Like a scary metamorphosis of Abdul Jabbar’s vaunted Skyhook, only a small handful of today’s players have the sheer strength, grace and leaping ability to literally throw the ball down at the hoop—and, make it look convincing.
He who sits on the throne currently is Dwight Howard, the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Champ, whose exploits are in full-blown rotation in fan’s minds and this last decade’s collective “dunk-highlight” conscious.
Blake Griffin is now primed to take that seat.
After a 44 and 15 explosion versus the Knicks on Nov. 20th, including two dunk-of-the-year patents that sucked the air out of the arena, and an anomaly-crushing 35, 14 and 7 performance eight days later, Griffin is giving fans, staff and himself a long-awaited and exhilarating take-off.
While his on-court, and above-court, presence is grabbing attention, it’s his championship attitude that’s bringing him respect around the L.
Just check out his gutsy, standout play versus the then 11-1 Hornets on Nov. 23rd. With the losing-est team in professional sports facing a 1-14 start, and more dubious achievements, Griffin played like a veteran, spear-heading a late Clippers run and eventual 99-95 W, while protecting the rock with only two turnovers.
Compared to other rookies, most notably John Wall—who leads the league with over four turnovers a game—the often-with-the-ball-in-his-hands Griffin’s has two-and-a-half turnovers per game are relatively modest yet noteworthy achievement.
Also, considering the loss of top point guard Baron Davis and man-in-the-middle Chris Kaman’s absence, the ball has been seeing Griffin’s hands that much more.
But besides his sure hands, perhaps the stat has more to do with just how imposing he is with the rock in his claws.
I mean just look at Amare Stoudemire’s on-the-line expression and nod of approval toward Griffin during the Knicks’ meeting where the now infamous “Superman-slam” occurred. Here’s Stoudemire, who before his sophomore knee injury was a monster like Griffin, a complete gravity-be-damned dunking behemoth who was more than capable of the same vicious throw-down Griffin planted in 7’1” Timofey Mosgov’s hapless grill—and he’s giving in-game recognition.
Griffin’s dropping close to 21 and 11 per night—close to his senior year college stats —and that puts him in the upper echelons of power forward/center production in the League.
Names like Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Carlos Boozer come to mind, but Mr. Griffin puts it together like Doctor Dunkenstein-meets-the-Mailman.
His back-to-the-basket skills aren’t too shabby either, with spin moves and step-backs that bring to mind why college is a necessary experience to polish a young pro game.
At 6’10", Griffin’s handling skills are considerable. Check out his near coast-to-coast stuffs in the Knicks and Pistons’ games respectively, and then see his patience on the block, not forcing a play, but creating space and making the play.
Also, Griffin’s in-air agility brings to mind a young Mamba’s slam over the Sixers eight years back, where he contorted way back to grab a Brian Shaw ‘oop. Much like Blake the Great’s first game jam versus the Blazers in early November.
Though it’s early, it appears that no player in the last seven-to-eight years, besides Boozer, has brought this type of physical intimidation and ferocity close to the basket. Knowing that a player can get up that high and cram it that strong puts the palpableness of fear in any opponent, just ask Frederic Weiss, a lå Vince Carter’s over-the-head jam, or any of Shaq’s dunk victims.
Anyone who saw Griffin’s Oklahoma career knew what was coming, but just like a cock-backed ’84 Jordan, some players arrive once their proverbial chains are ripped off.
After an entire year waiting and recovering from a scary knee-injury, watching Derrick Rose holding his rookie award, and remembering his coach father’s careful tutelage and heart speaking to him gave all the fuel he needed to step back on the court and dominate.
Now number 32, barring injury or lockouts, will be an all-star, and, if he keeps playing like it, a champion in the years to come.