The NBA’s 38-Year-Old Virgin: A.C. Green, the Iron Man with the Iron Will
Former Lakers star A.C. Green holds the NBA record for consecutive games played—all while abstaining from sex. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay document The Iron Virgin.
If Donald Trump was the biggest douchebag of the 1980s, Earvin “Magic” Johnson was the most lascivious. The Los Angeles Lakers star had an insatiable appetite for sex, often retiring to the team sauna after games to get it on before emerging for post-game interviews. And his mansion, according to Jeff Pearlman’s book Showtime, made the masked orgy in Eyes Wide Shut look positively tame by comparison:
“He would have the finest girls in L.A. there. The absolute finest,” said Frank Brickowski, an ex-Lakers teammate. “And at midnight you had to get busy with somebody or you had to get the fuck out. So if you were a guy, at midnight you’d get as close as you could to the hottest possible woman. Magic went around in this freaky voyeuristic way. He’d check on you. He’d go throughout the house, the pool. He’d order people to start doing things. All you had to be was near a chick. There were guys who would yell, ‘Magic, she’s not getting busy! She’s not!’ He’d run over and she’d get busy. Celebrity is seductive in L.A.”
It was a hedonistic time, and the Lakers were, in the words of guard Byron Scott, “bigger than rock stars.” So in 1985, when team general manager Jerry West used the Lakers’ first-round pick to draft forward A.C. Green, he knew there was going to be a culture clash. Or perhaps West, in his infinite wisdom, felt Green might calm the magic johnson down. You see, Green was a born-again Christian—and a virgin. He was so chaste that, during his sophomore year at Oregon State University, he organized a school-wide protest after spotting a copy of Playboy being sold at the student bookstore despite the fact that, inside its pages, they’d named him one of their “All-Americans.” When news of the protest (and Green’s celibacy) went wide, opposing crowds began taunting him during free throws with cutouts of bikini-clad women.
Isaac Feder’s documentary short A.C. Green: Iron Virgin, premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, provides a fun glimpse at Green’s extraordinary on- and off-court accomplishments. It’s executive-produced by the Anchorman team of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, and narrated by Ferrell, a huge Lakers fan, who also conducted the film’s droll on-camera interviews.
Upon being drafted, the Jheri-curled Green, 21, was thrown to the wolves. And his randy teammates did whatever they could to tempt him. “We’d say, ‘A.C., come on, go out with us,’ and he’d say, ‘No, I won’t go out with you guys but I’ll pray for you guys,’” says a chuckling Michael Cooper, Green’s teammate, in the film. “We joked about how long it would last before he had sex,” adds teammate James Worthy. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar remembers how Green would carry a Bible around with him at all times.
They started a pool during his ’85-’86 rookie season to see if he’d cave and it got as high as $600. “You don’t get laid once in two months, the money’s yours,” said Magic. “But there’s no fucking way...” They even went as far as sending a gorgeous, scantily clad woman to his hotel room during a road trip, but Green remained steadfast.
“So, you get a knock on your hotel room door. You look through the peephole and you see a half-naked woman who wants to come in. What do you do?” asks Ferrell in the film.
“I would just start saying prayers super loud,” Green replies.
Green was also a tenacious rebounder and starter on the team’s ’87 and ’88 championship teams, averaging 11.1 points and 8.2 rebounds those years, with a field goal percentage over .500.
“When he was on that basketball court, A.C. just totally changed into this monster. He was a punisher. He was one of those guys who would just knock you out,” says Scott.
“I’m gonna hit, and I’m gonna hit, and I’m gonna hit,” Green says—of his aggressive style of play. “And I learned that from reading The Old Testament. I think Jesus would have been the kind of basketball player that would have been unstoppable.”
The native of Portland, Oregon, would pure in every respect. He didn’t curse, uttering “gee-whiz” and “doggone it,” and was a teetotaler. In one scene during Iron Virgin, the Lakers enter the locker room, ecstatic after winning the 1987 NBA Championship. An assistant hands Magic a bottle of champagne, and he raises it over his head, screaming. A bottle is then handed to Green, who stealthily places it on the ground, his eyes darting about the room to see if anyone noticed.
Another funny sequence focuses on the safe-sex rap anthem “It Ain’t Worth It,” featuring the vocal stylings of Green, David Robinson, and Barry Sanders.
“Don’t try to stop us, when I drop this little lecture on safe sex / Nothing but a joke by the government’s latex / Cause there’s no safe sex except abstinence / Unless you’re married then you better stay committed,” raps Green.
Green was the most durable player in NBA history—the league’s Iron Man. He didn’t miss a game from Nov. 19, 1986, all the way to his final game on April 18, 2001, for a total of 1,192 consecutive games played. And he accomplished it all as a virgin; his A.C. Green Youth Foundation promoted abstinence until marriage.
“I am curious [about sex],” Green told Sports Illustrated in 1997. “But not curious enough to go to the violation point. I figure God created it, so it must be good. But he has created it to take place at a certain point of time—within the confines of marriage. If I’m going to live according to rules God laid out, then there are rules A through Z. There can’t be situational ethics.”
Green retired in 2001, and married his wife Veronique on April 20, 2002. And yes, they consummated it.
“It is definitely worth waiting,” Green told Good Morning America in 2002, just after celebrating his six-month wedding anniversary. “When you marry the right person at the right time you have no regrets. For me, I have nothing but smiles on my face.”