Jonathan Abrams on Gerald Green

Green did not have a job in the fall of 2009. He contemplated going to college and starting a career outside of basketball. He instead signed with Russia’s PBC Lokomotiv-Kuban.

The team played in small, cold gyms. They practiced twice a day. Green underwent a severe culture shock. “I’ve never been to a whole country and not seen one black person,” Green said. “Just never seen it. And then when you’re black, they look at you crazy because they’ve never seen it either. You’re just as shocked as they are. A lot of times, people come touch you like, ‘What is this?’ They’ll touch you and look at your skin to see if it’s paint. I’m not playing. All Russia is not like that. You’ve got your big cities like Moscow, St. Petersburg. Some cities understand that there are black people. They do exist. But the smaller cities, the little villages, they’ve never seen it.”

That is the setting where Green started learning the game instead of just playing it.

More: Jonathan Abrams, Refound Youth — Gerald Green’s improbable return to the NBA

Do yourself a favor and read all of this. Especially the part where Billy King mixes up agent phone numbers. But the rest of it, too.