Blake Griffin has taken the NBA by storm in his rookie season
Photo: Getty Images
Those with even a cursory interest in the NBA would be aware of the exploits of 21-year-old Blake Griffin, who has taken the league by storm in his rookie season.
The fact that Griffin, the No.1 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, spent his first year on the LA Clippers roster recovering from a broken kneecap has only heightened his arrival.
He's posting numbers (22.6 points and 12.6 rebounds per game) to match the premier power forwards, while his 47 points against Indiana last month remains the equal second-highest score for any player in 2010-11.
Inevitably, when Griffin comes out of contract at the end of next season, rival teams will come for him, and come hard.
At this rate, expect a tug of war similar to the one that sent LeBron James spiralling to Miami after seven seasons at Cleveland.
But we say Griffin should be a Clipper for life (or until he's 30 at least). Here's why.
1. He's been loyal until now, so why change?
Born and bred in Oklahoma City, Griffin emerged from high school as one of the best young players in the country. Despite offers to join high-profile basketball colleges including Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State and Kansas, he followed older brother Taylor to the University of Oklahoma. Griffin led the Sooners to the Sweet 16 in his second year there, and was named the Naismith College Player of the Year. The prestigious John R. Wooden Award was among the other achievements that spurred his nomination for the draft, despite two more years' college eligibility.
2. He should be the best player in Clippers history by the time he's 23
This says as much about Griffin as it does his franchise, which has made the playoffs just seven times since it entered the NBA as the Buffalo Braves in 1970. Bob McAdoo set the early standard as the league's rookie of the year (1972-73) and MVP (1974-75). From the true Clippers era (1984 onwards), throw a blanket over Danny Manning, Elton Brand and Corey Maggette – with Charles Smith at a stretch – for who Griffin is up against. Wow. The Clippers can also count Hall of Famers Adrian Dantley and Bill Walton among their alumni, but their best 'ball was played elsewhere.
3. He could stick it to the Lakers, and from within Los Angeles
So much for a cross-town rivalry; since 1984 the star-studded Lakers have won more championships (eight) than the Clippers have made playoffs. Such has been the on-court gulf between the teams that the Clippers bucked a 12-season trend when finishing higher than the Lakers in 2004-05. The teams share the Staples Center, into which 19,905 patrons crammed last month to see the less-fancied Clippers win a fiery contest 99-92. Griffin finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds. With master coach Phil Jackson expected to retire at the end of this season, will the Lakers stay big brother? Courtesy of Griffin's attack on the basket, the Clippers' game is already better to watch.
4. Fans from other clubs will love him even more
There's little grey area with the Lakers: their success (power, attitude, etc) has made them loved and loathed. Inoffensive and unthreatening, the Clippers have probably had campaigns that barely stirred their own supporters. Griffin has put the team back on the map, and will hit the NBA All-Star Game on February 20 as the first rookie since 2003. (Expect a bigger buzz when he competes in the slam dunk contest a day earlier.) As much as every fan would want Griffin at their club, there's more respect to be had if he sticks with the rebuilding Clippers, and gives the finger to the rest.
5. He should look at Kobe, not LeBron
They're the two best players in the game, but LeBron James' ego-driven switch to Miami (cue The Decision) killed his standing in Cleveland, whose Cavaliers could almost pass as the Clippers of the Midwest. He alienated many others when determining that the Heat would deliver his championship ring that the Cavs failed to in their NBA Finals encounter with San Antonio in 2007. Sure, Bryant has been blessed with timing – he's won five championships with the Lakers – but he's one of few franchise players in a competition where old-school allegiances are rare. And it hasn't been all smooth sailing for him. When Bryant retires with a seat next to Magic Johnson, James could be at his third team.
6. He should want the rivalry with Kevin Durant
Another NBA phenomenon, 22-year-old Durant is on track to claim his second straight league scoring title. In his fourth season, Durant plays anywhere from shooting guard to power forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team in Griffin's hometown. The Thunder face years of pampering to keep Durant, who could be the biggest name in the competition by 2013. Think what Durant-Griffin epics could mean for the Thunder and Clippers: Jordan v Isiah, Olajuwon v Ewing, Magic v Bird ... you get the drift.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.