From Division I Basketball Player to Disabled Army Vet

“Coach, you know how you were always on me about working on my right hand dribble. Well, I’m going to start.”

With this line delivered amid laughter and tears, former Notre Dame southpaw basketball standout Danielle “D-Smooth” Green told her ex-Fighting Irish Coach Muffet McGraw, the horrifying news. A grenade blew off army MP Green’s left hand while she patrolled a Baghdad police station.

Like the late NFL safety turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman, Green could easily be used as a symbol of patriotic resolve. She would far neatly into potent place where athletics meets war. Yet unlike Tillman, who cannot speak for himself, D-Smooth has chosen not be treated like an icon but to speak out against what she sees from first hand experience, as an unjust war.

From her hospital bed, Green told the New York Times, “They just don’t want us there. I personally don’t think we should have gone into Iraq. Not the way things have turned out. A lot more people are going to get hurt, and for what?”

Secretary of State Colin Powell confronted with her words on Meet the Press could only mutter, “I hope she will see in time that her sacrifice was worth it.” Green respectfully disagrees. “I’m not going to lie, I didn’t understand the mission, the purpose. If you understand what you’re fighting for, then you’ve got something to hang on to. But we didn’t even have that. I think if I hadn’t lost my arm, I would have lost my mind. It was enough to drive you insane, and I think that’s where I might have been headed.”

If D-Smooth weren’t so quick to speak her mind, she would be perfect fodder for a pro-war press desperately searching the rubble of Iraq for positive news about the US occupation.

Green was a decorated athlete at Chicago’s Roosevelt High School, winning 11 letters in four sports. She was also sports editor of the school newspaper, a lieutenant colonel in Junior ROTC, treasurer of the student council and a member of the National Honor Society.

She also was able to emerge from a childhood where a mother addicted to drugs raised her. “I was 6 or 7 years old the first time I saw my mom smoke reefer,” Green said. “Then it got to be an everyday thing. And then I saw her smoke out of a crack pipe. I went to my room and cried. But I also made up my mind that day what I was going to do with my life. I wrote down some goals. I wanted to go to Notre Dame someday, and I wanted to be GI Joe in the military.”

Those dreams have been shredded along with her illusions about why she enlisted. “The most disappointing thing about Iraq is that I thought I was going to change those peoples’ lives,” she said. “But in the four months I was there, I don’t think I touched one life.”

But by not being silent, Green will touch more lives than she can imagine. “D” has never been so “Smooth.”

DAVE ZIRIN can be reached at Read his sports writing at

DAVE ZIRIN is the author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press) Contact him at