Dime #62: Blake Griffin is a Monster

Some day next decade, when they write the Wikipedia version of Blake Griffin‘s basketball career, the pieces will all fit together sensibly. He was a high school All-American (and won the McDonald’s national dunk contest), then a college All-American, then the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. So of course he would take the League by storm as soon as possible, running (and jumping, and dunking) away with the Rookie of the Year trophy and leading the woeful L.A. Clippers back to being a real-life pro sports franchise.

But those of us who watched will know how it really happened. How it wasn’t that easy. Blake Griffin, despite all the accolades and obvious signs beforehand, somehow managed to sneak up on the basketball world.

We’ll know that, in the high school class of 2007 — around the time he first appeared in Dime with a one-page “What’s My Name?” profile — Blake was buried on the list of superstars below O.J. Mayo, Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Kyle Singler … we’ll know that a lot of scouts had Kosta Koufos and Donte Greene pegged as better prospects than the light-skinned, linebacker-looking kid from Oklahoma.

We’ll know that his original rookie year was wiped out by a knee injury, and with early evidence that the No. 1 pick would be victim No. 173 of the Clippers Curse, we’ll know that John Wall dominated the Rookie of the Year discussion before Blake made his official debut.

We’ll know that, while it was written that great things were supposed to happen for Blake Griffin, it didn’t happen exactly the way it will be written.

Usually for our February issue, the annual All-Star issue, we aim to put an All-Star on the cover. But given the lead time between conceptualizing a magazine and putting it in your hands, we can’t take too many risks guessing who’s in and who’s out. And so it’s LeBron, or Kobe … or Kobe, or LeBron. We need a lock.

When we decided to pull the trigger on a Blake Griffin cover, he was not a lock. No rookie ever is. While now it would seem an injustice if Blake’s name isn’t called later tonight when the All-Star reserves are announced, by the time we sent this issue to print, he was still competing for a spot. At the same time, when we sent this issue to print, nobody had grabbed the NBA’s attention like Blake Griffin. From the moment he christened the rim at Staples Center with an alley-oop finish a few seconds into L.A.’s nationally televised season opener, every night the Clippers played was a night YouTube producers were on alert for whatever hellacious highlights Blake had in store. And if he does only half of the things predicted for him in the dunk contest, he’ll leave All-Star Weekend in L.A. as the most talked-about man in the League whether he plays in the Sunday main event or not.

It takes more than just dunks, however, to attain the acclaim Blake Griffin has reached halfway through his first NBA campaign. It’s becoming a 20-and-10 machine night after night, and putting the Clippers back on the map, and assuming the role as the next in line to run his town like Michael Corleone after the current Godfather, Don Kobe, steps down. That’s why Blake is here, and why he’s on the front page of this book.

That much we do know. The rest of the story? Still waiting to be written. And that’s the fun part.

*** *** ***

(Dime #62 is on sale now on newsstands nationwide. In addition to Blake, our All-Star issue includes features on Paul Pierce and Penny Hardaway, a fashion spread with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and the rest of the Miami Heat, the best Kobe Bryant story ever written, an expert’s All-Star Weekend guide to Los Angeles, and much more. Check it out.)