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Day One is a Players’ Tribune series where athletes sit down with the people who’ve been in their lives since the beginning and discuss their journey to the pros. This installment features Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors in conversation with LaMarr Woodley of the Arizona Cardinals. The two lifelong friends came together this summer to host a week of basketball and football camps in and for their hometown of Saginaw, Michigan.

Draymond:

I’ve known LaMarr since I was about three years old. Our families have always been really close. My granddad had the most famous ribs. These were ribs. Everyone knew they were the best, and everybody would come over for them, including LaMarr.

And whenever LaMarr came over, wherever he went, I would just follow him around the house. Whatever he did, I did. It would kill me when he had to leave.

LaMarr:

His granddad had by far the best ribs, ever. Listen: The. Best. Ever. The best ever. We called him “Shaq” because he was so big. He was probably, you know, around 6’6” or so — but to us he was over 7 feet tall. And he didn’t say much. But he’d always have ribs going. And we’d look around, see if he was there, like, “Shaq? Shaq?” And if he wasn’t, we’d go in and sneak some ribs.

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Draymond:

It was like that. I looked up to LaMarr from the start. And then it went from there — on through elementary school, on through middle school, on through high school. We were always family.

Eventually, LaMarr started to blossom into this huge, nationwide figure. And all of a sudden, he’s on magazine covers — wearing his jersey, biting the football, that sort of thing. I still remember those covers. And that was amazing to me. I mean, this is a guy I’ve been looking up to since I was really small.

I’d attend all of LaMarr’s football games at Saginaw High. They had a group called The Dawg Pound, and everywhere you went, they were the loudest people in the crowd. That was basically LaMarr’s personal fan club. That’s how big he was.

And when LaMarr left — and this is no disrespect to anybody — The Dawg Pound left. To me, it was like Saginaw Football left. Because he was always that guy that I’d been looking to.

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He’s played a huge role in my life, just showing me the ropes. Huge. With everything my career has thrown at me and life has thrown at me so far, I’ve felt like I’d already been primed for it simply because LaMarr had already prepared me for it. He’s prepared me for just about everything I could possibly see.

When certain stuff happens to me — stuff that he told me would happen — I call him. And no matter what I say — I’ll be, like, “Yo, LaMarr, such and such happened, just like you said…” — he’s already laughing. He already knows before I even tell him. That’s just the relationship we’ve built. A brotherhood. People can call it a friendship if they want, but that’s not what it is. LaMarr’s my older brother. And an older brother can always relate.

People can call it a friendship if they want, but that’s not what it is. LaMarr’s my older brother.

LaMarr understands everything. Number one, he’s been through it. Anything I could go through, he’s been through. And number two, he’s just old enough to have a little bit of wisdom — but not too old to where you don’t want to hear it. Like I said, an older brother.

LaMarr:

We’d play basketball at the rec center from 3-5 p.m. In Draymond you had this guy who was younger than all of us trying to get in there, calling “next.” And when the older guys wouldn’t give him next — wouldn’t let him on the court, say he was too small to be out there on the basketball court with the older kids — man, Draymond would be trying to fight. He knew he belonged before anyone else did.

And that went for everything. When I got to college and Draymond was in high school, he’d be, like, “LaMarr, let’s go lift weights.” We’d drive over to Saginaw Valley and I’d try to kill him because my guy was a trash-talker. You get in there with Draymond and he just won’t stop talkin’.

And so I’d go in the weight room and be, like, “I’ve gotta break this dude.” But the harder and harder I tried, Draymond being Draymond, that just made him keep talkin’. And eventually I realized, you know, that I just could not break this dude. That was Draymond.

I knew him better than anyone, so I was the least surprised of anyone when he started having success. He had a lot of it from the start — two state titles in high school alone — and I tried to be there for him along the way.

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When Draymond was going through the recruiting process, I remember a coach calling from Michigan, talking about how he wanted to talk to me about Draymond Green. But, you know, us being close, even with me being a Michigan alum, it wasn’t my job to push him there. It was his job to make the best decision for him. I’m not the one out there playing basketball. I wasn’t going to let it be a thing where years later he tells me, “Hey, LaMarr, man, you advised me to go to Michigan, and now look.” Nah. I didn’t say anything.

