Blake Griffin has been a busy man the last couple years.
He took the basketball world by storm last season, unanimously winning Rookie of the Year honors and taking home the Slam Dunk Contest trophy by famously jumping over a car. Not to mention 27 straight double-doubles (a rookie record) and a dazzling array of highlights on an almost nightly basis.
Yep, before you could blink, Blake Griffin was an NBA superstar.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, he immediately brought new life to a franchise that has spent most of its existence as a league doormat since moving to Los Angeles in 1984. The Clippers have had 14 different head coaches and just two winning seasons in its 28 years in town. From up in the front office down to the players on the court, the Clippers just have not been able to do anything right.
But with the addition of Chris Paul and several other talented veterans, Blake has been faced with a new challenge in front of him this year, and that’s to help the Clippers turn the corner from a franchise that is always on the butt end of jokes everywhere to a team that will seriously contend for an NBA title.
With the regular season soon coming to a close, it’s safe to say that they have met that challenge head on. With Blake and CP3 leading the charge, the Clippers now find themselves near the top of the standings and will most likely host a first-round playoff series.
Here in Los Angeles, for maybe the first time ever, it’s actually cool to root for LA's other team. Inside of Staples Center, “Lob City” and "Clipper Mania" are in full effect. Fans are walking around town showing off their Clippers gear—with every single one of them swearing that they’ve been a fan since “before they got this good.”
This past weekend, thanks to the people at Subway, I was lucky enough to be able to catch up with Blake on the phone. With his early morning practices and hectic schedule, he called me as he was taking advantage of SUBWAY’s 2-for-1 offer. Below is our entire question and answer session. He talked about how his family has helped him become the person and athlete he is today along with some fun NBA topics such as what players he idolized growing up and who’s been the toughest player for him to defend in the league so far.
He also revealed to me the one person who is “evenly matched” with him in games of 1-on-1 (surprise: he’s not in the NBA!) and how he really feels about those Lakers.
Q: Today is Friday the 13th, so let me start by asking if you have any superstitions on or off the court.
A: No, not really. I have my routine that I kind of do before the game starts, just, you know, try and keep things normal. I don’t really have any superstitions.
Q: That was actually my next question—what’s your pregame ritual like? What do you eat, what kind of music do you listen to?
A: I always eat something different. I kind of always just do everything at the same time. You know, I might take a nap before the game and get up eat on the way to the stadium. And then my pre-game stuff like stretching, lifting and shooting and all of that.
Q: When you have a game in Oklahoma City like you did on Wednesday, do you have time to visit friends and family from back home?
A: Yeah I actually did this past time, we flew in Monday night after we played in Memphis and I had spent the day in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, so yeah I got to speak to family and friends which was cool.
Q: Your parents, Gail and Tommy, how have they helped prepare you for superstardom?
A: You know, they really just taught me at an early age the values of hard work. Both my parents are two of the hardest working people that I know, so that was a big foundation for me and something I really cherish and it really helped me to grow up in that kind of household.
Q: Who used to win when you and your brother played 1-on-1 growing up?
A: Haha...he always beat me when we were younger. You know, he was three years older and always beat me, so that’s kind of what kept the competitive fire alive for me at a young age.
Q: You think you could beat him now Blake?
A: Hah! Yeah I mean we still play, you know in the summers we’re all working out together. It’s evenly matched for the most part.
Q: Where do you keep your Rookie of the Year trophy?
A: I’m not sure. It’s in a box somewhere in my house.
Q: Any good story behind your jersey number, 32?
A: That was my dad’s number in college, and my brother wore 32 in college. And when I got to the Clippers, 23 was already taken by Marcus Camby, so I took 32.
Q: If not for basketball or sports, what do you think you’d be doing in life right now?
A: Hmmm, that’s a good question. If not for sports, I’d probably want to do something in strength training. Something along those lines.
Q: What kind of hobbies do you have, Blake? Play any video games, collect anything?
A: Nah I just watch TV shows, and I just got a dog, so I’ve been pretty busy with him. A Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy.
Q: What basketball players did you idolize growing up?
A: You know, I obviously watched Michael Jordan. Watched, you know growing up, Shaq, Vince Carter, and all those guys. As I got a little older, in high school and stuff, you know guys like LeBron, Melo (Carmelo Anthony) and all those guys. Kobe obviously.
Q: If you could play an NBA game with any other four players in history, current or retired, who would you choose?
A: I’d go with Magic, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Kareem.
Q: That’s not a bad five right there! Who’s your favorite dunker of all time?
A: I’d have to go with Vince Carter. I kind of grew up watching him when he was destroying people. It was a lot of fun to watch the history of the dunk contest. One of the best of all-time in my opinion.
Q: My favorite player of all-time is Charles Barkley and he said that Kevin McHale was the most difficult player he’s ever had to guard in his career. I know you’ve only been playing for a year and a half now but who would you say is the toughest player you’ve had to defend so far?
A: There’s a lot. I’d probably say a guy like Amare, or Carmelo, you know, guys that can score, and score in a variety of different ways. Guys that can put the ball on the floor and shoot the jumper and get to the hole are the toughest.
Q: Let me flip that question around and ask who’s been the toughest player for you to score against?
A: There’s been a lot. My rookie year playing against Chuck Hayes. I thought he did a really good job and I was able to learn from that. And then this year, playing against KG (Kevin Garnett), guys like Serge Ibaka. Playing against the Mavs, you know they put a lot of length out there. They got guys that have a lot of length. So we try and work on different things offensively to counteract that.
Q: Are you comfortable with your new free-throw motion yet?
A: I’m still trying to work on it, still trying to work out some kinks here and there. But you know, just putting in the time, and the more I shoot it the more I’ll get comfortable with it.
Q: I don’t know if you get a chance to follow the other teams or what’s happening around the league, but if you had a vote for MVP this year, who would you pick?
A: I’d probably go with LeBron. He’s having a great year and you know, his team is winning. Him or KD (Kevin Durant), probably.
Q: Let me ask you about Reggie Evans, because he’s my favorite player on the team. I love his personality, he’s always smiling. But he's tough as nails. Tell me about how he helps your team on the court and what he’s like in the locker room.
A: He’s a great teammate, he always has your back. He’s a great guy, easy guy to get along with. On the court he’s extremely tough, you know always going for rebounds, plays great defense. Always seems to come up with a big rebound when needed, so he’s awesome to have on the team.
Q: I have to ask you about the Lakers. Kobe made a couple comments in the beginning of the year, something like “It can’t be a rivalry until the Clippers win a few games,” and then Chris had that incident with Pau earlier in the season. So how do you and the rest of the team feel about the Lakers? I know you’re supposed to answer this question with “It’s just another game” but do you and the team have a little extra juice ready when you play the Lakers?
A: No to be honest with you, we really don’t. I mean it’s just one of those games. You know, in all honesty, we’re not worried about just the Lakers. We’re worried about every other team we have to play against as well. If we beat the Lakers and lost to everybody else, we’d be in a terrible position, so we could care less what they say and what they do. As long as we’re ready to play against them and against everybody else then we’ll be good to go.
Q: What kind of advice do you have for young athletes that look up to you?
A: If you love the game and you love playing, just have fun and enjoy it. Work hard and don’t get bogged down by it.