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He Lost Two Teeth but He’s No Angel

Every day I repent for some dumb thing I’ve done.

--A.C. Green

Sunday afternoon, J.R. Reid struck a virgin.

Playing basketball against the Phoenix Suns, Reid, a 6-foot-9, 255-pound center for the New York Knicks, lashed out with an elbow, dislodging two of A.C. Green’s front teeth. “NBA’s J.R. KO’s A.C.,” a headline somewhere surely read.

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This was not a nice way to treat a minister-in-training, one who recently wrote in his autobiography that, at 32, yes, he is still a virgin, and, “I’m proud to say it.”

A day after the incident, Reid was fined $10,000 and suspended for two games, including Monday’s against the Lakers. It also made him the top nominee for February’s NBA Stupid Player of the Month, inasmuch as the Knicks were already without their best player, Patrick Ewing, while catching the Lakers without their best, Nick Van Exel and Magic Johnson.

As for Green, he picked up his teeth, showed up for the next night’s game at Salt Lake City and played 68 seconds. This was significant, for it extended the NBA’s longest consecutive-games streak to 785, bringing the Cal Ripken of basketball to within 121 games of Randy Smith’s record.

Imagine if some opponent had popped Ripken in the chops before Lou Gehrig’s record fell.

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The Baltimore police would have handcuffed him and a Maryland judge would have hanged him.

Reid said he was sorry, but “sometimes those things happen in the heat of the game.”

Yes, they do, J.R., and sometimes athletes require jaw surgery and spend the next six months eating through a straw.

Repent, you sinner.

Far more forgiving is Green, who confesses in his book, “I’m no angel. I’m a trash-talking, chest-bumping, elbow-hitting, head-thumping basketball player. But I’m a Christian. Sometimes people sin against me, and sometimes I sin.”

So, feel sorry for A.C., because no basketball player deserves a smack attack. But also keep in mind what he says; he’s no saint.

As Reid’s coach, Don Nelson, mentioned after the incident, not certain why Green got popped, “Normally, you want to look at the play before, to see if it’s a retaliation thing.”

It was hardly a well kept secret on the Lakers when he played for them that Green, while never one to join in their postgame carousing, could play dirty with the worst of them.

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Even in practice, Green used to torment teammates, among them Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He would step on Cap’s foot, trip him, push him, annoy him until he could see the anger build.

Then, knowing Mount Kareem was about to blow, Green would ask some unsuspecting teammate, such as Mitch Kupchak, to guard Abdul-Jabbar on the next trip down the floor. Kareem’s elbows would find their way to Kupchak’s kisser.

How could A.C. tell when Kareem was getting hot?

“His goggles would start to cloud,” Green says.

The image of Green as a gentle, meek, God-fearing soul is an understandable one, given his off-the-court habits. But he hasn’t made his fame and fortune in the NBA all these years by dunking, shooting or passing.

He was no innocent bystander when Reid elbowed him. Green gets into people’s faces.

“I’m not going to take it anymore!” a mad-as-hell Oliver Miller said when he was playing for Phoenix, shortly after Green joined that team. “That wild A.C.! He’s always hitting me in the face. I’m on his team, but every time I go for a rebound, he’s hitting me in the face!”

Green’s reply to that:

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“Sometimes people get in my way.”

A schoolmate at Oregon State, one Tyrone Miller, once said to Green, “You beat me up in practice, throw me to the floor, then help me back up and ask if I’m OK.”

Fascinating guy, A.C.

He sponsors the A.C. Green Foundation, programs for youth, “athletes for abstinence,” at 575 South Figueroa in Los Angeles, and has a hotline listed as: (800) A C YOUTH.

His very worthwhile book, “Victory: The Principles of Championship Living,” written with J.C. Webster, is a jock biography like few others. At the end of it, like a Sunday-school teacher, Green includes “study questions” for each chapter.

For example:

“Do you believe you have an unseen enemy? If so, in what ways does he attack you personally? How can you fight those attacks?”

By turning the other cheek, if you follow the example of Green after Reid knocked his teeth loose. He bent down, picked them up and didn’t say a word.

What would Cal Ripken have done?


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