And we joke about it, Draymond going to the rival school of where I went, but once he went to Michigan State, I was very supportive. I came to a bunch of games to watch him play. I remember one game I was even in the locker room at Michigan State — like, here I am, a Michigan alum, in the Michigan State locker room, talking to coach Izzo. They welcomed me in. Of course, when they played each other, it was hard — you know, who do I root for? But like I told everyone: I rooted for Draymond, because with him, it’s personal. It’s family. And you always want to see your family do well.

We talked a lot. We talked about everything. We talked about how life was going to be at every next level: high school, then college, then professional. I made sure that he got all of the information he needed, because growing up, no one shared that information with me. So I always told myself that if someone was coming up behind me, I was gonna make sure they got that information.

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When Draymond made it to the national championship game, I drove down. The game was in Detroit, and I had to be there to show support. (And of course I was rooting for Michigan State.) When Draymond came out for the draft, it was the same way.

It was unbelievable to me, watching Draymond go through his draft process. Just, all the negative stuff: too short, what position is he going to play, this and that. Nobody ever looked at him as a ballplayer.

But I knew what Draymond could do. I knew what kind of a person he was. He was that same kid from the courts at the rec center. Draymond knew he belonged before anyone else did then, and I knew he knew now. He just had to go to the right team. A team that would let him be Draymond. Michigan State let him be a leader at an early age, and look how it paid off.

Draymond brought a little attitude to that team, and they fed off it. Look at when they started winning. That’s Draymond’s imprint.

Once he got to Golden State, it was clear he went to the right team. He wasn’t playing as much as he wanted to, but he was playing, and you just knew — just like you knew when Draymond got to Michigan State — the leadership was coming. He didn’t wait until he was a superstar. That’s not Draymond’s way. He had already started becoming a leader.

You hear those negative things — he’s complaining on the court, he’s too aggressive, he thinks he’s some badass — and if you know Draymond, you just roll your eyes. Because that stuff’s GOOD. Those are Draymond’s strengths. Don’t believe me? Look what it did for his teammates, having Draymond around. Steph Curry all of a sudden got a little tougher. Klay Thompson got a little more fight in him. The whole team got a little different mindset. Why? The media won’t say it, and Draymond won’t say it, but I will: because Draymond brought a little attitude to that team, and they fed off it. Look at when they started winning. That’s Draymond’s imprint.

When he was a rookie, they played in Cleveland, and that was the first time I ever bought courtside seats. And I didn’t even tell him I was coming. He didn’t know. But when they got out there for warm-ups, he saw me — and he was like, “Ohhh.” That was a moment. We was right there. I brought like six people with me. And it was nice. Like, Yeah. That’s my guy.

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Then this year, watching his success and everything he was doing on the court, it was amazing. Draymond would always want me to come to a game in California, and I’d tell him, “Nah, I ain’t coming out to the game. I’ll come when y’all get to the playoffs.” Just as, you know, big brother motivation. Then they get to the playoffs, and I still didn’t come. I was like, “Yeah, I’ll come when y’all get to the Finals.” Then they get to the Finals, and I still didn’t come. I was like, “Yeah, I’ll come when y’all get to the championship game.”

Then they got up 3-2, about to clinch — and just like I said, I was there. So I can honestly say — high school, college, and now with Draymond in the NBA — that I’ve made it to all of his championship games. And that means a lot. Because that’s Draymond’s success. And his success is my success.

Draymond:

I was 19 when LaMarr won the Super Bowl. 19. Do you know how cool that was?

It’s one thing to witness someone from Saginaw do something special. It’s another thing to witness someone from your family do something special. But when it’s Saginaw and it’s your family, and that special thing is the Super Bowl? I can’t even describe it. I couldn’t believe it. It was one of those moments when you’re just, like, Is this real?

When LaMarr won the Super Bowl, I felt like I won the Super Bowl. The whole city of Saginaw won that Super Bowl. Like, LaMarr just didn’t win that Super Bowl for him. That Super Bowl was for all of us. And on top of it, I was in school at the time. So watching the game with my teammates? Man — that was my guy… winning the Super Bowl. I should have gotten a ring, the way I was cheering. You couldn’t tell me nothing.

