A.C. Green is sleeping in this morning. He doesn't get out of bed until 6:15, almost an hour later than usual. Green doesn't get up before God as much as he gets up with God, studying the Bible and praying before first light because he finds these minutes every bit as precious as the ones an NBA coach doles out. This day begins with Green cross-referencing Psalms 50 and 71 and ends at 11 p.m. when he peels the ice packs off his cranky knees in a deserted locker room an hour after a six-point, 17-rebound exhibition performance against Phoenix. This is a typical day, if you discount the point total. Green is usually good for double figures.
The future iron man is still flesh and blood. "I am curious [about sex]," Green says over pancakes. "But not curious enough to go to the violation point. I figure God created it, so it must be good. But he has created it to take place at a certain point of time—within the confines of marriage. If I'm going to live according to rules God laid out, then there are rules A through Z. There can't be situational ethics."
On Aug. 2, 1981, in a church in Hermiston, Ore., Green heard a sermon titled "Do You Want to Go to Heaven or Do You Want to Go to Hell?" The 17-year-old Green figured he was doing swell in the all-important everlasting-grace column—at least until the minister convinced him that he should follow a path that was even straighter and narrower. On the third call from the pulpit to step forward and be saved, Green lurched to his feet and handed over his life.
So Green began filling the lane on the path to righteousness. Rectitude, not attitude. He would draw national attention while at Oregon State not only for his play but also for protesting the sale at the campus bookstore of Playboy, a magazine that, incidentally, was touting him as an All-America. Those clever, impious Pac-10 students—especially courtside heathens at rival Oregon—would hold up centerfolds when Green shot free throws.
Then he was drafted by a team that had pinups sitting courtside. In 1985 Green was summoned to Los Angeles—Gomorrah with a freeway system—to join Magic, Worthy and friends. If autobiographies and a police blotter are to be believed, those Lakers got around some.
At a team dinner the night before training camp opened in Palm Springs, Magic, the emcee, asked the rookie to sing the Oregon State fight song.
Green didn't know it.
A current Top 40 song then?
Green, who only occasionally listens to radio or reads newspapers, didn't know any of those, either. But, he said, if someone could come up with a gospel song, he would try that.
"Looking around that room, I was pretty nervous," Green recalls. "That guy's been on a Wheaties box, that guy's been on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, that guy's been on a late-night talk show. But I wanted to be sure they knew where I was coming from."