An NBA champion and likely a first-time All-Star starter, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green is now considered to be one of the top players in the NBA. Few could have predicted such a rise to stardom for Green, who was a second-round pick by Golden State in the 2012 NBA draft. But Green put in the work and is now a key player on the best team in the league.

Green's strong work ethic can actually be linked to former Detroit Pistons star Ben Wallace. Growing up in Saginaw, Michigan, Green watched the heydays of the early 2000 era Pistons and was transfixed by the sight of Wallace, an undersized big man, dominating opponents. Green got the chance to meet Wallace and developed a better understanding of the big man's work ethic. This was something he was inspired by and helped Green become the player that he is today.

Wanting to thank Wallace, who is having his jersey retired by the Pistons on Saturday when Detriot plays Golden State, Green wrote a letter and expressed his admiration for the four-time Defensive Player of the Year winner.

From the Detroit Free Press:

My basketball career then took me to an AAU team in Detroit -- called The Family -- where I met someone that I still consider my brother, Jordan Dumars. When I met Jordan, he took me to my second-ever Pistons game and the first since I was 8 years old. That is when I had the opportunity to meet Ben and I quickly figured out how and why he was one of the most feared players to grace the court at that time in the NBA.

Ben had an incredible work ethic. Not only did he work out extremely hard every day, but more importantly, he had the heart of a lion. It was amazing because he didn't say much, but everyone knew that he meant business.

The day came where I was able to build a relationship with Ben and, to this day, he continues to be a big brother to me. Here we are about 10 years later and a common story line has surfaced --- how am I able to do what I do while undersized, just like Ben. I refuse to be outworked and I consider myself to have the heart of a lion. As I sit now, I begin to ponder, "Why was Ben's path directed to Detroit, where I could watch every game he played?"

The only answer I can come up with is that God placed him there because a kid from Saginaw was watching with a dream of playing in the NBA. This kid would also be considered undersized, but had that similar drive and a heart that never stops pumping with determination to never be denied. It is only fitting that with my return to Michigan only a day away to play in my home state against the Detroit Pistons, Big Ben's jersey is being retired. I feel it is only right to say THANK YOU.

Thank you, Mr. Wallace, for showing me that it is possible to make it to the NBA and wreak havoc while being undersized! Hopefully, there is a kid watching me and wondering the same things I did about you, realizing that man does not have the ability to judge what's in another man's heart! 
Congrats, Big Ben.

Just watching Green play you can see the effect Wallace had on his game. While Green is a far superior offensive player to Wallace, the two play defense the same way. Both have excellent footwork and are experts at using their bodies to throw an opponent off their game.

And as Green's letter says, Wallace's influence on him goes beyond the court as well. Green would not have become so goal oriented and hard working if not for Wallace. Which is why it is only fitting that Green will be at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday when the Pistons retire Wallace's jersey. 

Draymond Green is a big fan of Ben Wallace.
Draymond Green is a big fan of Ben Wallace. (USATSI)