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LA Hoop Battle: Kobe "The Black Mamba" Bryant Vs Blake "The Dominator" Griffin

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LA Hoop Battle: Kobe
David Livingston/Getty Images
Kobe "The Black Mamba" Bryant

THE VECCHIO FACTOR SAYS...

Kobe vs Blake?  You're kidding, right?  On face value, as players, there is no contest!  Or is there?

For the past 15 years Kobe "The Black Mamba" Bryant has ruled the LA pro hoop scene, either solely or as a co-host with Shaquille O'Neal, winning 5 NBA championships, one league MVP, and four All-Star MVP's in 13 All-Star appearances.

Contrast this to Blake "The Dominator" Griffin, who won the 2011 All-Star Slam Dunk contest, is a first time NBA All-Star, and will win the NBA Rookie Of The Year award, but is a long, long way from winning an NBA title.

Having burst onto the scene.this season with an exciting, thunderous, "above the rim" game, Griffin has the tools, "hops, silent swagger, understated style, and confident 'tude" to compete with the NBA's elite, superstar players, on and off the court.

The pure fact is, Blake Griffin is an ever-evolving "video game!"

Bryant, on the other hand, had the "hops, arguably an arrogant swagger, and a cocky ''tude," all similar characteristics of Michael Jordan. 

Most folks actually believed, in many ways, that Kobe was the next coming of MJ.  And in fact, he hasn't disappointed them, with his intent on breaking most of MJ's records before he's through.

Noel Vasquez/Getty Images
Blake "The Dominator" Griffin Dunks During The 2011 All-Star Dunk Contest

But what Michael had and KB lacked, at least for many years prior, was the coolness, the "style" to win people over, the ability to endear himself to the public.

At this point, the main connective tissue to both Bryant and Griffin, the same as Jordan,,is their fierce competitive desire, coupled with how they prepare and how hard they constantly work to improve their game.

During the All-Star weekend dunk contest Saturday night, which Griffin won by receiving a pass from Baron Davis while jumping over a car and dunking, Charles Barkley said, "right now he's playing on raw talent, but when Blake Griffin learns how to play basketball, he's gonna' be scary!"

Not since LeBron James, in 2003, has the NBA seen a rookie enter the league in such an exciting fashion.  LeBron's rookie stats that year were 20.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, and 5.9 apg, 

In 56 games this year, Griffin is averaging 37.9 minutes per game (mpg), 22.8 points per game (ppg), and12.6 rebounds per game (rpg), while shooting 51 percent.

Currently, his rookie points and rebound stats are the best in league history for a power forward, besting Larry Bird's (21.3 ppg-10.4 rpg) and Tim Duncan's (21.1 ppg-11.7 rpg) rookie averages for points and rebounds. 

Only seven foot centers, Wilt Chamberlain, Walt Bellamy, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Shaq, David Robinson, and guards, Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan, had better rookie season averages point-wise, rebound-wise, and/or assist-wise than what Griffin has put up so far this season.. 

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In two games between the Lakers and Clippers this season, "The Black Mamba" and "The Dominator" have each won once. 

That doesn't mean much, but a recent Griffin comment "nobody's gonna punk us," while directed to the league in general, could also be considered as a "shot across the bow" at his cross-hall rivals, the Lakers.

As Los Angeles basketball fans, you may ask, does this mean there's a changing of the guard from the Lakers and no. 24 to the Clippers and no. 32?

Player-wise, since Kobe is 32, the answer is a slow, eventual yes, since Bryant will not relinquish his crown until he goes out on his sword, but team-wise, however, the answer is not yet, and maybe never.

At present, the Lake Show still rules LA!

After all, lest we forget, the Clipper ship is still commanded by Donald Sterling.

But, with "The Dominator" on board, there is new found hope in the Clipper port, and the sailor fan base that loyally supports them. 

With Blake Griffin, as their "rudder" and centerpiece, along with excellent young talent like Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan, they have the nucleus to be an NBA force in the future.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Blake Griffin & Kobe Bryant

Will they ever supplant the Lakers as the pre-eminent basketball team in LA?

To most, that would seem unfathomable, eons away, but for sure, it's safe to say, not while the "Black Mamba" is still ballin'! 

But just as the Lakers have been and will likely continue to be perennial title contenders, the future for the Clippers, led by Blake "The Dominator" Griffin, is bright in Los Angeles, the center of the basketball universe!

JOE VECCHIO
THE VECCHIO FACTOR 

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