When the NBA suspended its season amid the coronavirus pandemic, Celtics forward Javonte Green received an invitation from teammate Kemba Walker to come down to Charlotte.
The offer to live with Walker and rookie Grant Williams was enticing, but Green stayed put three hours north in Virginia. He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend extended time with his two daughters, Khloe, who will turn 8 years old later this month, and Kylie, who is 2.
“They’re my everything,” Green said. “They’re my world.”
Prior to signing a two-year contract with the Celtics in July, Green played basketball overseas for four seasons, most recently with ratiopharm Ulm in Germany. Nine months out of each year were largely spent in Europe; only three in the US. He missed Kylie’s birth as well as her first steps, and had to hear her first words via FaceTime.
For Green, earning a spot on the Celtics’ roster wasn’t just about playing in the NBA. His ultimate goal was to be closer to his daughters.
Lately, Green has been working with Khloe on learning her multiplication table, a task that he jokes is testing his patience. Other highlights of their recent time together include Green, after 15 or so attempts, figuring out how to tie a ponytail and Khloe nailing her one-handed cartwheel.
They’ll spend hours outdoors, jumping on the trampoline and playing tag. They’ll dance to songs popularized by Tik Tok, including Drake’s “Toosie Slide’ and Wiz Khalifa’s “Something New.” Khloe also enjoys drawing and messing around with makeup. She’s painted her dad’s nails multiple times, once a glittery purple and once a burgundy red.
But there are concepts Green has to introduce to Khloe that run counter to the bliss of being 8 years old.
“I just want her to know that because you’re Black, some people will look at you different,” Green said. “I just want you to know that it’s not your fault that you’re Black.”
Last week, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed in Minneapolis police custody after an officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. In March, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was killed inside her apartment after Louisville police officers fired more than 20 shots at her and her boyfriend. In February, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was killed by two white men while jogging.
“I could’ve been George Floyd,” Green said. “Any of my brothers, any of my cousins could have been that person.”
As Green grapples with the gravity of recent events, he can’t help but think about his children. Kylie is far too young, but Khloe is at an age, Green feels, where she can grasp the basics behind these tragedies.
“I want them to understand what’s going on, but at the same time, I don’t want them to have to worry about things like that,” Green said. “I feel like [Khloe] understands what’s going on, to a certain extent, but she don’t understand the bigger picture. She’s still just figuring out the world.”
Following Floyd’s death, protests against systemic racism and police brutality have taken place across the country. Celtics forward Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours to organize and lead a protest in Atlanta, while Marcus Smart, Enes Kanter, and Vincent Poirier participated in a protest in downtown Boston.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens penned a letter to the team, expressing his sadness, support, and solidarity, while also recognizing his inability to feel the depths of the Black community’s pain.
“Everybody’s not in the same boat, but coming from Coach Brad, it means a lot because he’s a very genuine guy,” Green said. “I feel like everything he says, he means. That came through from him. It was some kind words, and I really appreciated the words he sent.”
As for what’s next? Green wants to be part of the solution, but he doesn’t know all the answers. How do you protect your kids from a threat that has been ingrained in society for centuries?
“That’s the crazy thing,” Green said. “I don’t know which way it’s going to go. It can go so many ways. It can literally be a war inside America. Me having kids is just like: What do you do? How can you protect them?”
Protesting and raising awareness is only the beginning. Green has faith in the potential of the youth — and will do what he can to help facilitate their growth and create change.
“Everything that I do is for them to have a better life, so they don’t have to grow up worrying about the things that I did,” he said. “As a parent, the only thought in my mind is: I got to keep them safe. I can’t fail them. Kids are the future. You just got to protect them with all your might.”