I was headed to New Jersey. I’m never happy when headed to New Jersey. But this was different.
This wasn’t because I had squeezed my way into a job interview with a small telecommunications company, or because I had got caught doing 90 on the New Jersey Turnpike. Too cheap to buy tickets to see his appearance at the Garden, I was making a mission trip to Jersey (The Promised Land, in this case) to find Blake Griffin salvation. It would be the first and only time I’d get to catch his live show this year. Nets-Clippers in Newark: quite possibly the least sought-after NBA ticket at the beginning of the season, by game time, had completely sold out. It was going to be a spiritual experience.
I put on my Sunday’s best and prepared. A buddy of mine mentioned that we should take the train to the Prudential Center – suggesting the quick trip from Penn Station to Newark on the NJ Transit. I froze. I wasn’t aware that New Jersey had yet developed infrastructure. Halfway through the trip, we felt our ears popped. We had crossed state lines.
When we got there, I was surprised to see The Pru is such a nice building, especially considering the craphole the Nets played in last year. It’s like one of those southern mega-churches – the perfect backdrop for tonight’s service. Walking to my seat before tip-off, the buzz was already palpable, with Clips No. 32 jerseys littered throughout the stands – like wearing robes and sandals to mass. And it didn’t take long to start the sermon – just 2:20 into the first quarter, Blake Griffin gave us our first miracle.
Mo Williams poked the ball free from Anthony Morrow and I could feel myself smile. I mouthed that magic word…transition. The sound in the building was hitting a crescendo and people started to stand – Blake had just lifted his left arm, pointing to the heavens. And then he was there, his body soaring, our jaws dropping, the ball being caught and thrown through the bucket. The thunder clap sound his dunks make (right before the chorus of “OHHHHH”s) is sick with an awesome chase. It sounds like a car accident, if accidents were good and fun and pure. We all looked around at strangers, exchanging the “is that guy serious?” face. He was serious.
His second big one in the first was almost better. A nice pick and roll with Mo Gotti left Blake with an open lane and a late-rotating help defender. Slashing to the rim, he showed the ball, pulled it away from a swooping Brook Lopez (looking bigger and dumber than usual) and did the damn thing. Thunder-clap, big “OHHH,” walk away. Miracle #2.
At the half, the scene was frenetic. People were smiling and giving high fives. Babies were laughing. Rainbows formed and all was right in the world. I didn’t know the score, nor did I care. We all thanked Prokhorov for being kind enough to host this Blake Griffin home game. When Griffin sliced through two matador defenders on the break in the third, we almost couldn’t take it. I took in my communion of warm pretzel and light beer and looked for someone to chest bump.
And yes, I know he missed a game-winning free throw attempt, and I know the Clips lost in overtime, but nonetheless, the only show in town Friday night was his. The Nets 20-point comeback, an afterthought. Kris Humphries‘ 19 points and 20 rebounds, forgotten. The Blake Show was on every channel in Newark, and would you want to be the one watching Dr. Phil when the Buddha was on TV?
I came into that night thinking that this would be a religious event – the Church of Griffin, if you will. It had all the bravado of a big-church experience – it had the miracles, it had the flash. But I was wrong. At this point, Blake isn’t a god – not yet, at least. Jordan was a god and gods win games. But Blake Griffin, right now, is a rock star. And he’s coming to a city near you.
If you’ve had the chance to watch The Blake Show live this year, what was your experience like?
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