A.C. Green has left an indelible mark on sports history winning three NBA championships with the world-class Los Angeles Lakers and earning the name of NBA Iron Man for his record-setting string of consecutive games played. His athletic prowess not only allowed him to command the sport, but placed him on the list of basketball greats.
Few would argue that his long list of athletic accomplishments, including being named to the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, have earned him the right to kick back and enjoy the fruits of his labor. But in the past 20 years since hanging up his jersey, Green has taken a step onto another court as founder of A.C. Green Youth Foundation.
A committed Christian, Green held fast to his commitment to his faith throughout his playing career in an arena where most athletes succumbed to surrounding temptations, and since leaving basketball has been focused on helping young people make develop a “game plan” for their lives.
Through his “I’ve Got the Power” and “Game Plan” abstinence curriculum, videos, leadership camps, and web site, his mission is to help young people build self-esteem and character, and learn moral and ethical principles which will help them make responsible decisions, as shared on his web site at www.acgreen.com.
On a recent visit to Houston, Texas to serve as the keynote speaker for the B-Excellent Awards at the Bethel’s Place Black Chamber of Commerce Annual Business Convention/Expo, he carved out time in his schedule to visit several local middle and high schools to share his organization’s mission.
In an exclusive interview with Empower Magazine, Green shares why he is so passionate about empowering youth to develop moral character and integrity.
We all are familiar with your many athletic achievements in the NBA, but provide us with an update on the top things on your agenda since retiring from basketball.
The energy that I am spending is in the area of the A.C. Green Youth Foundation which is centered on developing today’s youth into tomorrow’s leaders and with that it has been 23 years we have been in existence as a 501c3 foundation. We have character based curriculum that is being used throughout the country in various states in public and private school settings, middle and high schools and even some colleges are applying to what we call a program that is technically called “Game Plan.”
What motivated you to start the A.C. Green Youth Foundation and what is the organization’s mission?
The “why” factor for me really started with my own nieces and nephews. I was driving and listening to some of the things that they thought and paid attention to and was becoming more and more amazed about it and that became the fuel to the fire and realized that the message of abstinence and moral character is not only for my family members but a universal issue.
With the many temptations that sports figures encounter, describe the key motivators that enabled you to maintain your sexual abstinence until marriage.
I wanted to find the good things out in life, not necessarily those things that felt good, but those things that had a lasting result. Being the youngest of four kids enabled me to see the school of hard knocks and to see some things through my own siblings and cousins and learn some things not to do based on the choices that were laid out before me. I had a choice of which road to travel, abstinence being one of them. For me, it all centered around self-control and my desire to be successful. I have always been a fierce competitor on the court, and no one would probably challenge that, but I wanted to be a winner off the court also.
What type of overall impact has your foundation had on teen abstinence?
From letters and data that we have been able to compile over the years and also from face-to-face conversations during my travels across the country, it seems we are having a solid impact. Through the program, kids learn that there are other options out there and they are not driven down one street where they hear “all kids are doing it and you have to do it too” as the norm. We have always measured how many kids we have been able to affect and let them know that abstinence is possible.
Is there a particular young person whose life has been impacted by your foundation that stands out above the rest in your heart?
There was a young man from a single-parent home who didn’t see himself as valuable and after I visited his school he came up to me and said that he could see himself in some of the stories I shared. I asked him about his future and it basically started a process that led over into the next few years that changed the way he viewed himself. He winded up going to college and from there getting a solid job and able to stay on course with his goal for being abstinence and later got married.
There was a young lady who was trying to maintain her celibacy and remain pure, but winded up getting pregnant and was at a crossroads of throwing the towel in and giving up on the idea of abstinence because of the decisions she had made. It was hard to come and talk to me but my conversation with her was “it is not about what has happened now, it is about where do you go from here.” I told her this is exactly what we stand for, because there are so many young people who are in what we call their “second virginity” and need to understand that you can from this moment on, move forward and reclaim that value, that virtue and self-esteem replenished in your life and that all is not lost. There was an image make-over that had to happen. Today her son is 15 years old, and I think that she is one of the greatest moms out there. It was fulfilling to see her not give up on herself and not choose the way of abortion. She has held and maintained a steady job, and the whole nine yards, and I just love her story.
Describe your upbringing and the person with the greatest impact on your life, and why?
I was raised in a very religious home and my parents set a model and example for me that was just remarkable. They emphasized the importance of work, dedication and the importance of the commitment to family.
In the arena of business, describe the types of business ventures you have started?
I have started a record company label, movie production, restaurants, car dealership to green technology to sports management and advertising marketing company and a semi-pro sports franchise and private fitness training for youth.
What are the keys to success you would share with aspiring or existing small business owners?
You have to be open minded, not afraid of hard work and not afraid to ask questions and learn. There have been a number of setbacks, a number businesses that I have been involved in didn’t work out the way I really wanted and was hoping for, but it catapulted me into another opportunity and became a spring board to another entrepreneurial venture. You also have to be committed and be able to weather some storms, one way or another, and press through to see that diamond being formulated.
What do you believe are the top reasons small businesses fail?
Under capitalized, smaller vision than they really need to have and also lack of preparation.
What are your thoughts on the Bethel’s Place Black Chamber of Commerce and its efforts to empower business owners in the church to take their businesses to the next level by patronizing one another and striving for excellence in the way they conduct business in the community?
I think it is a kingdom mandate and a biblical principle to build together. You are talking unity, you are talking family, you are talking a motto of teaching someone how to fish, so this is an opportunity to continue to show what and how the kingdom of God really operates in a business format.