by Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport
A dunk is only worth two points.
For all of its bluster. For all of its authority. For all of its kinetic energy. For all of its rim rockin’, reckless abandon, it’s still only worth two points.
We’ve all heard this. We’ve heard it to the point that it’s a saying. We’ve heard it from European ballers. We’ve heard it from coaches, from opposing fans, from analysts, from posterized players. It’s only two points.
But there’s an even older saying. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. It’s inflection. It’s body language. It’s the look. It’s tone. It’s subtext. Context.
Almost every player on an NBA roster can dunk. They have hops, they can elevate and even dunk in another player’s face. With authority. Lots of players can dunk, but they’re not saying the same thing as Blake Griffin we they do.
See when other players get open for a breakaway or a lob, you get excited, sure, but when Griffin does, there’s a catch in your throat, your heart skips a beat. Time literally stops. Because you know. You know what’s coming.
That’s the difference.
Blake Griffin is an artist and the rim is his canvas.
And no matter where we fall in the spectrum of basketball fan–diehard, unrepentant homer, stat troller, annoying front-runner, we are all mesmerized by Griffin’s aerial artistry. Even if you’re a stats geek. Even if you’re all about player efficiency and investigating a player’s PER, whatever the _____ that is (read: I know what it is, but I still don’t want to understand it). There’s something about what Griffin does in the air before he tattoos a rim that takes us all back to when we first wanted to dunk. When we demolished subpar mini goals that our parents bought us as kids or when we were too old to play on elementary school hoop courts but ventured there anyway because everyone could get “in the game” dunks on those eight foot goals.
Griffin brings all of that back to the surface.
And even if you never played or picked up a Spalding, Whoa! that Griffin is amazing to watch!
But here’s the rub: none of it matters if you don’t WIN.
And yeah, Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers have already had that moment. You know, that moment of crossing the threshold. It was almost imperceptible but there was a moment, even before Chris Paul came to town. There was a moment that we all stopped laughing at the Clips.
And it wasn’t because of anything the owner Donald Sterling did. His basketball and racist missteps are the stuff of comedy legend. Still.
It’s because of Griffin.
Now, if pressed, most people would haggle over when that moment happened, but they’d all agree it was somewhere around the time of the dunk.
You know, the dunk that turned Timofey Mozgov into a verb? From that moment forward, no one, and I mean no one, wanted to be “Mozgov’d.”
That was when we all took stock and stopped laughing. We started paying attention. That’s when we put Griffin on the map. And that’s why we put Griffin on this list.
But the reason why Griffin hasn’t budged much on this list, ranked in at No. 12, is the dunks to wins ratio. If Griffin was the pretty girl we were all going “ga-ga” over at school, we’re all finally at the point of looking past the beauty and we want to see more of what makes her special, like personality, intelligence, likeability.
That’s where we are with Blake.
“Where’s the substance to his game?”
Can he hit the mid-range J? Can we count of his footwork on the low post? When the games on the line and there’s no clear path to the rim for some PDA, can he deliver the game-winner?
For last year’s shortened season, Griffin averaged 20.7 ppg and 10.9 rpg while shooting 54 percent from the field. All Star numbers without question. And there’s no doubt that he’ll do those numbers or better this year. But here’s what it all comes down to and there’s just no getting around it: Griffin has to show us he’s more than the best dunker in the L. Griffin has to develop a consistent shot a la Karl Malone. He has to become a better defender. He has to make other players better.
And that’s where all of the “Kevin Love is a better power forward than Blake Griffin” arguers find purchase. Love does all the fundamentally sound things on the court that we can all appreciate. If Griffin can add those elements to his game, he can quiet of his detractors and they’ll be no stopping him. On the ground, in the air or otherwise.
|SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012|
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.