Draymond Green won two Class A titles while at Saginaw High. He made it to two Final Fours while at Michigan State ('09, '10), but a championship eluded him there.
Now, in just his third season in the NBA, Draymond is an NBA Champion, something that his critics will most definitely never be able to take away from him.
There were a number of reasons for the sizable leap that Golden State took this past season. The hiring of Steve Kerr, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson taking their respective games to the next level, guys like Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala becoming more acclimated in their roles, all among them.
Worthy of being mentioned with all of the aforementioned reasons is the leap that Draymond took. He had a solid first two years in the league, but was still figuring things out in a number of areas. Before this season, the consensus around the league on Draymond Green was basically "solid role player/bench guy", but probably not ever going to be much more.
He certainly wasn't being talked about as a guy who'd potentially be worthy of a max contract after this season.
His detractors over the years haven't been without sound reason or logic. He's undersized for his position, not an elite shooter, and doesn't possess elite athleticism. In the NBA, that's typically a recipe for role player in the best case scenario.
But, like Draymond talked about briefly in his post-Championship winning press conference posted above, people doubting him only gives him added motivation.
As a freshman at Michigan State, he was a factor, but only scored a meager 3.3 point per game, good enough for 8th on that squad that eventually lost in the National Championship game. If we were to go back in time to say, May 2009, and ask folks around basketball who they thought had the best shot of having a big time NBA career out of all the players on that team, Draymond might've been the 5th player whose name was mentioned. Surely, you would've given Kalin Lucas, Goran Suton, Durrell Summers, and Raymar Morgan all better odds. Depending on who you talked to, some may have even said Chris Allen before they ever muttered "Draymond Green".
Throughout his career at Michigan State and now during his time with the Warriors, Draymond comes back after every Summer a much improved player. Compared to the guy who was doing all the dirty work for Tom Izzo as a freshman just six years ago, the guy you see today, the one who's in the national spotlight for both his play and personality, isn't even recognizable.
This year, under new head coach Steve Kerr, Draymond went from a key bench cog to somebody who started in every game that he played in, as well as the probable third best player on the team that just won the NBA Championship.
The path throughout these particular playoffs wasn't without its valleys for Draymond. After Game 3, he was playing so poorly that Deadspin ran this article, which was an in-depth piece on all of the ways that Draymond was hurting his team through the first three games. He was shooting poorly, making poor decisions offensively, and also being badly outplayed on the interior by Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson.
After Game 3, though, Draymond acknowledged how poorly he was playing, and regained his form from that point forward. He started shooting like he's capable of, both from the perimeter and on the interior, and once again simply looked comfortable on the basketball court. If you could mark any one moment as the turning point, perhaps it was this:
"I'M BACK", Draymond passionately declares there, and he wasn't lying. He capped off his series rejuvenation with a triple-double in the clinching Game 6 at Quicken Loans Arena.
There is restricted free agency on the horizon for Green, but all indications at this point are that he'll remain a Golden State Warrior. There has been a lot of speculation over the past few months that the Pistons could make a play for Green and that the Saginaw native may be interested in returning home, but Draymond appears happier than ever in the Bay.
Additionally, over the last few Warriors GM Bob Myers has been repeatedly reassuring Warriors fans that they have no reason to worry about Green leaving.
Of course, that's not good news for the people in Michigan who wanted to see their native son come back and help revitalize the downtrodden franchise here. Green has been talked about as a "prototypical Piston", someone who embodies all of the values as a basketball player that made the franchise's past champions so great.
For Draymond, though, a long term commitment to him from his ownership in Golden State gives him the opportunity to continue growing alongside two of the brightest young stars in the game in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. It gives him a shot at continuing to play for Steve Kerr, a coach whose future appears to be so bright that nobody even really seems to be speculating on just how good he could actually be at this point.
Draymond Green now has an NBA Championship ring to go along with those titles from Saginaw and Big Ten titles and Final Four berths from Michigan State. This is the peak of his basketball career to this point and doubters of his ability will be as scarce ever, but if the past is any indication, the best from Draymond Green is still on its way.