When folks talk about those NBA teams that have what it takes to contend for a championship, the Los Angeles Clippers are rarely left out of the conversation — and for good reason. This club has experience, talent, and plays with the sort of “showtime” mentality that used to be reserved for LA’s other team, even if they’ve been somewhat underwhelming and overshadowed by another California squad.
Of course, it wasn’t always that way. There was a time — and it wasn’t too long ago — when the Clippers were one of the biggest jokes in the National Basketball Association. Always disappointing, always a mess, and, more than anything, always losing. This organization couldn’t pay people to come to the games. It was embarrassing. Then something happened and it changed everything. Actually, that’s not entirely true. It was more like someone.
Blake Griffin may have been selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, but thanks to a season-ending injury, he wasn’t officially introduced to the world until 2010-11. However, from the moment he stepped on the court, showcased his insane athleticism, and brought the house down with one vicious dunk after another, word quickly spread; Griffin was worth the price of admission.
As loaded with talent as the NBA is, the league doesn’t have many players like Griffin — the showstoppers, if you will. The ones who leave you utterly speechless. Therefore, in honor of his rare ability to dazzle the crowd, we’re going to take a look back on two of those earlier moments when Griffin — by spinning and slamming — forced the world to take notice of his greatness. So sit back, relax, and enjoy another edition of Throwback Throwdowns.
On November 20, 2010, the New York Knicks traveled to Los Angeles to face the Clippers in a showdown at the Staples Center. The Knicks were riding a two-game winning streak, hoping to make it three in a row. The Clippers, well, they were just hoping to stop the bleeding, having been on the losing end of eight consecutive games. Suffice to say, the Clippers fans in attendance were not treated to a W that night. Instead, they were treated to something much more memorable.
With just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter, New York had the ball and were up 108-101. However, thanks to some sloppy play on the Knicks’ part, the ball was pried loose and punched ahead to Griffin near half court, and from there, greatness. As Griffin begins to dribble the ball up the court, essentially starting his own one-man fast break, New York’s Danilo Gallinari, who was draped all over him, is the only person standing between the Clippers superstar and the basket.
They reach the free-throw line, where Griffin proceeds to spin to his left, cup the ball, get vertical, and throw down a violent dunk in Gallinari’s face. The Staples Center erupts. And in one moment, the folks in attendance collectively come to the same realization: Blake Griffin is not human. The Knicks would go on to win the game 124-115, sending the Clippers to their ninth straight defeat. However, with one incredible play, Griffin let everyone know that it would not always be that way.
On January 30, 2012, the Los Angeles Clippers hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder in a regular-season clash of Western Conference powers. Given the level of talent on each roster, any matchup between these two clubs has the potential to be an instant classic. In the end, however, this particular game will be remembered for one singular moment of pure awesomeness.
With 8:56 left in the third quarter, point guard Chris Paul has the rock on the left wing, looking to make something happen. At this point, the Clips appeared to be in complete control, already holding a 70-51 lead. As Griffin comes up to set a screen on Paul’s man, there’s no way anyone could’ve prepared themselves for what was about to happen.
CP3 uses the screen and dribbles the ball toward the center of the floor. Immediately after setting the pick, Griffin rolls toward the basket, takes a perfect bounce pass from his point guard, and rises to jam it with authority. In that moment, OKC’s Perkins comes over to help, leaping up in an attempt to thwart the Clippers superstar. But it’s already too late. Griffin takes the contact and slams it home in Perkins’ face, drawing the foul in the process.
The crowd at the Staples Center goes absolutely bananas. No one can believe what they just saw. But like we said before, there’s an epic dunk, and then there’s a Blake Griffin dunk.
All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference