Green sang Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. It would not be the last time he would find himself out of tune with his new teammates.
"That first year about four guys were saying, 'We've had guys come on this team before talking that Christian stuff. We're going to give you six weeks. You'll see this girl come into the Forum. You'll start getting your paychecks.' I called Greg Ball from the Champions for Christ ministry, who is my spiritual coach. I told him, 'You won't believe what these guys said. [They said] that in six weeks I'm going to be Judas, basically.'
"There were always team parties, although I never knew about them directly. There would be guys in the locker room after the game, getting spruced up and everything, slapping some extra foo-foo juice on, and I'm like, 'What's the deal?' and they'd say, 'Nothing, nothing.' So I'm like, 'Oh, is there another team function I'm not invited to?' " Green giggles at the memory. "I remember asking Pat Riley a couple of times about 'unofficial' team get-togethers. I'd say, 'Coach, is this one I have to be at?' and he'd say, 'No, you probably don't want to be there. You won't get fined if you miss this one.' "
Green needed two years to convince the Lakers that his faith was neither a passing fling nor a last resort. He didn't change the NBA, but the NBA didn't change him, either. Some teammates have edited their conversation in his presence, and others have blasphemed nonchalantly, but Green has stood above it all. These days, when the Dallas locker room air turns blue, Green will glance over at center Shawn Bradley, a devout Mormon, and they will roll their eyes in mutual support. Occasionally Green speaks up. "If they use some fancy curse words," he says, "I might say, 'Boy, did you pick that up in college? Did the professor emphasize that was one of the words you should use in a complete sentence?' "
Last month Green was lifting weights when a teammate loosed what Green refers to as "an F bomb." Green told himself, "O.K., that was a slip." (He, too, will comb his vocabulary for phrases to express anger; his favorites are she-whiz, doggone it and c'mon, Ace.) Then his teammate went nuclear again. "When we go to your hometown and see your mama after the game," Green chided him, "I'm going to remind her of what you said."
"No, man," pleaded the teammate. "I've got it under control."
Green has it all under control. He says he will wait to partake of this good thing God created, as his beliefs demand. He says he looks forward to marriage and fatherhood but isn't seeing anyone special. He never has been engaged. There are, he says, no war stories in this streak, no near misses.
As Green discards the ice packs almost 17 hours after his glorious day began, his mind lights on the idea that Nov. 20 should be a day to celebrate "my values and my sentiments," honoring the kind of man he is rather than the man himself. Good luck. He is thinking high concept, and so far the Dallas marketing department is considering dressing up Mavs Man, the team mascot, in a number 907 jersey, distributing commemorative prints to fans and throwing a postgame party at Planet Hollywood to celebrate the accomplishment of a man who won't touch alcohol. Invitations have been extended to Ripken, Doug Jarvis (the Dallas Stars assistant whose 964-game streak from 1975 to 1987 established the NHL's iron-man standard), Magic, Worthy, former Lakers teammate Michael Cooper, Evander Holyfield, whose skill and faith Green has long admired, and, naturally, the one and only Randy Smith.
Then there's the question of when to hold the ceremony. The Mavericks can't do it before tip-off because technically Green won't have played 907 yet. Having it after the game might be anticlimactic. Even halftime could be a problem because Green wouldn't want to miss any chalk talks.
The Mavericks will figure it out. In life, as in public relations, there is a time for everything. As Green will tell you, it's just a matter of finding the right one.