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Gilgamesh is Cuneiform for Blake Griffin is a Zombie

January 18, 2011


For a basketball player to be so decisively inspiring on the court, it is quite precarious when we find that all he can do off of it is drool into the mic, and, if nothing else, Blake Griffin is this juxtaposition of hard silver, uniquely crafted and adorned, serving up spoonfuls of mush and gruel, that is entirely absent of form and substance.

The impact of Blake Griffin's physicality is impossible to deny, and almost any figurative language would suffice. In one version of the myth, he could crash into the wooden trunk of the NBA with the heft of a mighty ax, leaving a gash for all to see. In another, he could be a flying saucer that crash lands in a cornfield, causing the stalks to bend and break into elaborate patterns and unknown languages, while some believers might purport that they watched a shooting star flame through the night and that when they followed it to its resting place they found a baby wrestling a bear. These myths are Blake Griffin, and out of their testimony cities of Youtube footage have been erected like the walls of Uruk, and every thunderous dunk and whirlwind spin is viewed as another brick in the foundation of a mighty empire.

Seeing is believing, but people do not just want their stars to shine from the heavens: the physicality of their play is not enough to satisfy the lust of their fans. No, the witness wants the prophet to explain the meaning behind the miracle, so after Blake Griffin drops 47 points and 14 rebounds--a feat not accomplished by a rookie since the days of Michael Jordan--the media must flock to Griffin's locker and ask him mundane questions, such as, "what makes you play so hard? why are you so competitive? what were you feeling tonight? does it feel good to score that many points and to help your team win the game? why do you like winning better than losing? does being tall help you dunk?" The answers to these questions are in the questions themselves, so we should not be surprised at all when Blake Griffin answers them in such a robotic fashion: um I just want to play hard and win, that's all I'm out here to do?

We pray to God hoping that He will answer us, hoping that He will divulge some clue that unravels the mystery in which he operates. Is our questioning of athletes on their athletic prowess any different? Aren't we hoping that in their explanation of how hard they play is some hint that will allow us to rise above our internal strife as easily as Blake Griffin rises for one handed alley oop after one handed alley oop? Do we ask Blake Griffin such stupid questions because we're desperately hoping the answers are more complicated than they appear, that a superbly talented athlete who works hard will out perform one who doesn't?

First, Blake Griffin plays the way he does because he was born with tremendous physical gifts. Very few players have ever been able to do what he does. Shawn Kemp easily comes to mind because of the position and the ferocity with which both players throw down. The clear physical advantage in size and quickness that Griffin possesses also echoes our first encounters with LeBron James. Throw in a sprinkle of Charles Barkley and a dash of Dominique Wilkins, and you pretty much have Blake Griffin; but having the physical tools to succeed does not always equal success, especially when one's true rookie season was stolen by a busted knee cap and one's rehabilitation occurred in the shadowy quagmire that is the Los Angeles Clippers. No, Blake Griffin is not just physically built to amaze bystanders with his athletic feats; he is mentally wired to dominate. 

Tyler Hansbrough was a dominant college athlete. He was an All-American, received national player of the year honors, and he won a national title. He also scored more points in ACC play than any other player in the conference's history. He could have gone pro after his freshman year. (It would have been a mistake, but he could have done it.) I bring Psycho T up because based on his resume one would assume his confidence would be brimming out the orifices of his body, that his ears and eyes would literally ooze  swagger, but whenever Tyler Hansbrough was interviewed on the floor of the Dean Dome, one was struck by the haunting idea that Hansbrough was all basketball and no personality. It was in the stiffness of his delivery, the cliches of his answers, and the intensity of his eyes popping out of his head, as if the idea of not playing basketball for even a moment, made the very act of breathing uncomfortable. On the court, Tyler Hansbrough's eyes could be used as a physical metaphor for his competitive hunger. Off the court, they made him appear zombie-like and scary. To dominate at basketball requires not only physical prowess but extreme degrees of dedication: there is a reason a player like Tyler Hansbrough is described as psychotic--because he is.

Blake Griffin and Tyler Hansbrough played against each other once in college, in the Elite Eight. Griffin's line included 23 points and 16 rebounds, and Psycho T spent most of the game on the bench in foul trouble, accumulating only 8 points and 6 rebounds. The results from the game helped to support the idea that a comparison between the two players created a raw dichotomy that could be used to categorize the play of almost any basketball player from the local Y up to the NBA, that hustle and intensity are exclusive of athleticism, and some would probably use a recent meeting between these two as professionals to support the same paradigm. But they would be wrong.



In Griffin's 47 and 14 game, Psycho T accumulated two points and three rebounds, his overall impact on the game in terms of +/- being a negative eleven points, but at some point, some announcer somewhere probably commented that Tyler Hansbrough was giving one hundred and ten percent; and this same announcer probably fawned over Griffin's raw athletic ability. The problem with that simple line of thinking is that Griffin is just as psychotic, if not more so, than Hansbrough, just ask Lamar Odom of the LA Lakers who got into an altercation with Griffin the other night in a game that was already decided. Odom took offense to the barbarity with which Griffin went after a "made" free throw and shoved the Sumerian giant towards the base of the basket. Odom's action was met with the same wraith-like stare that Blake Griffin usually saves for locker room reporters, a stare that translates into the same cliched response that all zombies give: "I just want to play basketball, eat brains, and shit on the world."

The inhumane tenacity with which Blake Griffin feasts on his opponents cannot be overlooked just because he moves like a god amongst mere mortals, and just like in the epic of Gilgamesh, Blake Griffin will continue to do exactly what he wants, when he wants, until the gods create his physical equal out of sheer mercy for his victims and spite for the indifference with which he dominates. Sluuuurp. Slurp. His eyes say he's still thirsty, and our brains appear ready for a new religion.


1 comments:

Russ said...

If Blake Griffin eats the brain of Rashard Lewis March 12th, the Wizards save 43 million the next two years.

January 18, 2011 at 5:06 PM

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