Family Helping Family

By: Adam Lucas

You know Danny Green as a 2009 national champion, or as the Tar Heel who dunked on Greg Paulus, or as a three-time world champion.

Green values all of those accomplishments, of course. But there's something you might have forgotten about him that, even today, is very meaningful to him: He's a North Carolina fan.

"It's in my blood," Green says. "I was a fan before I ever got there. And when I got there, I knew it was an honor to be part of it. Anywhere I go, people recognize me for being part of that program and part of that school. It's a huge honor for me to be remembered in that way. I've been a fan since I was a kid. I bleed it every day."

It's not surprising, then, that Green had an instant connection to the recent video in which Roy and Wanda Williams described their affinity for the University of North Carolina. In the video, Wanda talks about getting cold chills driving up the hill to see Franklin Street. Green instantly related to that comment.

The North Babylon, N.Y., native shares a similar background with his former head coach's Asheville upbringing. Both needed assistance in order to have the opportunity to attend college. And both had a life-changing experience in Chapel Hill.

That's why Green made the decision to donate $1 million to endow a basketball scholarship for the Tar Heels. He loves the program, of course. You will not find anyone, anywhere who is more instantly ready to do anything they possibly can—jump on a Zoom call, stop by the Smith Center, text a struggling player—to help Carolina.

He doesn't just take the high-profile assignments. He represents the Tar Heels in ways most fans never see. Earlier this school year, he participated in a Zoom call for all current student-athletes, just because he wanted them all to know the importance of being a Tar Heel.

But it's more than that. It's the way he feels the four years in Chapel Hill changed his life.

"Coach Williams had us working with the Special Olympics and doing Christmas shopping for those less fortunate," Green says. "Coach Pop(ovich) in San Antonio was very similar. Those things helped raise me. If you make it, you have a responsibility to take care of those who need help. It was a way to change a person's day, and maybe even change a person's life. I've been one of those kids. People in my community couldn't afford to go to school. Being part of those activities helped build a foundation for me."

Green is on the short list of greatest Carolina Basketball winners of all time. He is one of just three Tar Heels (Michael Jordan and James Worthy are the others) to win NCAA and NBA championships. He is one of only two players in basketball history, along with LeBron James, to start for three different franchises that won NBA titles.

The player who still hasn't picked up his rings for those two most recent NBA championships knows where his legacy began—in Chapel Hill.

"I've been trying to find ways of giving back," Green says. "I've always wanted to do something. Eric Montross (member of the 1993 national champions and current Rams Club staff member) gave me some information on it, and I thought it was a great way to do something that honors something I'm so passionate about."

In normal times, a gift like this would have been cemented with in-person visits and sit-down meetings. One of Williams' favorite in-season releases is traveling to watch his former players in the pros; this year, of course, COVID prevented those trips. In 2021, conversations about the gift were accomplished mostly through Zoom calls. But the impact remains the same.

"When Eric (Montross) called me and told me what Danny was doing, it was emotional for me," Williams says. "Danny Green loves this University just like Roy Williams does, and I don't think there's anyone in the world who loves the University more than I do. To have one of my players say I want to be part of this was emotional. It's hard to even talk about. It makes me feel like someone else believes in this place the same way that Roy and Wanda Williams do, and that means so much to me."

Green thinks back to that video honoring his former coach. He can recite it almost word for word—it was clearly impactful for him. Tonight he will play at Golden State and Thursday he will be in Los Angeles, but right now, he is mentally in Chapel Hill, and you can feel it in the passion in the way he talks about his school.

"The opening is what sunk in for me," he says. "When Wanda talked about getting chills driving up that hill, that's the same way that I feel. I got a chance to play for North Carolina for four years. That's still unbelievable to me. I got a chance to play for someone who loves Carolina so much, and that's the same way I feel. This scholarship was an easy decision for me.

"If you can help people in need, especially your family, you do it. And Carolina is my family."