And the other thing is, me and LaMarr would always have these arguments about our careers. Always in good fun, but man, we’d kill each other.

LaMarr:

Kill each other.

Draymond:

Kill each other.

LaMarr:

Like only family can do.

Draymond:

Let’s do high school:

LaMarr would be like, “I’m Gatorade Player of the Year. I’m the No. 1 ranked defensive player in the country. And I was Dream Team in basketball, too. I made All-State — in your sport. We don’t even need to talk about football. I’ll talk basketball with you.” So he’d go through all of that stuff.

And then I’d go through my stuff. He’d say he got one state championship, and I’d be like, “I got two state championships.” And then we’d go onto college stuff. And on and on.

But then he made it to the Super Bowl? And he won? I’m thinking, Oh man. I’m never hearing the end of this. I’ve gotta do something. I’ve gotta do something. And that’s the year we made it to the national championship game. But we lost. So I’m like, Aww man, this may be worse than not getting there. LaMarr is really gonna be talking now.

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And LaMarr was there at the game, so of course he was supportive of me and excited for me when we made it to the championship, and then sad for me when we lost.

But later, when those arguments came back up? You better believe he said something about it.

Even to this day, those arguments are still going. I’ll tell LaMarr, “Third year in, I’m a world champion.” And he’ll say, “Hey, bruh — I won my Super Bowl in my second year.”

And it’s love. That’s what those arguments are. It’s all love, and it’s good love. The love I have for LaMarr, to see him be great. And as much love as I have for him, I know mine doesn’t even get close to how he sees me. And how happy he was to see me win that world championship. It goes back to that little brother thing.

And it’s the same way with Eric Davis, who’s a Jordan All-American, another Saginaw kid, who’s coming up now. One thing LaMarr always taught me is that I have to look out for the next young fella, so I’ve taken Eric Davis under my wing.

LaMarr:

But back to comparing each other?

I did have him in high school. My jersey’s hanging in his gym. You can’t miss it.

Draymond:

But you’ve gotta ask yourself: Is he a team player, or one of those guys that’s all about him?

LaMarr:

Well, you gotta say: Who was on that team?

Draymond:

He couldn’t carry his team to a state championship. I got two.

LaMarr:

Nah, I won a state championship.

Draymond:

He won one as a freshman. He didn’t even play.

LaMarr:

I did play. I started the championship game.

Draymond:

He started the last game. They just threw him a bone.

LaMarr:

Nah.

Draymond:

You know, you throw a dog a bone every now and then. I mean, LaMarr’s won a Super Bowl, but he’s never won at the high school level. I won at every level.

LaMarr:

Not in college, he didn’t.

Draymond:

Big Ten championship.

LaMarr:

We did too.

Draymond:

I went to Final Fours.

LaMarr:

Rose Bowl. Three times.

Draymond:

You also went to a terrible bowl.

LaMarr:

You also didn’t make it to the Final Four every year.

Draymond:

Just about.

LaMarr:

And I’ve been to two Super Bowls.

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Draymond:

Yeah but you lost the second one. So if that’s the case, my playing in the national championship game — I crowned your Rose Bowls. Because they weren’t national championship bowls.

LaMarr:

They were.

Draymond:

Nah they weren’t.

LaMarr:

They were close.

Draymond:

Close.

LaMarr:

But y’all got killed in the national championship game.

Draymond:

But we were there.

LaMarr:

It was like y’all wasn’t there.

Draymond:

That was like y’all in that second Super Bowl.

LaMarr:

We lost by six.

Draymond:

Don’t matter, y’all lost. If that’s the case, my national championship game appearance counts. So it really trumps anything.

LaMarr:

Nah, it don’t. Anyway.

Draymond:

We could go on like this all day. But you know, in all seriousness, I’ll be talking about LaMarr, and people will be like, “You know LaMarr?!” And I’ll be like, “Yo. LaMarr raised me.” I tell people that all the time. He raised me. He showed me the way. It wouldn’t be right of me to not do things that way, because I know better. And that’s because of LaMarr.

