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Celebrating Gerald Green, the nine-fingered NBA player

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We don't appreciate often enough the fact that Gerald Green has carved out an NBA career despite an awkward deformity on his shooting hand.

The Suns made these foam hands for Gerald Green, presumably to give to fans at an upcoming game:

If you're not familiar with Green's story, your first thought was probably: Ewwwww, did they make a foam hand in the shape of The Shocker? Why would an NBA team make a giveaway celebrating a sex act?

But that's not what happened here. You see, Green is missing part of his ring finger on his right hand:

Photo credit: Mark J. Reblas, USA Today Sports

Photo credit: Christian Petersen, Getty Images

The missing digit stems from a childhood accident, when he tried dunking on a makeshift hoop attached to a doorway. A ring on his finger got caught on a nail, and much of the finger had to be amputated. The gruesome details of the incident are in this New York Daily News story from 2012.

As Green told the Daily News, the finger became a source of shame:

"I used to always hide my hand, I still do. I don't really like talking about it...

"Sometimes I still hide it and not even realize that I'm doing it. Just out of habit. You've been doing something for so long, you're constantly hiding it. And then you're in the room by yourself, and you're realizing what you're doing."

Green can't palm a ball with his right hand, and although the ring finger isn't majorly important in basketball, one can imagine how losing a finger on a shooting hand could derail somebody's hoops career.

For a while, it looked like Green's career would be an NBA footnote. The explosive leaper won the 2007 Slam Dunk contest and famously blew out a candle on a cupcake on the rim during the 2008 contest, but he didn't seem capable of contributing positively in non-dunk contest settings. A first round pick in the 2005 draft, he played for four teams in his first four years and then dropped out of the league. He played for a few teams in Russia and in China, and spent some time in the D-League.

In Phoenix, it looks like Green has found a way to harness his freakish athletic ability in a way that helps a good team win basketball games. He averaged a career-high 15.8 points last year, with breakout 41- and 36-point games, and is putting in 14.0 per game this year for a Suns team that looks like it should make the playoffs in the packed Western Conference. The kid who once hid his hand now holds it up after hitting threes:

Photo credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

And now a stadium full of fans can hoist their missing ring fingers right back at him.

Oh, and he's still dunking, too: