Jeff Green dedicates game-winner to heart surgeon who saved his career

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Jeff Green has played in all 71 games for the Celtics this season. (Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jeff Green dribbles down the floor

By Rob Mahoney

As much as we lament over the physical tolls of torn ligaments and arthroscopic procedures, most of the physical risks of playing basketball pale in comparison to the terrifying ailment that doctor's detected in Boston's Jeff Green. Just months after being traded from Oklahoma City to Boston, a physical exam conducted by the Celtics' team doctors revealed an aortic aneurysm -- a high-risk condition with fatal potential if it goes untreated. Green was incredibly fortunate that his heart's swelling was found when it was, but unfortunate in that he would need to undergo open-heart surgery in order to remedy the problem. Green's surgery would cost him the 2011-12 NBA season.

But as can well be assumed by the fact that Green has played in all 71 games for the Celtics this season, the surgery was a resounding success. Not only did he miss but a single NBA season, he's playing the best basketball of his career with no reported heart-related problems. For that, Green is indebted to one Dr. Lars Svensson, a cardiovascular surgeon at the renowned Cleveland Clinic who performed his operation, saved Green from catastrophic symptoms and allowed him to resume his basketball career. That Green could come back so soon to play as well as he has is miraculous in itself, but how's this for serendipity: Svensson was in attendance for Boston's game in Cleveland on Wednesday night, a game in which his patient drove through a glut of Cavs defenders to convert a game-winning, buzzer-beating layup. Green sought out his doctor after the game and ruminated on a long road back from a heavy diagnosis. From Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe:

Svensson had seen Green play [in Cleveland] before, but this was different. It was special, because Svensson witnessed the man whose life and career he helped resurrect win a game on its very last play. They shared a warm embrace. Svensson told him he was proud. A happy Green reflected.

“Just a year ago and a couple months, I was under that bright light with him working on me,” said the forward, who scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

“It’s a blessing to be here.”

Then, a moment later, Green smiled and said, “That was for him.”

It was a fantastic moment, and a welcome reminder of all that Green has endured just to get back to this point. We speak and write often about Green's contract, production and potential, but perhaps not often enough about the fact that he rebounded so quickly and fully from an ailment that threatened to keep him out of the league altogether.

James Herbert