In basketball, every possession matters. Turnovers are a momentum killer, and the better a team moves the ball, the more success they have. No team embodies this facet of the game quite like the Golden State Warriors. Being selfish or playing “hero ball” is simply not in their playbook.
This belief extends beyond the court as well, as exemplified in the stories of two moms whose sons now rank among the NBA’s best.
When Charles Barkley said he wanted to “punch Draymond Green in the face” on national TV last month, he wasn’t only insulting the Warriors star power forward and reigning Defensive Player of the Year. He was also inviting the wrath of Draymond’s mom: Mary Babers-Green.
Shortly after Barkley shared his baffling remarks, Babers-Green took to her favorite platform, Twitter, to offer the TNT analyst her two cents and remind him that in the past, his fighting chops left much to be desired.
“Charles Barkley, I wish you would,” she wrote. “You think Shaq had you RUNNING!”
Babers-Green may not have a place on the Golden State roster, but since her son was drafted by the team with the 35th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, she’s been an honorary — and vocal — member of the squad. Before her son signed an $82 million extension with Golden State in 2015, she was working as a security guard for Thompson Middle School in her hometown of Saginaw, Mich., but Babers-Green still found time to take the mantle as the internet’s best NBA trash-talker.
Now, she spends her time helping Saginaw’s underserved and at-risk youth populations. Luckily, her schedule still allows for the relentless onslaught of scalpel-sharp barbs she rains down on Twitter every time the Warriors tip off.
While her digital dissections once infamously led Draymond to “take away her Twitter” — she thankfully ignored his efforts — the team and the NBA as a whole are far more fun when Babers-Green is in the mix.
During a 2015 playoff series against the New Orleans Pelicans, she voiced her displeasure with fans who left early when the Warriors were down big. “It’s a 7 game SERIES LAST I CHECKED!” she tweeted. “Fair weather FANS make me SICK!”
Babers-Green has also been known to let the NBA know when she feels the referees are not doing their job. During Game 4 of the 2017 NBA Finals, she earned a few headlines after posting “These OFFICIALS HAVE BEEN OFFICIALLY PAID!” followed by a number of money bag and poop emojis. She’s even called out her son’s team when she thinks they’re not giving it their all. Following an early season loss to the Detroit Pistons last October, she posted, “The Warriors have to play for the members that don’t have a RING! That should be [their] MOTIVATION! PUT ON FOR YOUR TEAM! #boring.”
It stands to reason, then, that Draymond inherited his mother’s knack for getting in people’s heads.
As a player, he’s emotional. Some, like Cleveland Cavaliers forward J.R. Smith, have even called him dirty, but the truth is he knows what to say to get his opponents off their game. It’s a skill that requires an underappreciated level of precision — knowing just how to get under a player or the internet’s skin without going too far — and one that both Babers-Green and her son have refined with cunning accuracy.
The Warriors are an NBA powerhouse, and in their quest to break just about every sacred record in the league with ease, they added not only an enviable surplus of on-court talent, but also invited another beloved basketball matriarch to sit beside Babers-Green. When Golden State set the league aflame by nabbing free agent superstar Kevin Durant in 2016, they also got one of the sport’s best moms in Wanda Durant.
Known both as “Mama Durant” and “the Real MVP,” Wanda Durant first gained the nation’s attention when her son gave an emotional acceptance speech while receiving the award for NBA 2014 MVP.
“We weren’t supposed to be here,” he said through tears. “You made us believe. You kept us off the street.”
Wanda Durant’s efforts didn’t stop there. When ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith called out Kevin for his free-agency departure from the Oklahoma City Thunder two years later, his mother appeared on the channel’s First Take program to defend his decision. Her inspirational story of raising two sons by herself in the often-rough confines of Prince George’s County, Md., actually became the basis for a 2016 Lifetime movie. Fittingly, it was titled The Real MVP.
As the Warriors continue their historic run as one of the sport’s most accomplished teams, they’ve learned you can never rely on one formula. Rather sometimes they must be the unapologetic aggressor, as reflected by Babers-Green and her tiger-mom tenacity. Other times, it’s best to focus on the positive, as Wanda Durant has done for years as her son’s biggest defender. Together, they represent everything that fans have come to love about the NBA and the upstart team that has taken the league by storm.
For one, both are funny and sincere voices of reason in a sport that sometimes loses track of what matters (like the time people started analyzing the flight plans of private planes in Cleveland to get a lead on where Lebron James might sign). Both have also worked tirelessly to provide for their families — both the ones they are connected to by blood and the larger communities around them.
Babers-Green and Wanda Durant have each made it clear that they are not only the moms of men who play basketball. With the financial security that comes with an NBA career, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant have assuredly made it possible for their moms to take it easy if they so desired — but neither seem content with the prospect of putting their feet up just yet.
They may never be as tall as their slam-dunking sons, but they’ve made their message clear: Nobody stands above them.