by Mike Seely
In the summer of 2010, the Cleveland Cavaliers had but one priority: re-sign LeBron James. They ultimately failed in this quest, as James infamously took his talents to South Beach, where he's lived in the NBA Finals ever since. But in their attempts to show James they were serious about improving their title odds, the Cavs jettisoned Coach Mike Brown—who, ironically, was just rehired to replace the man who replaced him (Byron Scott). They also quietly cut their second-round draft choice from the year prior, a lanky shooting guard named Danny Green.
Green didn't do much in his rookie year, appearing in only 20 regular-season games. But his sideline shenanigans gave him a higher profile than most benchwarmers. At the University of North Carolina, Green gained a good deal of notoriety for flaunting a shameless pre-game arsenal of dance moves, a skill he brought with him to Cleveland. There, he found a willing dance partner in James, who likely remembers Green as the best thing about his final Cavalier year.
In the wake of The Decision, Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert adopted a scorched-earth policy when it came to James' legacy, ripping him publicly and all but inciting the Cavs' fan base to vandalize his cocksure visage wherever it still lurked around town. Looking down his bench, it'd be no stretch to speculate that Gilbert sent Green packing simply due to his chummy association with the Cavs' prodigal son. The following year, Green enjoyed a weeklong stint with San Antonio, only to be released and kick around the D-League for awhile before Pop gave him a second chance..
What's happened since is, quite literally, NBA history. Green has ridden an unprecedentedly hot hand to break Ray Allen's record for three-pointers made in a Finals series, often squaring off against his former C-Town dance partner in mounting what's assuredly the unlikeliest postseason campaign for MVP ever (to put things in perspective, 42 out of the league's 45 Finals MVPs have been—or will undoubtedly be—enshrined in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame). Green's fairy tale might prove even more fantastical if he were the basketball equivalent of a longshot colt getting lucky in the biggest race of his career. But he's no one-trick pony, and his pedigree is sterling. Green's alma mater prides itself on running an offense that simulates the pros, and his defense on Stephen Curry and Dwyane Wade this postseason has revealed him to be a capable two-way player. And while Green's modest physical gifts and off-the-dribble shortcomings make it hard to imagine he'll ever be anything more than a third option on offense, he and Kawhi Leonard have cemented themselves as crucial building blocks for whatever roster overhaul might ensue when Tim Duncan finally retires.
Watching James interact with Green on the court during this series has been an under-publicized but entertaining sideshow. When the two come face-to-face, James often seems peacefully dumbfounded, as though locking horns with an old buddy grants him enjoyable respite from a media firestorm. But he probably also can't believe that the goofy kid he used to dance with on the sidelines now stands one win away from soiling his legacy. Life has a funny way of nipping you in the ass like that.