Draymond Green says his flagrant foul on LeBron James cost the Warriors 2016 title, explains why he would do it again


Sport is full of assumptions. It’s what makes every game, every quarter, every moment as entertaining as the capture of a championship trophy draws ever closer. The other day, new Cleveland Cavalier Donavan Mitchell explained on The Woj Pod how an eight-second violation he committed in the first game of the first round a 2020 playoff bubble could have precipitated the breakup and impending rebuilding of the entire Utah Jazz franchise.

“It doesn’t mean we go ahead and win a championship…but that, for me, was huge when we lost,” Mitchell said. “If I don’t take my time to walk the ball on the floor and we win this game, what does it look like? What does next season look like? What does next season look like? There’s always ifs and ifs, and buts you can play.”


Yes, especially in the minds of gamers, every moment counts.

The one that got a little more attention in NBA circles, and that has been nightmarishly replayed in the minds of Golden State Warriors fans for years, is when Draymond Green flagrantly fouls LeBron James. in Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Green and James became entangled on the half court and James attempted to step over Green to get back into the game, while Green’s arm flew out in the area of James’s groin.

No foul was called on the play, but the league retroactively issued a flagrant foul for Green, as well as a technical for James. The violation resulted in Green’s fourth gross foul in the playoffs, triggering an automatic suspension for Game 5.

Golden State was coming off the best regular season in NBA history and looked set for a second straight title, but Cleveland managed to win Game 5 in Green’s absence — the first of the Cavaliers’ three-game winning streak. who came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the franchise’s first NBA championship.

Green recently revisited the piece on the “Checc’n In” podcast (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area) and took full responsibility for his actions. He even went so far as to agree with many basketball fans around the world that if he hadn’t been suspended, the Warriors would have won the title that season. Somewhat surprisingly, however, Green also said that if he were to do it again, he wouldn’t change his reaction.

“I take that on my chin. I cost us a championship. I’m okay with that. I can take that on my chin. No problem. I own up to my mistakes,” Green said. “Would I do it again? A thousand percent. If someone tries to step over me, I’m going to punch them.”

Green went on to explain why his regrets stemmed from incidents in previous games rather than the altercation with James.

“What I wouldn’t do anymore is I wouldn’t allow myself to be in the position where someone can make that decision and cost me dearly,” Green said. “So guess what? If I get to that point again and you step over me, I’ll try to hit you again. But I wouldn’t be in the same position with a blatant number of points, with the number techs where I leave that decision in someone else’s hands.”

Throughout his career, Green has walked the fine line with his intensity – trying to push things as far as he can with opponents, officials and sometimes teammates, without losing control. Warriors coach Steve Kerr has spoken about the importance of that balance and how Green often knows when to back down when he could cost his team valuable points or, even worse, be suspended.

Even after six years of consideration, Green clearly feels that James trying to step over him was disrespectful and justified the retribution he inflicted.

It’s easy for Green to say he shouldn’t have been in this position in the first place, but the only way to ensure he won’t be in these situations is to change the very fiber of his being, and we all know that’s not gonna happen. After all, it earned him four championships and probably a Hall of Fame resume. So as long as Green is on the field, the Warriors — or whatever team he ends up playing for — will have to live with occasional suspensions and hope that the positives continue to outweigh the negatives.

If we’re talking speculation, though, the Warriors probably won’t sign Kevin Durant in the summer after the 2016 Finals if they win the title, and maybe they won’t win championships in 2017 and 2018 without him. So some might say Green’s suspension ultimately benefited the Warriors franchise. That’s why it’s generally a bad idea to play the simulation game – if we get bogged down in butterfly effects, we’ll drive ourselves to insanity.