NBA

11 years after open heart surgery, Nuggets veteran Jeff Green can finally call himself an NBA champion: ‘All that sacrifice, it paid off’

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It was only 11 years ago that Jeff Green’s life was put in a crossroads, and he even considered retiring from professional basketball. However, that 2012 episode seems so long ago, especially as the veteran can now call himself an NBA champion as Denver won Game 5 of the Finals against Miami.

The Nuggets reached their first ever NBA title after a 4-1 championship series this Monday at Ball Arena, not only celebrating Finals MVP Nikola Jokic, buy also marked a career accomplishment for many veterans on the Colorado roster.

Back when Green represented the Boston Celtics from 2011 to 2015, his 2011/12 campaign took an important detour as the medical staff detectes an aortic aneurysm during a routine physical. The athlete missed the rest of that season, only to return miraculously the following year.

The 36-year-old landed in Denver in 2021 as his 11th team in the NBA. Now, he can finally say he feels grateful to have endured this long journey to the top of the league.

“Man, I can’t even put it into words. This is what you live for, all the sacrifice, all the blood, sweat and tears — the countless hours.” Green told the press. “For me, going through the surgery, 11 teams, adapted to every environment, this is what it was all for. All that sacrifice, it paid off.”

Take a look at the veteran’s postgame comments after beating the Heat 94 to 89:

Green admitted he felt on the top of the world after recieving his first ring, and especially by being able to celebrate this achievement with teammate Ish Smith, who has played with 13 teams in as many campaigns.

“That just feels narcissistic, like me celebrating me,” Smith admitted when asked about how it would feel to conquer the league title.

“It’s been fun. I can’t even lie to you. You usually don’t say that when you’re not playing and you’re in a leadership role,” Smith said. “It’s truly been fun.”

Jokic and coach Malone talked about the importance of the team’s veterans

According to the most figures in the squad, they would’ve not been able to reach their first NBA title if it wasn’t for their veteran’s wisdom.

“When you can have veterans that are truly selfless and not worried about, ‘Hey, I’m not in the playoff rotation,’ but they’re still invested in the team and the team’s success and they’re willing to use their voice in a positive manner, that is really impactful,” coach Michael Malone said.

When asked about how fundamental the team’s veterans are for his club, Serbian star Nikola Jokic says it’s all about healthy communication and feedback.

“When they talk, everybody listens because if you listen to them, you can hear some really smart things that can help you play the game,” the big man assured. “I really appreciate and am really thankful for them.”