When Draymond Green and Jordan Poole are popular, it’s rarely good news

The diamonds weighing down Draymond Green’s ring finger can only sparkle so much. They provide a superficial shine to a career that needs a much brighter shine than four championship rings can provide. Green may be the mouth, brawn and amygdala of the Golden State Warriors dynasty, but because he lacks self-control over his talents, Green will be remembered as his team’s greatest saboteur. He tarnished his reputation, complicating it to such an extent that the authors of his legacy will have to struggle to compare his greatest victories with all his violence.

So if a handful of titles no longer dwarf the archive of rebellious elbows, groins kicks AND blowsfirst round of play-offs stomping in the chest and now – the latest on Green’s tape of mixed martial arts moves – a squeeze that cost Green the longest suspension for an on-court confrontation ever handed down by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, we can predict that one championship as sixth man will not protect 24-year-old Jordan Poole from his growing and undesirable reputation.

Recently, these two former teammates have entered the news in part due to their reputations: Green for losing his mind and trying to choke Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert and Poole for appearing disconnected during a request conference in a video that went viral.

Although the pair may now play on opposite coasts, Green and Poole will forever be linked the blow that blew the warriors away. And while Green stands at the end of his career, deliberately working to clean up his rap as a dirty player, Poole glides through the dawn of his own NBA legacy, blithely gaining punchline fame. They share the same dilemma, and their worst moments may overshadow their achievements.

Jordan Poole sees the criticism. He says it doesn’t bother him.

The thing about reputation: we don’t get to choose ours. It’s one of those unfair but accepted truths that while we can be the captains of our own lives, we cannot control how other people may perceive and judge our actions in the world. This allows our reputations to follow us, justifying our responses, much as the NBA rationalized the length of Green’s five-game suspension due to his “history of unsportsmanlike conduct.” And our reputation may precede us, just like Poole’s in Brooklyn when it encouraged someone at the Barclays Center to be on the lookout for any antics from the Washington Wizards guard.

Over time, a reputation gains momentum and takes on a life of its own. And even though Poole and Green are no longer teammates, the younger player was still able to watch the veteran and learn how a series of mistakes can ruin everything.

Green found out too late. And now, at age 33, Green cares so much about his reputation – and changing it – that he has started a reclamation project. Because he does possess the level of self-awareness and smarts to recognize how sympathetic an audience will root for a man willing to admit his mistakes, Green allowed a film crew to follow him on his journey to spiritual well-being in the summer of 2021.

In the pilot episode of Prime Video “Sessions,” Green, who served as executive producer, was aptly portrayed as a misunderstood competitor who simply hates to lose, a loving father terrified of his daughter’s health, and a hurting man in need of healing. So between testimonials from college coach Tom Izzo and NBA coach Steve Kerr and uplifting scenes at home, viewers can watch Green meditate with self-help guru Deepak Chopra and learn to feel his feelings.

After that attempt to work on himself – and do it for public benefit – Green won another title, but also hit his younger, smaller teammate with a right jab during a 2022 training camp incident. Apparently, Reiki treatments couldn’t stop Green from delivering a season-wrecking blow.

Unlike Green, Poole takes a more casual approach. He doesn’t need a public relations machine because he doesn’t really care what outsiders think of him.

“See, it depends on who’s saying it, right?” Poole said this week. “People who are close to me, people who are in the gym [matter]”

Poole had already been the butt of jokes, but his gold during his time with the Warriors and their superstars saved him from becoming a total caricature. There he was the victor and the armor bearer of the next phase of the Warrior dynasty. Who with a serious face could really mock the young master? But in Washington, where the jokes write themselves and the team’s 2-10 record makes it fashionable to keep playing, Poole no longer has a shield, but rather carries a target.

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During a recent game against the Brooklyn Nets, Poole, just being himself, gave a camera-ready fan enough material to create a little three-act play inspired by a Wizards timeout.

Setup: Poole seems agitated by something and turns to his teammate.

Confrontation: A teammate on a two-way contract encourages Poole to look at coach Wes Unseld’s play; Poole clearly remains on the defensive.

Resolution: Poole continues the season-long narrative in which he was cast frivolous player.

There are positive vignettes that combat this narrative, stories that portray Poole as a student of the game so focused on learning that seek advice from rivals. According to Unseld, he may also be a gym addict who is obsessed with working on his shot. During his short stay in Washington, I found Poole to be a thoughtful young man who cared about being a leader as well as being great. These are traits that I think will make him easy to root for, especially after how things ended with the Warriors.

Instead, Poole spent his early years in Washington as a major player “Shaqtin’ the Fool” and easy entertainment for the masses who seem more interested in his on-court antics than his basketball skills.

No matter how many championships Green has under his belt, when we hear that “Draymond is back in the news,” we’ll be wondering which guy he hit this time. And regardless of his inner desire to be great, when we consider “Jordan Poole” a trending topic, we’ll assume it was because he threw a lob behind the board with his team trailing by 21 points.

Two players, bound by each other and by a reputation they would rather leave behind. Reputations can change, and Green and Poole still have time to regain theirs. But it’s hard to convince people that you’re misunderstood when yet another viral video starts gaining traction.


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