Draymond Green, Podcast Star, Becomes a Relentless Microphone Against Himself

The Golden State Warriors power forward rocketed to the top of the podcast charts as he competed for an NBA title and won

The morning after the Golden State Warriors lost the opening game of the 2022 NBA Finals, Draymond Green sat in his downtown San Francisco apartment to record an episode of his podcast. Many athletes might have wanted to put such a forgettable night behind them. The Golden State Warriors had blown a home advantage and wasted 34 points from their star player Stephen Curry. But Green, one of the most outspoken players in the league, had hundreds of thousands of fans waiting to hear his thoughts.

For the next 30 minutes, Green praised Curry’s play, criticized his own performance, and questioned how his team had allowed the Boston Celtics to score so many points.

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“I failed him because I didn’t play well,” Green said. “When he comes out with guns blazing, I have to make sure I do my part.”

As the series progressed, Green’s real-time commentary from the locker room made his podcast the biggest media story of the NBA Finals. Along the way, Celtics coaches listened to Green’s podcast to learn the Warriors’ tactics. TV analysts mentioned it during broadcasts. Former players blamed him for Green’s poor play at times, and after the Warriors won the final in six games, Green’s teammates joined the show.

All in all, Green’s quick self-assessment episodes offered basketball fans something new: unprecedented access to the thoughts of a key player as he battled his way through a championship series.

“As I got further into the playoffs, everyone was waiting to hear what Dray had to say on the podcast,” Green said in an interview with Bloomberg last week. “They started looking for my analysis after games.”

Since its debut last November, the show’s viewership has skyrocketed. The morning after the Warriors won the title, the show was ranked the 11th most popular podcast on Apple according to Chartable, its highest ranking to date. For several months this year, it has been one of the 100 most popular podcasts in the world. A video of Green’s episode immediately after Game 6 has amassed over a million views on YouTube.

Green has always loved speaking into a microphone, but in the past he often got frustrated trying to condense his thoughts into short clips for television. A podcast, on the other hand, allows you to talk at length and share your knowledge of the sport.

His first stab at podcasting was not that successful. In 2017, he co-hosted a show called “Dray Day” with Bay Area sportswriter Marcus Thompson II. But Green did not commit to the project. They uploaded an episode and then didn’t shoot it again for a couple of weeks or more. After three months, the feed darkened.

Green told his representatives that he was still interested in doing a show if the right opportunity presented itself. Meanwhile, he was proving to be a particularly adept commentator during his regular appearances on TNT, which airs weekly games, and the award-winning studio show “Inside the NBA.”

“The public craves an immediate reaction.”

Executives from The Volume, a podcast network founded by sports streaming giant Colin Cowherd, approached Green last year and offered to do any show he wanted to do. “A lot of people have an opinion, and the moment it’s wrong they hide. Or they’re terrified of the backlash,” Cowherd said. “He leans into it.”

What Green wanted to do was a seasonal show, accompanied by a co-host. Others, like JJ Redick, a former NBA player turned podcast host, and CJ McCollum, a current NBA player podcast host, were making good use of the co-host format. Initially, Green delayed his podcast debut while he searched for someone to join him on the air. But as the season progressed, Green and his producer, Jackson Safon, decided to start recording on their own. Within a few episodes, they decided that Green was doing well as a solo artist.

Still, it took a few months to find the right rhythm. They began posting once a week, with the first few episodes combining Green’s commentary on recent games and league developments with lengthy interviews. Guests included current and former players such as Gary Payton, Joel Embiid and Bradley Beal.

By February, the episodes were generating about 500,000 downloads a month, Green said. That’s good for a new show, but not in the top echelon of podcasts. The Volume provided Green with data on his performance and advice on when to release new episodes.

“He’s very trainable and wants to be pushed,” Cowherd said. “You don’t get much of that from people with a net worth of over $100 million.”

As the season progressed, Green grew more comfortable. He cursed less and took a more personal and chronological approach. During the opening rounds of the playoffs, he began recording game reflections the morning after playing. During the finals, he would record an episode in his hotel room the night after the game. Episodes became shorter, more focused and more in the moment, redefining what an athlete can do while still playing an integral role on a team.

“Audiences crave an immediate reaction,” said Logan Swaim, head of programming for The Volume. “If you can get it from the athlete himself, that’s lightning in a bottle.”

Now that the season is over, Green will have to adjust the format again. It is likely that he will return to do more interviews. Green sees his podcast as a safe space for his fellow athletes. That does not mean that they will be free from criticism. Green has no filter when it comes to his or his opponents’ game. But he greets them like a companion and usually lends a sympathetic ear. As one of the NBA’s top competitors, and a former Defensive Player of the Year, Green has been able to book guests that most podcasts can’t.

While Green did not ask the Warriors for permission to do the show, he convinced many of his teammates to appear, including Curry and Andre Iguodala.

The podcast is just one part of what Green hopes will be a fledgling media empire. She previously starred in an Amazon documentary called “The Sessions,” in which she talks with self-help guru Deepak Chopra and wellness expert Devi Brown. Earlier this year, he signed on as a regular contributor to “Inside the NBA.” Sports media pundits have speculated that Green could one day replace Charles Barkley in the studio. Though, for his part, Green said he won’t be retiring from basketball any time soon.

Green is one of many professional athletes building media businesses, including Curry, LeBron James and Peyton Manning. His success has raised some concerns among journalists about the future of independent sports media. While the podcast didn’t stop Green from appearing at the postgame news conference or speaking to the media, it did inspire podcast networks to consider whether there are athletes in other sports who could replicate his success. Both Cowherd and Stephen A. Smith, one of ESPN’s biggest stars, have acknowledged that Green brings something to the table that they may not.

“I’ve never been afraid of these athletes replacing me,” Cowherd said. “I want to do business with them.”

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