. In 2005, he formed Green Storm Racing as a passion project and has now turned it into a business. Today, he works full-time in health and fitness.
SLAM: So Sean, where have you been since you left the NBA?
Sean Green: I got out of the NBA in ‘94, when I split a year with Philly and Utah. I went to Utah and they had no need for me—other than to make the money right—they just brought me in so that the trade could really happen. After that, I went to Europe. I played in Israel, Italy, Turkey, France and in Venezuela. Once I left the League, I was in Italy and I had this major hip injury. I went up for an alley-oop, and I got undercut and kind of fractured my hip a little bit. I continued to play on it and it got really bad. Now, I have a personal training company and this Triathlete Organization that I started—it’s about 40 or 50 members.
SLAM: How did you get into the racing and competing?
SG: I workout at the Chelsea Piers Sports Center, it has a huge Tri-Athlete following because of the indoor track, pool and bikes everywhere. In 2003, my girlfriend did the swim portion of the New York City Triathlon at 5 a.m. on a Sunday and the place was just packed with people that were all about fitness. It was just very inspiring and the next year I started training and I did about five races in one year. I would do my whole workout and then just drive home by myself. It seemed really kind of anti-climactic. I started rounding up friends that I knew and saw at races. So, I came up with the idea to start my team, Green Storm Racing.
It started out just as a small team. People started to get interested in it and it grew to like 50 people in one year. It’s started off just like a club and now it’s a business. I even coach athletes online. I’ve got clients that I’ve got who work with me as a personal trainer and then I have another 40 or 50 athletes I work with. It’s a lot of multi-tasking and organization. I basically do everything from the training to the uniform design, website upkeep and marketing. I trained Philip Seymor Hoffman and helped him drop weight for Capote. I’m training Adam Yauch in basketball. I work with Jeneifer Esposito and Sam Rockwell, who just got done with a basketball movie a couple of months ago. I’ve worked with Sam Mendez, who has won an Oscar. Emma Roberts. I worked with Jerryd Bayless once or twice last summer and he’s just a beast. This is what a 19-year-old star athlete looks like now and it’s pretty insane. I try and keep myself active with basketball and instruction so I’ve kind of have the patience to teach people. Especially the Average Joes.
SLAM: An old Queensbridge cat once told me that you were the best player from “The Bridge” but you never got any props?
SG: Haha. I got no kind of props. When Ronnie (Artest) was a rookie, we ran into each other at this party and he came up to me and said “Hey man, you were my inspiration.” I was like “Ron, Ron?” and then he was like “Yeah, yeah.” I was so removed from basketball then that I never even thought about it.
The League was kind of like a disappointment for me. Everybody told me that if I kept my mouth shut I would be in the League for like 15 years. When you’re in there and you’re in practice and camp and you’re killing Reggie Miller and locking him up and not getting any props, it’s frustrating. It was all about opportunity. Donnie Walsh knew I could ball. Then there was Bob Hill who never played ball. He played like baseball in college or something. He jumped on me from day one and was like “I hear you’re some hardnosed sonofabitch from New York that don’t take no shit from nobody. Well, you’re going to take some shit from me.” That was like the first thing he said to me. I found out it wasn’t about ball, it was about the politics of the time. I got a little jaded.
SLAM: Who were the other guys from your era in New York City?
SG: I grew up doing the Riverside Church AAU thing. It was basically like Malik Sealy, Kenny Anderson, and myself on that team. We were the ones that went on to the League from then. There were a lot of city products that were great in the city, but never made it out. In AAU tournaments, we played against Boo Williams’ team and he had Alonzo Mourning on the team. He was like a year behind us. Alonzo actually broke my nose and eye socket in one of those games. We were all tweeners and utility players, so we had a team where everybody took it to the basket. Alonzo was 6-9 at 16/17 years old and I had to guard him at 6-5. It was one of his elbows that just broke my nose and eye socket.
SLAM: You went to Oak Hill way back in the day. What was it like there in the 80s?
SG: They were stressing getting put on the map. I graduated in ’87. A few years before me, they had Rod Strickland and that was the first year they were like ranked or anything. When I got there we didn’t even have a wood floor. We had like tiles and shit. The weight room was just OK. Now, shit, I’m trying to get my son there for next year. My son is a sophomore at New Rochelle High School. He’s about 6-4, if he goes to Oak Hill for his last two years he should get into a D1 situation. The program there now is incredible.
SLAM: How did you end up choosing North Carolina State?
SG: N.C. State recruited me in my sophomore year of high school at August Martin and Jim Valvano was the N.C. State Coach. Ray Martin was an Assistant Coach there and he was a Queensbridge guy. He was keeping an eye on the New York City area. They were the first people to get in touch with me. I was a pretty big fan of them from when Jordan was in the ACC and when they won the championship in 1983. I had N.C. State, Maryland, St. John’s, West Virginia and like Louisville in my top five. I had a choice of where I wanted to go and I was going to sign with Maryland, but my mother told me “You’re going to N.C. State. I don’t like what’s going on down there.” The Len Bias thing had happened and she wouldn’t let me go there after that.
