After more than 25 years working in sports, the former Brooklyn Nets scout is chronicling everything he’s learned in a new book.
For Khalid Green, sports has always been an important part of his life. A stalwart in the New York City basketball community since 1996, his current role is the Community Basketball Director for New Heights Inc., a youth development and sports-based organization in Brooklyn, New York. Prior to that, Green was a scout with the Brooklyn Nets for nine years, traveling the country evaluating, interviewing, and analyzing both NCAA and professional talent. Other role responsibilities included performing background checks and preparing scouting reports for prospective players, including college hopefuls, free agents, NBA draft picks and trade candidates.
Capitalizing on his vast knowledge on the ins and outs of athletics, Green decided to write a book geared toward helping Black and brown children navigate the often complicated, political, and intimidating territory of sports. Titled Free Game, Green’s book is a transparent assessment of real-life situations which he has faced in his over 25-year spanning career in youth and professional sports.
Boardroom spoke to the Morehouse College and Columbia University alum about his decision to write the book, thoughts on the Nets’ season so far, and his picks for who the Nets will face in the NBA Finals.
VINCIANE NGOMSI: Why do you feel this was the right time to come out with a book like Free Game?
KHALID GREEN: I was inspired to write the book in, I would say, 2014. That’s when I was sitting at home just relaxing, and I saw a video come across the screen of a 12-year-old kid named Tamir Rice who was shot in a park in Cleveland, Ohio. That really disrupted my psyche at the time. I had all types of emotions going through my body. I was depressed, frustrated, angry. I felt like I had to get off the sidelines and do something. I was a scout with the Brooklyn Nets at the time, having a very good career with that, but there was a detachment I had from my community because in previous years, I was a high school coach and I had really been intertwined in the community with these young Black boys.
But when I saw Tamir’s Rice’s face, it reminded me of some of those young brothers. At that point, I wanted to get into action. I started a program called Brooklyn Bridge. We used basketball to teach kids life skills and give them some love from a Black male perspective, so that’s why I was inspired to write the book.
VN: You mentioned your time with the Nets. Could professional athletes also use the book as a resource in their continued growth, how they communicate, etc.?
KG: Absolutely. I do believe they can. A lot of our athletes are pushed through a system where they never really get to embrace who they are from a holistic standpoint. They’re pushed soon as they’re recruited to be elite athletes. That’s pretty much the tunnel vision they have for themselves as well. My book gives parents, youth, and professionals a deeper perspective on what it means to be a Black person in sports – not just an athlete – and what responsibilities come with that.
VN: But I do want to take it back to just your past. Was there a particular moment in your upbringing you were able to use some of those experiences to bring the book together?
KG: I don’t know if it’s a moment, but I think there’s a movement where I I feel like I’m fulfilling an assignment that was brought on me by my ancestors. I started coaching when I was in my twenties and a lot of the young brothers I coached did not have fathers around, so I represented some type of leadership they didn’t have at home. This book is a culmination of a lot of my experiences in life, and hopefully it will motivate and inspire a lot of youth, parents and, like you said, professional athletes.
VN: There’s a stat that says by age 13, 70% of kids opt to leave sports for multiple reasons. How can we give youths the message that it’s not over at 13? You can pursue a career in sports and don’t have to be limited to being an athlete.
KG: I became a scout when I was in my early thirties. It just blew me away when I saw all the faces behind the scenes that did not look like me, yet I saw all the players on the basketball court that did look like me and the same things pertained when I went to universities. One thing that I touch on in the book is alerting parents to the different avenues in sports. There’s a brother I mention named Fred Galloway. He’s [the] Head of Team Security [and] former NYPD detective. He’s now traveling with the team all over the country and making good living for himself. There’s so many ways we can seek careers in the sport, and I think we have to do a better job of allowing our kids to explore and not demean when they decide not to play anymore.
VN: What do look for in an athlete as a scout? I understand thry are trusted with bringing and identifying talent, but I’d love for you to elaborate more.
KG: The obvious things that we look for is athleticism; we look for strength; we look for height. Of course, we want to know if the jump shot and rebounding will translate, but one thing that really awakened me to the profession of scouting and evaluating talent is the intel process. We spent a lot of time researching these potential athletes and we’re investing millions into their success. We want to find out as much information as we can about that particular person.
VN: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask – what do you think of the Nets’ season so far?
KG: You know what, I’m pleasantly surprised and happy, because it was rocky at first. Let me be candid. I’m a Brooklyn guy, and I had a very good
relationship with Jacque Vaughn, so I really got on board rooting for the Nets a little harder when he became the head coach. I like the transition that he’s made from assistant coach to head coach. I like how they’re starting to play a lot better. I will be candid in saying I like the fact that Kyrie Irving is back on the court with KD. I’m optimistic and I think that they’ll make a good run this year.
VN: Outside of the Nets, what is another team you’d say is a threat?
KG: Maybe I’m being biased because I just love how he plays and I believe he is like an Allen Iverson 2.0, but Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies.
VN: What’s the best piece of advice you received?
KG: Accept my own and be myself. Simple as that.
VN: Who are the Nets facing in the NBA Finals?
KG: I put my money on Golden State or the Memphis Grizzlies.