Few things in life are as certain as death, taxes and the L.A. Clippers’ misfortunes. So excuse me when I say with the most sincerity that a kid from Edmond, Oklahoma, has effectively taken that last tidbit of certainty, cupped its face to his nether regions and slam dunked all over it. I know this, because Blake Griffin showed me so.
From Dime #62:
Time heals all wounds. It must, because in only one half of an NBA season, Griffin has proven any lingering doubters – those that believed he wouldn’t be the same explosive player after last year’s freak, season-ending knee injury – to be certifiably insane. He’s made the second-best team in his new city one of the hottest attractions in the League. He’s must-watch programming, a cultural phenomenon to a nation that has largely seen him only through a SportsCenter/YouTube highlight filter. The Clippers rarely play on national television and anyone outside of Southern California without a League Pass subscription has had to mostly scrape by on TV recaps alone.
Blake is also one of the first NBA megastars born into the Twitter era of instant highlight gratification. In a social media sphere that wants everything as fast as it happens, Griffin is delivering the goods in real time. And in doing so, he has been donned the rookie savior to the basketball badlands that is the Staples Center’s “other” locker room. There was the 31-point, 13-rebound performance in a win against San Antonio, 24 and 18 against Houston in late-December, and the now infamous dunk-a-thon against New York in November where Blake finished with 44 and 15. As our issue went to press, the young fella was putting up 22 points, 12.7 boards and three dimes a game for the Clip Show. The Clippers are set to emerge from the wilderness of futility, and Blake Griffin is the one to lead them.
But maybe we’re asking too much of the kid. The Clippers are cursed after all, right? In 1988 they drafted Danny Manning No. 1 overall, who tore his ACL his rookie season and was never quite the same. Ten years later the Clips took Michael Olowokandi No. 1 in ‘98 over the likes of Vince Carter and Paul Pierce. Then the Clippers next franchise No. 1 pick, Mr. Griffin, missed his entire first season to a broken left kneecap. And it’s not unfathomable to think that Blake might be one dunk attempt over the wrong defender away from adding further to the team’s cursed injured list. Yet, none of that potential doom and gloom seems to matter right now. Because in just over three months time, Blake has made one of the unluckiest franchises in all of sports relevant again on a national stage. The guy has one speed when he plays – all out – and he goes at it from the opening tip to the final buzzer. And he’s gotten so good, so quickly, and has been so exciting, that by January he’d moved past Rookie of the Year talk and into the All-Star discussion. He’s on a mission to make people watch, to make them care about Clippers basketball again.
*** *** ***
“Turn towards the camera like, ‘I gotcha bitch!’” says photographer Rob Hammer, who’s running point on our cover shoot with BG in mid-December. Rob’s direction makes everyone in the room laugh, including Blake. Hammer then flips on an old Jay-Z cut in the background – Blake’s feeling the track. Okay, we’re in.
“Oh, you get music for your photo shoot?” says Griffin’s teammate and one of his closest buddies, DeAndre Jordan, adding another layer of sarcastic humor and friendly comfort to the situation.
“Yeah, it’s Jay-Z; no big deal or anything,” quips back Griffin without missing a beat.
The more time you spend with him, the more you see the same 21-year-old hilarious wise ass that his friends and L.A. family are graced with every day. His soft-spoken demeanor is innocent at first, but as Griffin’s dry sense of humor begins to flow, you catch a glimpse of his relaxed self coming through – at least one that’s not hell bent on cramming a basketball down your throat. For one, Blake gave the whole Dime crew a very informative lesson in how to practice raising one eyebrow at a time.
“Blake’s a funny guy,” says Jordan. “He’s a great friend, a great teammate and he’s a hard worker on and off the court. He’s really always there for you. He’s a big kid; he’s definitely a big goofball.
“Blake Griffin’s one of a kind, man.”