SLAM: You only played a year at N.C. State and you finished your career at Iona College.
SG: The thing was, it was kind of a rash decision. When I first got there, it was good. We had Rodney Monroe, Chris Corchiani and myself coming in. Vinny Del Negro, Chucky Brown and Charles Shackelford were all playing there at the time. I ended up going there and when I signed a few people transferred out.
We played a few early games, an exhibition against the Lithuanian National team that had Sarunas Marciulionis and Arvydas Sabonis and I put up 12 against them. They were as strong as bulls. Then we played against Kansas with Danny Manning. I played like 15 to 20 minutes with like a 10-point average. Then—all of a sudden—I stopped getting time all together. I had a meeting with one of the Assistant Coaches and he was trying to tell me that I needed to work hard in practice and I might get a minute here or there. We’d be up 30, and I’d still be sitting there on the bench.
SLAM: When did you decide to leave?
SG: I had a talk with Valvano and he said “All the great players sat on the bench for two years before they got their shot.” I was like “Two years?” Valvano would totally contradict himself on one other end. Everyone thought I should have had the starting three spot, but Brian Howard was in front of me not doing anything. I asked him about that and he said, “Brian has seniority because you’re a freshman and he’s a sophomore. Brian is going to start.” I understood that, but then he goes and stars Chris Corchiani over a senior and that was bullshit. I’ve always been a cat to adapt to the situation, but if you’re going to play and give me bullshit, I had to get out of there.
There were other reasons. I had a 2.0, and I think that was the highest on the team first semester. My schedule wasn’t set up for me to be successful. I lived far away from campus and I had classes at 7:30 in the morning and I was always late or asleep. Now, 7 a.m. is late because I get up at 5 every morning. In college, I was always sleeping.
SLAM: What made you choose Iona?
SG: I had friends there. They were all cats that I played with in high school. I went to visit, but I totally wasn’t even thinking about going there. I was trying to comeback and try and transfer to St. John’s. What happened was…Malik had just signed with St. John’s. I was going to come in as a second semester freshman and Malik would have come in the next fall. Ernie Lorch, from Riverside Church, called to say I shouldn’t go to St. John’s because Malik didn’t know anything about me transferring there when he signed his letter-of-intent. He thought I would have f*cked him over or something like that.
I could have gone to Villanova and Seton Hall too. I went to watch Seton Hall play and P.J. was screaming so much I knew I didn’t want any part of that. I wanted to go somewhere that I knew people. I went to Villanova and Rollie Massimino was off his ass with the yelling too. Coming from Valvano, who was insane, I kind of liked that energy. After a while I was turned off by it though. I don’t even know how I ended up at Iona, but I did. It was really because of Gary Brokaw, who I knew played in the NBA and was a brother.
SLAM: How do you remember your career at Iona?
SG: When I got there, the level of conditioning I got used to from being at N.C. State carried me a long way. I could practice and not miss a three the entire practice. The level of defense in the ACC compared to the MAAC wasn’t much tougher. Sophomore year, I think I was seventh in the nation in scoring after 10 games. When we got to conference play, it was stank. When we went non-conference play, all the teams played man. In conference play, it was all tricks. I saw the box and one and zones the entire time. I finished the year with a 14-point average and the next year like 20.
My mother passed away before my senior year and that’s when I got my shit together. My grades and conditioning went up, shooting percentage went up and I had a pretty good year. I knew that either I was going to get it together or be a bum.
SLAM: When did it look like you had a shot at the League?
SG: The thing is, I was focused since age 15 or 16. I was so much better than everybody else, I didn’t realize the things that I did were out of the ordinary because they were things I did all the time. I found out it was spectacular. In my point of view, I never thought I was really good enough. I wanted to go to the NBA and I didn’t want to give myself any other option but to go. I would run with bricks in my back pack and run out of the house in the middle of the night to get shots up. I was always doing shit like that. When I got to Iona, I knew I was at a smaller school and had to work extra hard to make it.
SLAM: What was the pre-draft process like?
SG: I went through the Camp in Chicago and all we did was run on treadmills, take X-rays and scrimmage. It’s all we really did. The scouts really got a chance to size you up. Everyone’s true height was revealed too. Like Larry Johnson was supposed to be 6-9 and he came out of the combine 6-7. We had workouts, but it was a quick warm up. Sometimes there was 1-on-1 full-court. I went on like seven or eight interviews with teams and the funny thing is that Indiana took me and I hadn’t spoken to them. Minnnesota was talking to me since sophomore year in college. The Bullets, the Sixers and Seattle all spoke to me. Chris Gatling and I had a party at the Cotton Club on draft night and when I was on my way there, my agent paged me and said that I went to Indiana. I went 41st and I think my year was the first year that they cut the draft down to two rounds. The whole thing was that if you weren’t getting drafted, you weren’t making it. I never doubted making it from sophomore year of college on. I never had a string of bad games.
SLAM: What were the Pacers like when you got there?
SG: Pacers training camp was pretty hardcore. I was always a crazy athlete. What’s crazy was that Larry Brown’s training camp was much harder than Bob Hill’s. I went to camp with Larry in the beginning of my third year.
When I got there, we had Reggie, Michael Williams, Vern Fleming (another Queensbridge basketball hero), and Randy Wittman at the end of his career. Those were the guards on that team. I knew I was a rookie, but I felt like I was kind of getting jerked a little bit. We had George McCloud, but he was more like a three. They had Vern and Michael Williams playing point guard and at the two position there was Reggie and Randy Wittman, who could barely get up and down the court. They felt that the season before they were successful with a three-guard rotation. They played Michael Williams at the one and Reggie at the two and the third guard was Vern Fleming. He was from The Bridge and we have the same birthday, if I remember. He was kind of like my mentor. When they put Michael back in the game, Reggie would play the two and Vern would play the one—leaving little room for me. I thought it was wack.
SLAM: You got hurt during your second year, right?
SG: I got hurt doing a split in some water. I tore my groin or some shit like that. It was never the same. After that, I thought when my contract was over that I was going to have to retire. I would lay on the floor and try and move my legs open and closed, but I couldn’t close them without lifting one with my hands. I had to do a lot of rehab.
I came back in really good shape, but they ended up drafting Malik Sealy after my rookie year. It was like a slap in the face. They drafted me and said Malik was going to play the three, which he couldn’t play. He came in and played the two and I just sat. It got really f*cked up then, Bob Hill would do shit like play everyone but me. He was my whole problem with my thing in Indiana. He had a problem with me.
SLAM: How did you end up leaving Indiana?
SG: I came back and went to training camp with Larry Brown and I wanted to show him how I played. We played in Minnesota, in the Upper West Classic or something like that with Minnesota, Detroit, Indiana and maybe Utah. I was averaging like 35. We won like seven games straight. I was just killing and Larry Brown was there. In the beginning of training camp—a lot of running and lifting—and after scrimmages the losers would have to run. Me and Vern always used to run even if we won. Larry Brown wants to control everything; when you run, when you get water, just everything. Instead of looking at us doing extra running as us being serious about wanting to get in shape he took it as me and Vern trying to undermine him. He was a great coach, though. I thought he was going to let me do my thing that year.
Playing behind Reggie was tough. At 21, Reggie was 24 or 23 and he never got hurt. He plays all day and doesn’t get hurt. I would get three or four minutes here or there and come out. I thought maybe that if I went to Philly I could get some playing time and show what I could do. My agent was telling me it was an opportunity to make big money “2.5 million a year.” (Laughs) That was a lot of money. I think Kendall Gill was making $4 million a year and people said he was “stealing.” Now, people are turning back $10 million.
SLAM: Did you think the trade to Philly was going to be a good look for you?
SG: Reggie wanted me out of there. He would say shit like, “You’ll be here longer than I will.” Meanwhile, he was their golden boy, he wasn’t going anywhere, he didn’t have to worry about me. My agent told me that it was going to be my big shot to play. He said they were talking about starting Jeff Hornacek at the one and me at the two because Hershey Hawkins had just left. Jeff was holding out for money and blah, blah, blah. I started all of preseason and then a bunch of games early. Coming out of camp, I started playing really well and then, all of a sudden, Jeff stopped holding out. You can hold out for money if they don’t have anyone there that could take your spot. They had Greg Graham, Johnny Dawkins on his way out and me. We also had Dana Barros, who was like a small shooting guard. They brought me in for the two spot and when Jeff came back, I was in the same situation that I left Indiana to get away from. I went to Philly and had to take a pay cut to make the whole thing work.
SLAM: What was your time there like?
SG: Fred Carter was the coach and the practices were so, so bad. All we did was play half court. We never ran, we were always in half court. I got to camp with four or five days left in camp. I would stay after practice to keep myself right. We never did anything on the fast break. In preseason, nobody knew who did what on a break. We were a real motley crew at first. We started playing really well in Philly. They picked us to win 22 games that year and we had like 19 wins at the All-Star Break.
I was averaging about 10.5 points and what they did was messed up. Fred Carter was cool, they said we needed someone to come off the bench and average like 15 points and he just pointed straight at me. I was like “Good, give me the minutes.” I started playing, and I started to score within the system. I would get between 6 and 10 points in the time I did play. Then they started to put me in for one minute and then take me out over and over again. It was messing with my numbers. Orlando Woolridge told me “They don’t want to play you but they want to keep you.” He told me that they were messing with my numbers so that nobody would want to sign me. They played this funny game with me and then I got traded to Utah.
SLAM: How did the deal to Utah go down?
SG: We played a game in Utah and then we came back to Philly for two days. I was getting myself in shape because I knew Jeff was going to get traded. I was lifting and getting into shape to start in his place. I got a call that morning from management and they were like, “Did you hear anything about you getting traded?” I kind of laughed it off and said “Nah.” They said, “Oh, because we just traded you and Jeff to Utah.” I got traded twice in one year, and I just felt like the whole NBA was shady. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to get out of the League. I had just bought a house there too.
SLAM: You only played in one game in Utah.
SG: What’s crazy is, if I had known what was going to happen in Utah, I would have done the “Okie doke” and just not shown up. They kind of gassed me. They called me and said they were really excited I was a part of the team and they wanted me to get out there as soon as possible. I was like, “This is what happens when you go to an organization that is serious about winning.” They were just gassing me so that I would go out there and complete the trade. I played one minute during the entire rest of the season against Dallas one night. One minute.
SLAM: Were you healthy the whole time?
SG: I was in great shape. In practice, Stockton could get me the ball anywhere. He used to call me “Radio Shack” because I used to have all these gadgets. Stock would be like “Radio Shack, any time you want it, just go back door.” Insane shit. The Jazz were really organized and on point. If you were going to wear a t-shirt to practice it had to be grey. I loved that shit. We had robes with our name on them. It was sweet. I think they had no use for me. I was the bottom of the bench. I knew I was going to have to wait until the next year to really play because they only play eight guys. We had John Crotty, Byron Russel, David Benoit, Walter Bond and I never really came off the bench. We played 3-on-3 after practice a lot. I knew it was wack, but I sat there and enjoyed the playoff money.
SLAM: Did you lose focus?
SG: I was always ready to play, always ready and in shape, but I started focusing on what night clubs we were going to be going to in each city. All I had to do was ball and party on the road. I was lifting, working out extra and stuff on my own. I was in better shape there than I was in Philly, but I was never coming off the bench.
SLAM: What officially ended your NBA career?
SG: Felton Spencer got hurt and that f*cked shit up. He was our only center and then all of a sudden I walked into the office and I was getting ready to bring my girl out. I went to the gym one morning before shoot around and Scott Layden couldn’t even look me in the eye. It was a little something shady. I went back home and came back for a game that night against Minnesota. Layden wanted to talk to me and I said “No.” I went into the locker room and there was Stephen Howard, who they signed to a 10-day contract when Spencer went down. Within a second, they cut me. All I said was “Are you serious?” I just wondered why they hadn’t told me that morning. They had me get ready to suit up that night and let me book a flight for my girl to come out and then they cut me. That shit is shady.
SLAM: You did pick up and continue with your career overseas, though.
SG: I think from there I went to Venezuela. I didn’t have great representation overseas. I didn’t get a really get a good agent until it was too late. I went overseas because I just wanted to play. I was tired of feeling like I didn’t belong in the League. I felt a better sense of self worth when I was overseas. They put you in a position where you’re the hero or the goat. It’s not like in the League where I never felt like I was a part of it. I don’t play ball a lot anymore.
SLAM: Do you have a favorite memory of your pro career?
SG: It’s all pretty blurry now, but I had a 15-point fourth quarter against Detroit during my second year in the League. Malik and I were on opposite wings and we were going back and fourth on them. We were doing dunks and going up-and-under—things like that. We were just giving the Pistons—who still had some of the Bad Boys around—the business. I felt really good. I felt like I was the player that I was supposed to be. The crowd was into it and the defense couldn’t really do anything about it. At the end of that game, Bob Hill came up to and was like “Oh nice, 8-for-12 game. We really can’t look at that because there was no pressure on you out there.” No matter how I did, he would downplay it. He would give me 10 or 11 DNPs in a row and think it would play with my confidence.
SLAM: Do you think you should have played a couple of more years in the NBA?
SG: If I had stuck it out, I would have. I was young and still had so much ego. I don’t know if I could have stayed in one place, I would have had to jump around, but with the talent and work ethic I had and I think I would have caught on. I think of like Eric Piatkowski and I wonder sometimes like, “That could have been me.”
SLAM: Do you feel like you could have made some different decisions?
SG: Hell yeah. I always look back and say I would have started from what college I chose. It’s why I kind of pushed basketball aside. To me, my basketball career was like a failure. It disgraces me. I just close that door. This is like the first year that I started re-identifying the whole NBA thing. A lot of people who wanted to make it to the League didn’t make it and a lot of people that wanted to play overseas couldn’t.