February 06, 2011

Poster Child

Okay, so the mailman brings the latest issue of SI, and we're told right away that a certain 21-year-old is posterizing the NBA.

SI's Chris Ballard takes us behind the scenes with some of these "unwitting background performers" -- "Blake Griffin's Poster Boys" -- and says "there are enough of them to form a support group." Let us begin with "Victim #172: Zack Novak, March 21, 2009."
It is the second round of the NCAA tournament, and Griffin's Sooners are playing Michigan. ... In the second half Griffin catches an outlet pass on the right wing. Racing down the middle of the court is Novak, a freshman guard for the Wolverines. No slouch, the 6'4", 210-pound Novak was all-state in high school and has enough hops that he will win the UM Midnight Madness dunk contest seven months later. Still, like Griffin, he was coached by his father, so he knows that taking a charge is more valuable than blocking a shot. So Novak sprints with a mind to intersect Griffin's path in the key. There's only one problem: Griffin is too damn fast. "When I get to the three-point line, I start thinking, Why am I doing this?" remembers Novak, now a junior. "I'm in foul trouble, I'm not going to get there, and he's got this look in his eye like he's going to abuse me. I step in late and start to fall back, kind of flop it, hoping to maybe get lucky and get the call. Next thing I know his feet are at my face."

To Griffin, the dunk was merely "pretty good," but to Novak it became, for lack of a better term, a case of fame-by-posterization. Sure, he was disconsolate at first, mainly because his team lost, and for the first year or so he got sick of hearing from friends who, whenever Griffin's name came up, would say innocently, "Hey, isn't that the guy who dunked on you so hard he lifted you off the ground?" But now Novak sees it differently. "I see what he's doing to NBA guys, and it's cool to look back," he says. "My mom's a high school teacher, and she actually has the picture up in her room." Novak laughs. "I mean, one day it'll be proof that I got dunked on by Blake Griffin."
Moving right along, we encounter "Victims #299 and #300: Timofey Mozgov and Danilo Gallinari, Nov. 20, 2010."
The slam over Mozgov is the more preposterous of the two, Griffin launching himself off the 7'1" Russian's forehead before throwing the ball down at the rim from a height roughly equal to the mezzanine of Staples Center. It is so emphatic, so emasculating, that Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni is only half-joking when he beseeches the media, "Don't say anything to him." The coach says of his reserve center, "Just keep it quiet."

The Gallinari dunk is the more telling, though, for not only does Griffin display his leaping ability and power, but he also includes a beautiful spin move in transition, at full speed, that likely no other big man in the league could execute. This, Griffin says, is his favorite dunk ever ...

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

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