When Blake Griffin explodes off the floor to dunk, it often looks like the laws of the universe have been temporarily suspended. Gravity, for one, tends to go out the window.
But does that mean that the laws governing offensive fouls should also cease to apply?
Before answering the question of whether Griffin's slams should make us rethink how referees officiate NBA games, it's worth discussing why they certainly could.
Griffin's got a habit of extending his off arm when he's in the air, using his hand to ward off defenders or his elbow to make them think twice about contesting his imminent slam. He's been doing it since his rookie year, and it's hard to understand how the practice has gone largely unpunished throughout his career.
Maybe the officials are as awestruck as the viewing public when Griffin takes flight. Or perhaps, the sheer violence of the entire episode—Griffin's dunks have always been notoriously ferocious—somehow masks the violation.
Whatever the case, his forays into the stratosphere are officiated differently than anyone else's are.
The evidence of Griffin's uncalled offensive fouls is extensive, and the body count is high.
Note in the following well-known episode how Griffin forcibly corrals Pau Gasol's arm with his own, shoving it aside before delivering an elbow to the Spaniard's cranium.
There's a foul assessed on the play, but it's on Gasol. Apparently, his head made illegal contact with Griffin's left elbow.
Some, like ESPN's Arash Markazi defend Griffin's tactics.
Arash Markazi @ArashMarkazi
Every hater's takeaway after a Blake Griffin highlight. RT @stevemadrid @ArashMarkazi as he uses his left hand to push the defender off.2/24/2013, 5:20:35 AM
First, an aside: Pointing out the fact that Griffin often commits offensive fouls when he dunks does not make someone a "hater." It makes them objectively observant.
Anyway, there's no logical way to claim that plays like this are within the rules. Here's a little more notable evidence of his disdain for the league's offensive foul guidelines.
With the premise that Griffin could easily be whistled for violations far more often firmly established, we're back to the original question: Should refs start enforcing the rules?
Well, for starters, there's Griffin's own safety to consider. It sounds strange, but maybe it's best for everyone (and especially the Clippers forward, himself) if the refs continue to let him fight off his defenders in midair.
Think about it. The only thing Griffin does as often as he dunks is absorb hard contact. Nobody wants to be posterized, so defenders often make it a point to hammer him when he's vulnerable. Not to mention the fact that opponents can't stand the way he flops. As much as anything, frustration with his repeated dives and exaggerations leads to some ugly fouls.
He's taken plenty of nasty falls over the years as a result, so perhaps, officials should continue allowing Griffin to fend for himself up there.
Not only that, but there's a good chance the refs don't want to suffer through a prolonged delay when Griffin goes into a conniption after an offensive foul call.
Overall though, vigilante justice and a fear of Griffin's tantrums aren't sufficient excuses to continue an unfair practice of officiating.
And let's not even broach the discussion of whether the NBA is somehow influencing the officials to foster an environment that encourages Griffin's offensive fouls. The league wants to see exciting plays, but it's beyond far-fetched to think that it's actively influencing officials to facilitate them with non-calls.
The refs need to look past the high-velocity collisions and take an objective approach. If Griffin flings out his arm in a way that violates the rules, call him on it.
It's that simple.
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