I was pretty excited for this year’s NBA All Star Weekend, even though not a single player from my Indiana Pacers made any of the events (I thought at least one of Paul George, Darren Collison or Tyler Hansbrough would have made the Rookie/Sophomore game). The reason? Blake Griffin.
For those who don’t follow the NBA, Griffin is this year’s lock for Rookie of the Year — a 6’10″, 251 pound freak of nature that jumps and dunks over everything in sight. He was actually drafted last year but missed the entire season with a broken kneecap. Now he’s back and wrecking havoc on the league. Here’s a video of some of his dunks. Remember that he has only played in 56 games in his entire NBA career so far.
The other reason is because I wanted to see teen hearthrob Justin Bieber (generously listed at 5’5″) play in the celeb game — not because I’m a fan of the kid, but because I was genuinely fascinated by whether he’ll embarrass himself in front of his millions of adoring fans.
Here’s a video of Bieber tearing up the court in a Proactiv commercial. I’m not kidding.
Well, I can honestly say I did not come away disappointed. Bieber’s boxscore was uninspiring (8 points on 3-11 shooting, with 4 assists and 2 rebounds) and his team lost 54-49, but he still managed to win the Celeb game MVP because it’s an award voted by the fans. The highlight of the night was when the Biebs was rejected by Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen while going up for a jumpshot. Bieber elevated and tried to shoot but Scottie swung his arm out at about chest level and smacked the crap out of the shot. Hilarious. Scottie was even congratulated by former Pacer Jalen Rose for the fantastic rejection.
On the other hand, Griffin participated in the Slam Dunk Contest today as part of All-Star Saturday. He already played in the Rookie/Sophomore game the day before and will be a reserve in the proper All-Star Game tomorrow. Given that they were win LA given his popularity, Griffin was a heavy favourite to win the comp, where the final round is voted by the fans. His opponents were relatively unheralded — JaVale McGee (Washington), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto) and Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City) — but Griffin’s presence alone was enough to make this the most anticipated Dunk Comp since Vince Carter brought the house down with some of his classic dunks (since then it’s been a bit of a farce as the comps have focused more on style than substance).
As expected, Griffin won the comp (against McGee in the final), and while he may have deserved it overall, he probably didn’t even have one of the best 3 dunks of the night. Each of McGee, DeRozan and Ibaka had some sick jams that didn’t get the respect or scores they deserved, while Griffin had a bit of hometown judging to help him out.
That’s not to say Griffin didn’t have some amazing dunks. His first one of the night was an example of how freakishly athletic he is — a twisting 360 degree two-handed slam with the ball brought back behind his head. His second dunk of the first round saw a teammate toss the ball off the backboard support — he caught it in mid-air and windmilled it through.
In the second round, he threw the ball off the backboard and went up so high that he dunked his entire forearm through the hoop ala Vince Carter — but this was more impressive because it was off the backboard, he went up higher, and there was a lot more power (so much so that he had a welt on his arm from it).
His final dunk brought everyone to his feet even before he attempted it — they drove a car out onto the court and had a gospel choir singing at halfcourt. Griffin took a run up and leaped over the hood of the car, just as Baron Davis passed him the ball through the car’s sun roof. Griffin caught the ball in mid-air and slammed it down two-handed. To be honest, that description made the dunk sound better than it really was. It was, after all, a jump over the hood of the car (as opposed to the top of it), though the presentation deserved props as did the fact that it was a potentially dangerous attempt by someone who just recovered from a broken kneecap.
Griffin got scores of 49 and 46 for his first two dunks, which I believe were about right — only if they scored the dunks of his opponents with as much generosity. If they did, I don’t think Griffin would have made the second round (more on this in my next post) — actually, you could even make an argument that Griffin was the fourth-best dunker in that first round.
Griffin’s two dunks in the secound round were not scored as the result was decided by fan voting (he got 68% of the vote to edge out McGee), though I believe he deserved the nod — only because McGee’s second dunk was a run-of-the-mill (if you can call it that) off the backboard, one-handed slam. If he left one of his spectacular first round dunks for the second round, I believe he should have won it.
Anyway, here are the highlights.
More to come.