Stars don’t always score the most. N’Golo Kante and Draymond Green are proof of that.
Draymond Green and N’Golo Kante. If you’ve observed each of their personalities, you would assume the two have nothing in common. But take a look at their games and their stories, and you’ll see the similarities in two of the biggest role-playing superstars in their respective sports. Let’s start off the playing field.
Both Kante and Green took longer paths to stardom than most. Kante, who started his playing career in his home country of France, wasn’t signed by any of the bigger French clubs because of his smaller stature.
Six years ago, Kante was playing at Boulogne, a ninth tier club in France. Kante first played professional football at 22, whereas most stars like Eden Hazard and Lionel Messi were playing first team football as teenagers. After three years, an eight million euro transfer brought him to Leicester City, a struggling Premier League club. Kante’s defense and impeccable ability to cover the field was a key, overlooked part in Leicester’s improbable title run. His presence is certainly missed this year, as Leicester finished in the bottom half of the table.
Green’s story is better known, but provided just as much of a struggle. A tweener coming out of college, some scouts doubted that he could make it in the league as an undersized forward. In addition, Green played all four years at Michigan State in an NBA where freshmen and sophomores are more sought after because of potential upside. Like Kante, Green started his pro career later than most stars.
Green slipped to the 35th pick in the 2012 draft. After primarily coming off the bench behind David Lee in his first two years, Green got his chance to become a starter after Lee’s injuries. Green became a first team All-Defense performer as a starter and one of the main reasons Golden State raised its first championship banner in 50 years.
So what helped Kante and Green overcome the doubt they faced? Intelligence and passion. Kante’s first coach at his boyhood club, Piotr Wojtyna, cited Kante’s intelligence and child-like love for the game in a story done by Bleacher Report on Kante’s rise.
Kante loved to play and compete, and when he finally got his chance, his confidence grew to become a first team player. Green’s intelligence was cited by Warriors assistant coach Pete Myers, who said that Green’s basketball IQ was “far beyond any rookie I have ever seen come into this league.”
Lebron tries to attack a Curry mismatch on defense but Draymond Green is a genius. He anticipates the play and calls for a preemptive switch pic.twitter.com/I8fdNiy1th— justin (@WeNotSocks) June 3, 2017
In addition to his high basketball IQ, Green’s passion for the game has always been on display, for better or worse.
Along with their similar journeys to the top, defensive ability and role playing have made Kante and Green stars. Defense is the reason Kante won the PFA Player of the Year Award, and really the reason Green was named an All-Star.
Kante picked up where he left off from Leicester City. Even though his tackles are down from last year, a product of Chelsea having more possession than Leicester did last year, Kante still finished second in the league in tackles with 127 and sixth in interceptions with 82.
Here’s why N’Golo Kante won the PFA POTY 🏆🏆🏆 pic.twitter.com/qCPJGYrmBp— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) April 25, 2017
Kante may be the hardest working player in the Premier League, and evidence shows in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup quarterfinals, in which Kante faced off against his fellow Frenchmen Paul Pogba.
His defensive ability helped Chelsea record 16 clean sheets and concede only 33 goals, third least in the Premier League.
Green may be the most versatile and best defender in the NBA. However, without the analytics we have today, Green might not be as valued as he is. He leads the league with a defensive box plus/minus of five and is second in defensive win shares, only behind Rudy Gobert.
What’s on display most is his help defense, which gives the Warriors defenders a security blanket averaging 1.4 blocks per game, top 20 in the league, at only 6’7”. But what also is showcased in the video is Green’s on-ball defense in a late game situation on Dennis Schroder, against DeAndre Liggins, and in transition against Blake Griffin in a one-on-one situation. His defense is the reason why Golden State had the second best defensive rating this year at 104.
The two stars have grown into becoming some of the best players in their respective sports by perfecting a craft most don’t want to or bother to. Not everyone’s journey starts out promising, and that certainly was the case for Kante and Green. But it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. Both Kante and Green are certainly headed towards better finishes. The rise of the role player is complete.
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