New York Native Danny Green Helps to Revive Mecca of Basketball with ‘Battle in the Apple’
NEW YORK CITY -- Amid a hectic December schedule in the NBA, Danny Green has found peace, if only for a moment.
Inside 368 Broadway in Tribeca, the Toronto Raptors sharpshooter peruses shots from basketball’s hottest photographers from Los Angeles (like Cassy Athena and Cameron Look) and to New York City (like Michael Eng) posted on the walls of "The Pull Up: Overtime Basketball Pop-up."
All the while, Danny is surrounded by influencers in the flesh, from former 2KTV host Rachel DeMita to sneaker artist Sierato and Overtime Larry, as young fans clamor for selfies with the 2014 NBA champion.
It’s a familiar feeling for Danny. The Long Island native is used to getting at least 20 tickets and 40 passes for family and friends when he’s in town to play. That was once again the case the night prior, when the Raptors lost to the Brooklyn Nets in overtime.
This time, though, he’s stuck around town an extra day—with head coach Nick Nurse’s permission—not just to entertain loved ones, but also to promote the inaugural Battle in the Apple Basketball Showcase, a high school event to which Danny has lent his support.
“The whole inspiration behind all of us was to try to bring basketball back to New York,” he tells CloseUp360. “It was once considered the Mecca of everything, especially basketball. Now, not so much. We want to bring that back, and try to bring some energy and different type of vibe or movement back to the city.”
Danny Green takes in photos at "The Pull Up: Overtime Basketball Pop-up" in Tribeca. (Jamaal Devore)
Battle in the Apple, founded by Darren Duncan and Kevin Spann Jr., highlighted some of the brightest talent in prep hoops around the Tri-State area, with the goal of reigniting NYC hoops in the competitive landscape. The core crop included Brewster Academy’s Jalen Lecque and Terrence Clarke, Federal Way High School’s Jaden McDaniels, Christ the King High School's Moussa Cisse, and Lawrence Woodmere Academy’s Aidan Igiehon.
Danny crafted his own narrative as a young prospect on similar stages, albeit not quite as big as the one sponsored by Puma and Gold Level Sporting Events at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. From the Empire State Games, Battle of the Boroughs and iS8 to competitions backed by New York legends like Kenny “The Jet” Smith and Stephon Marbury, those sacred grounds (and the grueling battles they hosted) played pivotal roles in Danny developing his character en route to the University of North Carolina and, eventually, the NBA.
“Get your name out there. Get your name on the mic, you know what I'm saying? Get a nickname,” Danny says. “Even if it's the KingDome, Rucker [Park], all those type of places too, you know, where you made your name.”
While he was in town, Danny spoke on a roundtable for the high schoolers with 17-year NBA veteran and Bronx legend Rod Strickland.
On the Sunday of the event—after Danny returned to Toronto for a game against the Milwaukee Bucks—Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Allen Crabbe and Ed Davis of the Brooklyn Nets judged a dunk contest featuring professional leapers Jordan Kilganon, Chris Staples, Daniel Kabeya, and Michael Purdie. And New York rapper Sheck Wes performed his popular hit “Mo Bamba” about the Harlem native-turned-Orlando Magic lottery pick.
And, of course, there was actual basketball at Barclays.
“Hopefully it brings back that culture, that vibe we had when I was growing up, where basketball was,” Danny says of Battle in the Apple. “I think it’s great for the city, I think it's great for the high schools. Obviously kids from high schools come from other states as well. But to put on this type of showcase, hopefully it gets bigger and better each year—to have more New Yorkers and New York teams, and make it something special, bring basketball back.”
Danny and NYC legend Rod Strickland (far left) with "Battle in the Apple" founders Darren Duncan (left) and Kevin Spann Jr. (right). (Jamaal Devore)
Now in his 10th season as a pro, more than four years removed from his championship with the San Antonio Spurs, Danny is no longer the young gun. At 31, he’s the old head dispensing wisdom—if not to his Raptors teammates then certainly to his brother, Devonte, who is a junior at Indiana University.
“I try as much as I can and as best as I can, but I want to extend that experience [to him]. I'm sure he wants to do that on his own,” Danny says of Devonte, adding later, “He'll ask questions here and there, but it's something he has to do on his own.”
The connection to Devonte has helped Danny bond with Raptors wing OG Anunoby, who played with the younger Green in Bloomington. But Danny hasn’t needed familial connections to find common ground with his teammates in Toronto since joining the Raptors in the Kawhi Leonard trade over the summer.
“A lot of these guys here are from the states and similar backgrounds, the same kind of upbringing, so it's a little easier,” Danny says. “Same taste in music or same things they like to do, shop or whatever it may be.”
Danny’s interest in media has accelerated the process, too. Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka have joined him on his Inside The Green Room podcast. Danny, in turn, braved the kitchen on Serge’s YouTube show, How hungry are you?, alongside Jonas Valanciunas. Raptors players and coaches recently came together to support team president Masai Ujiri's Giants of Africa gala in Toronto, celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela.
“Now we're starting to learn each other, everyone starting to kick it and understand each other,” Danny says. “Also, seeing how everyone plays on the court, trying to figure it out. That's the process, that helps the process. So those things off the court, the guys are doing them and you get involved.”
Though the Raptors are gelling well—with the NBA’s best record, boosted by back-to-back blowouts of the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors—Danny insists there’s plenty of work yet to be done.
“It takes time to get to know a guy, feeling it out and playing with them. We're still learning, figuring each other out,” he says. “But hopefully the process gets better and continues to do what we need to do to be something special at the end of the season.”
That will resume with Danny joining his teammates on the Raptors' road trip. For now, despite the grind of the season, he’s rather upbeat, excited to submerge in the NYC vibe he’s known for so long and to do his part to perpetuate it for the next generation.
“We're able to bring back and give back to our communities where we come from, to help the people with some resources who are not so fortunate,” he says. “We can learn something and interact, give them hope and put a smile on their faces.”
Olivier Auguste is an NBA lifestyle writer based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter.