Blake Griffin: Redemption for the reluctant

Probably my favorite show of all time is The Shield.

The Shield was a drama on FX for seven seasons in which Vic Mackey ran a special team of detectives who weren’t always on their oath-sworn side of the law. They dealt drugs, harbored fugitives, started gang wars, killed countless people and were always trying to create their own 401k of skimmed money and whatever pile of cash they could illegally get their hands on. Vic Mackey, the most crooked cop of the team and moral compass defacer, headed up the team.

Throughout the seven seasons of the show, the theme of redemption and the idea of making things right seemed to saturate the main characters. They always had a chance to steer to the right side of the law, clean up the streets in a legal way and stop pissing on the line they constantly stepped over. Sometimes the characters showed great contrition in the deeds they had done. And other times, Vic Mackey and his partners were beyond recalcitrant for the sake of being difficult as they figured out how to climb out of the latest hole they had dug for themselves.

Redemption presented itself constantly, and you often hoped they would stop breaking the law they were supposed to protect.

Blake Griffin is redemption.

Blake Griffin has taken over the NBA in a way we really haven’t seen since Vince Carter in 1999. Sure, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony were being dubbed as the new Magic-Bird rivalry in 2003 and we’ve all seen the early hype from young stars like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, and Andrea Bargnani (just checking to see if you’re still paying attention). But when’s the last time a player was wowing us every time down the floor?

When was the last time we truly gave a damn about the Clippers? Have we ever truly given a damn about the Clippers? They’ve been the punch line to many NBA and owners hating brown people jokes over the years. And yet now they have people considering a playoff berth despite the fact the team started this season 5-21.

We haven’t seen this kind of star kick down the door for a little breaking and entering into America’s households since Vince Carter. Vince was the next big thing. Maybe we forced that title upon him when he was unwilling to embrace it, but regardless of his acceptance of where we wanted him in the history of the NBA folklore, it was his to own.

He played along early on in his career because it was probably pretty fun. He got the veteran versions of his peers who had seen it all before to drop their jaws to the floor and grab their ankles. He did spectacular feats we never knew were possible. He was THE reason to watch SportsCenter every night. He didn’t invent YouTube but he might as well have.

And yet, as his stardom grew to insane heights, his reluctance built itself into a nice little cocoon of discomfort. We begged him to be what we needed to fill Michael Jordan’s void. He grew complacent in his ability to care about what we needed him to care about. Time after time, Vince Carter was given a second, third, or eighth chance to be what we asked of him. Time after time, Vince Carter proved to hate trying to be what we desired.

Over a decade later, Vince Carter is being given his redemption by a locomotive from Dante’s Inferno.

Blake Griffin is an Absinthe hallucination.

Nothing he does is real. It’s all created in our minds and hearts through some inebriated state of fandom. He is the wet dream of Nielsen Ratings. If you were to create a player in NBA 2K11, you’d GameShark your way to an infinite amount of skill points and build the 250 lbs propulsion device that is Blake Griffin.

It’s not that he’s inventing the art of dunking or the concept of the highlight play. That was down decades ago. It’s that he’s doing these things with a ferocity that is both sexually gratifying and completely animalistic in its nature. He’s relentlessly violent in the way he attacks the rim. Cut him off from the dunk and he’ll just hang in the air until he finds the right angle for his shot.

Talking about his motor would often be as cliché as asking him to take things one game at a time and give 110%. But the guy works himself into complete exhaustion in a way that makes the Energizer Bunny want to throw down the drum set, put his feet up on the ottoman, and see if Lamar Odom is going to have an awkward conversation with whatever it is we’re calling “Bruce Jenner” on the newest Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

At 6’10” he has the handle of a mid-level exception earning combo guard. We’ve seen his jumper extend comfortably out to the 3-point line on occasion and his touch off the glass from 2 feet or 16 feet makes you all tingly inside. If LeBron James is what it would be like if Karl Malone was a point guard, then Blake Griffin is what it would be like if LeBron James decided to swallow his pride and become the power forward some of us have hoped he’ll want to be.

We’re getting to the point in which the absurd is becoming routine and each new stat line and performance is becoming preposterous. An oversized Adonis dribbling into the lane, spinning off his defender and gathering himself for a tomahawk dunk that would be a felony in 13 states is only mildly entertaining because I’m still thinking back to the time he checked Timofey Mozgov for lice before he literally threw the ball into the basket from up above.

It’s not all limericks and fuzzy navels with Blake. His defensive awareness is alarmingly out of touch and you’re always going to be afraid he’s one big fall from snapping into his knee ligaments like a Slim Jim. But don’t we worry about that with every budding high-flyer?

The Los Angeles Clippers finally have clout for the first time in their franchise’s history. There have been moments and seasons of becoming a breakthrough performer with this organization before but for the most part, they managed to ruin it for themselves in the most embarrassing of ways. Now, Blake Griffin is putting together one of the most impressive athletic ventures in the history of competition – making the Clippers a winner.

The exciting thing with Griffin is he has so much room to grow. I think he’ll become a good defender and shore up his game with more succinct, efficient ways of dominating all around the floor. But there is no guarantee he’ll ever be better than what he is now. The fun part is going to see him go from just getting by on raw instinct to letting his understanding of the league shape the next wave of highlights that crash over us.

Blake Griffin is not just becoming the most exciting part of an NBA that has a restored Lakers-Celtics rivalry adding to the history books and the conglomeration of superstars forming in groups of three to try to overtake them. He’s letting the disappointing and reluctant stars of NBA’s past off the hook for not living up to our expectations. He’s absolving the sins of those who haven’t met our anticipations.

Who knows where Blake Griffin takes us next.

I’m just excited I found a new favorite show.

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