A lot of athletes, when they quit playing, would like to go into politics, would like to hang "Gov.," or "Sen.," or "Rt. Hon." in front of their names.
Lots of players hanker to open their own bar. A.C. would like to open his own church.
A.C. doesn't need pep talks in the locker room. He gets them out of a book. He is just as apt to get his game plan from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John as Pat Riley.
Lots of guys read best-sellers on long trips. So does A.C. His is the best-seller of all time. In fact, it has been made into a movie more times than any other book ever written. Hardly anyone ever memorizes passages from Hemingway. A.C. can quote you passages from his book--from Genesis to Revelation and tell you which page they're on.
"Parson Green" has a nice ring to it, but there probably aren't a dozen fans in Los Angeles, even Laker fans, who can tell you what the "A.C." stands for. That's because it doesn't stand for anything. A.C. is just identified by the first and third letters of the alphabet. In fact, he's a second generation A.C. His father was A.C. before him. He is actually A.C. Jr.
Pat Riley has an idea it just might stand for "Alternating Current."
He explains it this way: "What A.C. brings to this team is an energy level, a power force. He's our generator, in a way, particularly when Earvin (Johnson) is out. There's a spiritual force to A.C.'s play, a flow to it. Oh, Ace just seems to plug it in. He is our current."
The current is seldom out. A.C. hasn't missed a Laker game in more than three years or almost since he became a regular. In fact, he cannot remember missing a game because of injury since he graduated from high school, Aug. 2,1981.
Actually, playing on a Laker team that has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy on it, you don't need a name. A number will do. You could probably play in a mask under an alias. You're a little bit like the one who holds the magician's cape on stage, or says "How hot was it?" to Johnny Carson. John Wayne's best friend in a western. The cook. Mike Tyson's corner man. There's the suspicion anyone can do it.
But, even superstars need the ball. And, not everyone can go get the ball the way A.C. Green can. For the third straight year, he is leading the team in rebounds, no small feat when you consider Abdul-Jabbar has more than 17,000 career rebounds. But, it's A.C. the Lakers look for to go up and take the ball out of someone's ear these nights.
In this age of specialty, basketball forwards come in two sizes--small and power. Green is neither. In fact, through the years, when you had an Abdul-Jabbar in the pivot, you didn't need a power forward. But, now that Kareem has evolved into a 25-minute player on his farewell tour, Green has to play both roles. Basically, he and Worthy swap roles. On balance, a power forward gets the rebounds, the small forward gets the baskets. Worthy is the deadlier shot. Green digs out the ball.
The Lakers being the Lakers, never need a 25-rebound night from an individual (Wilt Chamberlain once had 55; Bill Russell, 51). Some guys in the league are pure and simple rebounders. They are basketball's bricklayers. They couldn't put the ball in the Grand Canyon. No one ever called A.C. "Air" Green but he threw in 10 or more points 45 times last season. You leave him open at your peril.
A Laker-Celtic game without Magic Johnson and Larry Bird is like a meal without wine. An art movie. But it was a day the role players stepped in. You might say the butlers did it. Byron Scott turned into "Swish!" Scott (35 points), James Worthy became "Shoot" Worthy (28 points).
But there was A.C. riding shotgun (12 points, 11 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 assists). He was playing 39 minutes in, like, his 250th straight game. "Ace used to defer to people," admits his coach. "He'd pass up the shot, he'd defer to the power forward, he kind of played a back-seat game, but I told him 'Ace, we need your energy. You got to get plugged in for us to win.' Now, he makes up in energy what he lacks in size. He gets to the ball quicker than those bigger guys and gets away from them quicker."
Best of all, if you ask him "Read any good books lately?" A.C. will be glad to tell you he has a real page-turner on his hands. Couldn't put it down. And he even recommends a chapter--the 14th in John--and the verse--6. "I am the way, the truth, the life." And it's not depressing. It's full of happy endings.