NBA history is rife with superstar pairings who despised one another: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Smush Parker, Kobe Bryant and Kobe Bryant’s plush Kobe Bryant doll—the list goes on.
Based on these and other templates, people have speculated on the dynamic of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers—two surefire superstars with totally contrasting sizes, styles, demeanors and hair.
Do they like each other? Hate each other? Merely tolerate each other? Do they send each other Christmas cards but not necessarily birthday cards? Do they trade bills whenever they’re out at Golden Corral, or does Blake try and put the chocolate fountain on Chris’ tab every time they go Dutch?
In an excellent piece for USA Today, Sam Amick details how, through a combination of time and travel, Griffin and Paul have forged a genuine friendship—one that has paid devastating dividends on the basketball court.
Every year (the relationship with Paul) has evolved. You can't expect two guys who have never played together before to just come in and just right away be the best of teammates and understand everything that they're doing. It takes time. You figure out ways to make things work every year…I think last summer was big, because we spent a lot of time together — not just (in Los Angeles) but also in China, doing tours (for their shared Jordan brand) over there.
Griffin and Paul’s gun-slinging teammate, Jamal Crawford, was particularly full of praise when asked about Griffin’s growth:
Blake was always like the little brother (to Paul). And when the big brother is down, the little brother has to step up. And me and Blake looked at each other, because he was like, 'Now we've got to be more aggressive. We've got to go.' He led with his voice. He led by example. He led us every single night when Chris went out.
The two’s mutual influence isn’t all sap and sentimentality, of course: While Paul’s assist numbers have gone up in each of his three seasons with the Clippers, Griffin has seen his true-shooting percentage climb every year CP3’s been in L.A.
More importantly, with a supporting cast including DeAndre Jordan (currently enjoying his own next-level leap), J.J. Redick and the aforementioned Crawford, the Clippers have emerged as one of this year’s legitimate postseason contenders.
In a recent roundtable at NBA.com’s Hang Time Blog, Lang Whitaker posited why he believes Paul and Griffin are the best one-two punch in the NBA:
I think I’ll go with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. I don’t think CP3’s leadership or toughness have ever been questioned, and with CP3 missing time this year due to injury, I think we saw exactly how good and complete a player Blake has become. The thing I also like about these two is that they combine to form a terrific inside-out combination, or at least as much of an inside-out combination as exists these days in the NBA.
With both players signed through the 2017-18 season, it’s clear L.A. has every intention on building around Griffin and Paul for the long haul.
And rightly so: Unlike Kobe and Shaq, the Clippers’ dynamic duo—while charismatic and camera-ready—don’t boast the kind of oversized personalities ripe for bad blood.
Now, if we can just get CP3 to usurp that useless wimp Jack McBrayer, Griffin Force could become the first superhero team in history to open a Kia dealership on Mars.