Giving back is a huge part of that. That’s just what LaMarr taught me. I’ve been taught, You give back, and you come back to your community. I don’t know anyone — I mean anyone — who’s done as much for their community as LaMarr. Especially in as short a span of time. It’s incredible. And it’s the route he showed me to go.

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So I just try to follow his footsteps. Try my best, anyway. I’ll be like, “LaMarr, I’ve got an idea.” I tell him all my ideas. “I should adopt a family, and you should adopt a family, and we should give them Christmas, in Saginaw.” And he’ll be like, “Alright, cool. Let’s do it.” And this dude comes back to me, calls me back the next day, like, “Hey — we gonna do ten families. We gonna get two party buses. We gonna take ’em shopping. We gonna do dinner. We gonna do breakfast. We gonna do brunch …”

And I’m like, “Oh, I see. Alright.” He shows me. He shows me the level that you do things on, the way you do things, if you want to do them right. Because it’s one thing to do stuff. A lot of athletes do “stuff.” But LaMarr knows how to do stuff so it matters.

LaMarr:

And that’s what it is with these camps. That’s why they’re so important. I asked Draymond, “Hey, when are you doing your camp?” And then I tried to plan my camp around that same time.

When we do stuff like this, it’s just showing people: 1. We’re from Saginaw, and 2. We’re coming together.

We’re doing something special now. Something you don’t see anywhere else. Because now you’ve got the basketball camp for three days, and then you finish that, and you’ve got the football camp. Now we’re talking four days of fun for the kids and for the community.

And it’s showing two people, coming together. People ask me about Draymond coming home after winning his world championship, and I’m like, “Yeah, I know — I won it too!” Because that’s how I feel. I’ve been riding along with him. I have my Warriors hat on, and I don’t even wear hats. It says “World Championship” or whatever — I don’t know what it says. But I have it on all day, because I support him.

So when we do stuff like this, it’s just showing people: 1. We’re from Saginaw, and 2. We’re coming together.

And it shows kids: These two dudes are from my city. My city. And they’re coming together. There’s no ego involved. Yeah, we have our little arguments, for fun, out of love. But this? These camps? Coming back? Giving back? I tell them, “We’re doing it for y’all.”

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And people point it out every year that Draymond’s at my football camp running around like he’s some kid, like he’s a wide receiver. And I’m going to the basketball camp. And I’m there having fun. And it’s nothing. But at the same time, it’s everything. Because we’re supporting one another. And when people see that, they understand what it’s all about.

Draymond:

We’re not friends because we’re both successful. And we’re not even friends who both happen to be successful. I’m successful because I’m friends with LaMarr. It’s as simple as that. For me, friendship showed me success.

It’s one thing to watch someone from your community make it out and have success, but it’s another to be able to reach out and touch someone and to be able to touch them at any time. And again, this is since I was three years old. Three years old. I saw LaMarr’s success, and I just reached out and touched it, because I could reach out and touch him. That’s all it was.

I always try to tell the kids at my camp that not too long ago, I was the kid sitting in these seats. But, man, they don’t believe me. And I tell them, “Listen. It’s all going to go by like this [snaps finger]. Because I was just there. Just there. You may think it was a long time ago, but not long ago, I promise, I was just sitting there. Just like y’all are now.” And they still don’t believe me.

But you know what helps? When they can believe me a little more? Because I’m not saying it from on TV. When I say it, they can reach out and touch me. It means a lot. It means it’s real. And then they know I’m one of them. They know that they can be like me, because they are like me.

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I learned that from LaMarr. Anytime I had doubts growing up, worried I wasn’t going to make it, I had something I could think to myself. I’d think, Well, LaMarr made it. Why can’t I?

That’s what I’m trying to bring to this camp. That’s why I’m coming back and giving back, and why I’ll keep doing it, and keep doing it right.

Because LaMarr’s done his job. Now it’s my turn.

And eventually, it will be my job to pass that to someone else. Then it will be their job to pass it to the person after them.

Because that’s just how it works. It’s as simple as that. That’s Saginaw. That’s home. That’s our city. That’s our friendship.

Hermanos

When we were little kids growing up in Venezuela, nobody had any real equipment. We didn’t have the means to buy it. But Pablo and I loved baseball, so we would improvise.

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