We all knew this was coming. We could see it when he was at that small, Christian high school in Edmond winning four straight state championships. We witnessed him match up against the best collegiate talent in the country as he left us breathless and led the Sooners to the Elite Eight. Those of us in Oklahoma have known for years what the entire world is beginning to understand…Blake Griffin is pretty good.
Kobe and Lebron are the faces of the NBA, but this season, no player is hogging more highlight time than Griffin. The Clippers power forward is good for at least one jaw-dropping dunk per night and as a rookie, he’s already being mentioned among names like Karl Malone and Tim Duncan. Griffin may not be a superstar yet, but that day is coming soon. To those that say Griffin is overrated (you know who you are Skip Bayless), stop for a second to consider the evidence.
Through 41 games, Griffin is putting up 22.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. Wednesday night against Minnesota, he finally snapped a streak of 27 straight games with a double-double. If you want to put Griffin’s numbers in perspective, he’s the only rookie in 25 years to record a double-double streak of 20 or more games. Shaq never achieved those numbers. Neither did Dwight Howard or Tim Duncan. Only eight players in NBA history have averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds in their rookie seasons. If Griffin keeps up his pace, he’ll be in a select club with household names like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, and David Robinson.
Griffin’s impact goes way beyond numbers. True star power means being known to people who normally don’t pay much attention to the NBA. Griffin is the guy that makes you stop flipping channels when you stumble across a Clippers game at midnight. Who among us ever thought we’d say these words? “Wait, wait, don’t change it. The Clippers are on.”
Star power also means relevance. Why were the Bulls the most popular team in the NBA for a decade? It wasn’t the titles; it was the aura of Michael Jordan. It didn’t matter how much you cared about basketball, you had to see what Jordan would come up with next. Because of the mere anticipation of what Griffin might do, an irrelevant team finds itself leading Sportscenter, grabbing front page headlines, and generating water cooler conversation. The Clippers are renowned for being one of the worst franchises in the history of sports. A team that’s been a laughing stock of epic proportions has now won 11 of its last 15 games. There’s a reason for Clippers fans to be excited. Before Griffin, the most exciting part of a Clippers game was watching the dance team during timeouts. Now, there’s hope and potential and promise. Three words never before uttered by a Clippers fan.
Greatness is never attributed to one-dimensional players. Griffin still has work to do on his defense and his outside shooting. Even though he’s a dunking machine (check out his top ten throw downs here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gG4W0L41FI), Griffin knows he must bring something more to the table. He hears the criticism and uses it to make his game better. The other night against Indiana, Griffin dropped a career high 47 points and showed off his versatility by knocking down mid-range jump shots in a 19 for 24 shooting performance.
“It’s cool because all I hear is ‘he can dunk, he can dunk, he can jump high’ but people question your other skills,” Griffin said in his postgame press conference. “As a basketball player you take that personally.”
The comments from Pacers’ coach Jim O’Brien are further proof that Griffin is becoming a defensive nightmare. “We couldn’t guard him,” O’Brien said. “He was just too much for us to handle. I could say it 100 different ways, but that’s the bottom line.”
Getting under Griffin’s skin may be even tougher than trying to guard him. When Laker forward Lamar Odom tried to initiate a brawl with Griffin, the cool-headed rookie backed away. The technical foul Griffin received was later rescinded by the league. Odom’s technical was not. Even during his days in Norman, Griffin let his play do the talking while opponents fumed. He got thrown down in the NCAA tournament (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLL6OO-zPwI), and punched in the you-know-whats during a game against Southern Cal (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxTsDzD_nvs). Neither incident elicited any kind of response or retaliation from Griffin.
What we have here is a guy who plays hard every game, keeps his composure, deflects attention away from himself and gives it up to his teammates, while shouldering the immense weight of everyone’s expectations. Griffin does all that and just happens to be blessed with an immeasurable amount of talent. Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for a superstar?
In Oklahoma, we already know the answer to that question. We’re just waiting on the rest of the world to catch up.