Today we will take a look and evaluate one of the most decorated college players, who’s career never got going like everyone expected it to. This 6’9 power forward is one of the most explosive players, and was a part of the “Lob City” era. Today’s topic is “The Rise and Fall of Blake Griffin.”
Blake Austin Griffin was born on March 16th, 1989 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He grew up playing football, baseball and basketball, but decided to focus more on basketball. In high school, his father, Tommy Griffin, coached the basketball team him and his brother played on. He won two state championships at Oklahoma Christian School. In Blake’s freshman season, his team went 29-0, and his sophomore season they only lost 2 games, and Blake averaged 13.6 points per game. His brother, Taylor, went on to play in college at Oklahoma, while Blake went into his junior year of high school. This season, Blake averaged 21.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists. He started to get recruited by top Division 1 schools and his senior season he averaged 26.8 points, 15.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.9 blocks. He was named Player of the Year, selected to be a McDonald’s All-American, and the Gatorade Oklahoma Player of the Year. Blake decided to follow his big brother and committed to play for Oklahoma as well.
Blake’s freshman year at Oklahoma, he averaged 14.7 points, and 9.1 rebounds. He suffered from a sprained MCL, and then a couple months later he injured his right knee, which led him to have surgery. He made the All-Rookie team and the first-team All-Big 12. He could’ve made his run for the NBA after this year, but he decided to stay in college for another year.
His sophomore season, he averaged 22.7 points, 14.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, plus earning a spot on the All-American first-team. He was voted as the Naismith College Player of the Year and he won the John Wooden Award as a top college player. And to top it off, he was also named Player of the Year by the Big 12, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and FoxSports.com.
Blake Griffin decided it was time to make his next move, and declared for the 2009 NBA Draft.
NBA Draft/Rookie Season:
The college sophomore was selected first overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. In the summer league, he earned MVP, but in the final preseason game something devastating happened. He came down wrong landing from a dunk and injured his kneecap. He had a stress fracture in his left knee. After resting for a few weeks, his injury was not healing correctly so he had to undergo surgery to fix his broken kneecap. He missed the whole 2009-2010 season.
With a big delay in his rookie season, he finally made his debut during the 2010-2011 season. He scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against the Trailblazers. In January, he recorded a career high 47 points, setting the record for the more points scored by a rookie in the franchise. Blake was voted to be an All-Star in 2011, and he also became the first rookie All-Star since Yao Ming and Tim Duncun. And of course, he won the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. He led all rookies in most stats and averaged a double-double for the season. Blake was voted as the 2011 Rookie of the Year.
Blake Griffin made a huge statement his rookie season, so critics had high hopes of him becoming one of the greatest power forwards in the game.
During the 2011-2012 season, he was voted to be an All-Star starter. The lockout shortened this NBA season, but Blake averaged another double-double and helped the Clippers get into the playoffs for the first time since 2006. But they were defeated by the Spurs in the second round. Griffin for the first time in his career was named to the All-NBA Second Team.
Before the 2012-2013 season, he agreed to sign a contract extension with the Clippers. 5 years for $95 million. So he would be a Clipper until the 2017-2018 season. During the summer of 2012 he was selected to the USA Team, but suffered from another knee injury. He was voted as a starter for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game for a second time. His numbers were solid once again, and he averaged 18 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. The Clippers finished first in their division for the first time, but they lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Going into the 2013-2014 season, the Clippers changed management a bit, and hired Doc Rivers as the new head coach. Blake continued to shine and was a starter in the 2014 All-Star game. He was averaging a career high 24.1 points per game. The Clippers made another playoff run, but lost in the semi-finals to the OKC Thunder.
In the 2014-2015 season, Blake recorded his first career playoff triple-double with 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. They went head to head with the Spurs and took game 7, and they moved on to the semi finals to play against the Houston Rockets. The Clippers ended up losing the series in seven games.
So the 2015-2016 was when the injuries started to take a toll. On December 26th, he injured his quad and was ruled out. He was supposed to return to play from his quad injury in January, but instead he was ruled out again for a hand injury. He got in an argument with a member of the equipment staff and hit him, which resulted in a hand injury that would sideline him for another four-six weeks. He missed a total of 45 games and didn’t return to play until April. He only played in the last five out of seven games before he re-aggravating his quad in Game 4 of the playoffs.
Next, going into the 2016-2017 season, he reached the 4,000th rebound milestone in his career, and he joined the 9,000 career points, 4,000 rebounds, and 1,500 assists club. The only player to put up these numbers this fast was Larry Bird. In December, Blake was ruled out again due to a minor knee surgery, and returned back at the end of the January. In April, he recorded his 10,000th point, being only the second player in franchise history to do so. A few days later, he injured his big toe, and had to sit during the 2017 Playoffs.
The Clippers kept their patience and re-signed him for another 5 years, but early in the season he sprained his MCL. He rushed his rehab and got back on the court within a month. During the 2017-2018 season, he was traded in January to the Detroit Pistons, unexpectedly. He performed highly on his new team, but a few months later, a new injury came into the picture. He suffered from a bone bruise on his right ankle on March 26th, and missed the final eight games of the season.
The following season, he scored a career-high 50 points, and became the first in franchise history to do so since Richard Hamiltion’s 51 point performance in 2006. He passed his 12,000th point milestone as well. After the playoffs, Griffin was back on injury reserve and underwent left knee surgery again.
So in the 2019-2020 season, he missed the first 10 games to recover from his surgery. He came back to play 18 games with the Pistons, but had to get a second surgery on the same left knee and missed the remaining games of the season.
Many claim that Blake’s career started to downspiral after being traded to the Pistons, but honestly it could have been before then. He could never consistently get back into playing because of the multiple injuries he suffered from. Blake was a great power forward and one of the most explosive forsure, but with all the injuries his career took a turn, not for the good. It’s so disappointing to see a great player never reach their full potential because of injuries. How good could Blake Griffin have been if he never suffered from constant injuries? Let us know what you think.