LOS ANGELES—Magic Mountain is about 50 miles north of Staples Center, the site for the 2011 NBA All-Star Weekend. However, Los Angeles Clippers rookie Blake Griffin went through his own roller coaster of emotions as a participant in three events on three consecutive nights.
Griffin participated in the Rookie Challenge, Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, and the NBA All-Star Game—a first for any NBA player.
“It’s been an unbelievably crazy weekend,” said Griffin after winning the Slam Dunk Contest. “At the same time, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to do all these things like that and I just wanted to have fun with it.”
Griffin didn’t enter the weekend on a high note. After a much-needed 98-90 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, he got the news.
Wilson Holloway, a close friend back in his home state of Oklahoma, lost his battle with cancer. Overcome with emotion, Griffin buried his face in his hands in the visitor’s locker room at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
While Griffin didn’t comment that night, the Clippers organization said that The Blake Show would go on in Los Angeles. First up was the Rookie Challenge on Friday evening.
Griffin played just under 14 minutes, but scored 14 points and grabbed three rebounds for his Rookies team, who defeated the Sophomores 148-140. The Griffin-hungry crowd made it known that under 14 minutes wasn’t enough to appease their appetites.
The Clippers rookie was able to find some humor after the Staples Center crowd repeatedly chanted, “We want Blake!” He performed his own version of a pump fake by pretending to re-enter the game, but quickly retook his seat back on the bench.
“I told my teammates I was going to get up and act like I was running back in,” said Griffin. “They said, ‘Yeah, you should do it.’ So I got up. I felt kind of bad. But it was all for fun.”
After all, a wide-eyed, 21-year-old rookie deserves a little fun.
The following night, the Staples Center turned into the Griffin Observatory with the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest as the marquee event. Before the contest, