Each day, he was a warrior set for battle. He knew tales would be told of the legendary men fighting by his side. All he cared about was that he was on the front line, in the game and willing to fight through adversity, injury and illness.
He was the epitome of determination and toughness, grit and longevity, morality and strength. He personified all the characteristics coaches drill into their players to mold them into an ideal athlete, an ideal human being.
He is the standard. He is the Iron Man.
On March 10, a Pac-12 team will cut down the nets as the conference champions and earn admittance into the NCAA tournament.
Players and coaches will slip on title shirts, throw on championship hats, and take the time to celebrate a hard-fought Pac-12 crown, soaking in as much of the once-in-a-lifetime experience as possible and praying that moment never ends.
All of this will drown out a ceremony that recognizes some of the greatest athletes in conference history, including the man that led the Oregon State basketball team to its last Sweet 16 appearance: the Iron Man aka A.C. Green.
Green, already a member of the Oregon State and State of Oregon halls of fame, will join the likes of Richard Jefferson and Jim Barnett on Saturday as a part of a 12-member class to be inducted into the Pac-12 Hall of Fame, bringing the Iron Man’s legacy closer to center stage, closer to a spotlight where it belongs.
He’s the poster boy for blue-collar workers, doing every deed with a purpose from lacing up his sneakers to leading the Beavers to an Elite 8 appearance to playing in 1,192 consecutive games in his NBA career – a record that few have come within sight of, and one that will never be broken.
Green stuck to his guns, whether it be his philosophies, religion or morals. He swept aside temptations that came with being a college stud and multi-million dollar NBA deals. Throughout his tenure on the hardwood, Green accepted his role.
The Beavers called upon his production. Green answered by continually increasing his output from 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a freshman to 19.1 points and 9.2 boards per contest as a senior. He led Oregon State to a pair of conference championships and three NCAA appearances, towing the Beavers as far as the Elite 8 in 1982 before falling to the eventual runner-up Georgetown.
Green’s fundamental approach propelled him to the top tier of players in the country, earning him three All-Pac-10 selections and an All-American spot in 1985.
Those accolades made Green the 25th pick in the NBA Draft that spring, putting him on a star-studded Los Angeles Laker squad. Despite the honor of a first-round selection, Green stayed within himself. He knew his limits and knew his strengths. He used that to put together one of the greatest streaks in sports history as well as three NBA championship rings and an All-Star appearance.
Green’s career figures aren’t flashy (9.6 points, 7.4 rebounds), but that’s what made his legacy powerful. He weathered flying elbows from J.R. Reid and illnesses that could sideline any one of today’s athletes. Green fought, scratched and battled for his roster spot day in and day out.
He wasn’t a star. He wasn’t a franchise cornerstone. He’s a man thankful just to have been in the positions he’s been in, making each second, each game, each day count. He’s a morally sound, faithful and respectful human being who let the legends rack up records and accolades while he anchored down the front line 99.8 percent of the time in his 16-year NBA career.
He’s no myth. He’s no legend. He’s no hero, he would say. Nay, he’s the prototype. He’s the player James Naismith had in mind when he first set up the peach baskets more than 120 years ago. He’s the Iron Man.