SLAM 147: On Sale Now!

by Tzvi Twersky | @ttwersky

It’s possible that no one’s gotten as much ink in SLAM Magazine this season as Blake Griffin.

In our Season Preview issue, we showed him love. In the next book, SLAM 144, he was the dunker featured in the SLAMadamonth section. A short month later, Jake Appleman wrote a profile on him that ran in the mag. His dunk over the Denver Nuggets earned him SLAMadamonth honors again in SLAM 146. And he’s been mentioned in pretty much every single NOYZ.

Still—and this has been made clear via Facebook, SLAMonline, Trash Talk and Twitter—no matter how much we’ve covered Blake Griffin, it hasn’t served to satiate our readers’ ravenous Blake Show appetite.

This cover should help fix that.

Sixty-two games into his redshirt rookie season, every NBA fan already knows that Blake Griffin is a Vince Carter-ian dunker. Every fan with access to the internet knows he’s a living, breathing Top 10 Play. Every fan knows he’s got better springs than a brand new mattress. There’s more to the man than meets the highlight reel, though, as he reiterated during our late-winter cover shoot at the Clippers’ gleaming steel, blue and red training center in Playa Vista, California.

“[It’s] not just about dunks,” said Griffin moments after the shoot wrapped. “I take pride in being an overall player and not just being one-dimensional. That’s something I would like to be recognized for. But that’s gotta come.”

After spending some time talking with Blake’s friends, family, teammates and League-mates I’m now certain that recognition for more than rim-rattling is gonna come sooner rather than later.

A few weeks ago, before our photo shoot and a few half-hours after practice, two-thirds of the way through his first grueling jaunt through the NBA calendar, Blake Griffin was hard at work, trying to diversify his already surprisingly diverse game. He worked on his mid-range jumper for a little while. He worked on his stripe-game for a little while. He worked on his post moves for a little while. And, yes, he worked on his three ball for a little while. It’s this work ethic, this Get Better or Die Trying attitude, that has Blake Griffin poised to produce monstrous numbers well after he stops dunking on the regular.

Don’t believe us; believe Griffin’s teammate Craig “Rhino” Smith who is effusive in his praise for the rookie: “At the end of his career, he’s going to end up being one of the best power forwards to ever play—if not the best.”

As Tommy Griffin, Blake’s father and high school coach says, “I don’t know if there is a limit [to what he can accomplish].”

The cover story—one of two; check Adam Figman’s Amar’e Stoudemire post for more on that cover—ultimately is one about misconceptions. As partially demonstrated above, contrary to popular opinion, Blake Griffin’s game isn’t solely what fans think it is. Likewise, his personality isn’t, either.

Every time he takes the court, thousands watch him play live. Another million-plus watch on TV. Beyond a bevy of dunks, what these rabid fans see is a nearly 22-year-old man who stalks around the court looking a little bit like a monster: focused and scowling to the point of intimidation. And, for 48 minutes on game night, he is all of those things and more. But off the court, away from the crowds, away from a quote-hungry media contingent, Blake Griffin transforms into a totally different dude.

“I’m laid back,” Griffin assured me during our time together. “People see me on the court and think I’m real intense. But off the court, when I’m around my friends and people that I’m close with, it’s nothing like that.”

As I found out firsthand, and as people found out before, during and after All-Star Weekend, Griffin is open and gregarious and possesses a dry sense of humor to boot–as long as there’s no basketball in site.

“He enjoys life,” laughed Tommy Griffin when asked about the dichotomy between Blake’s on- and off-court personalities.

“He enjoys life, let’s say that. He enjoys it.”

Still raw and on the upwards slope of his learning curve, Blake Griffin is currently fun to hang with and impossibly fun to watch play. According to a slew of knowledgeable people, given time and opportunity, Blake Griffin may soon be impossible to guard, too.

“He’s got the ingredients to be great, to be a champion,” Clippers assistant coach Marc Iavaroni said. “His drive and natural ability encompasses everything.”

Aside from a Griffin cover story that delves deeper into some of the things I touched on in this post, SLAM 147 is jam-packed full of other goodness. It all starts with the alternate cover story on Amar’e Stoudemire and ends with an exclusive Tim Duncan Q+A, a Michael Beasley/Kevin Love joint feature, a dose of basketball in China with Alan Paul, a Jared Sullinger profile and plenty of the usual college, high school and NBA goodness.

So, feel free to cop Blake Griffin’s first SLAM cover—and Amar’e’s first one as a New York Knick—now!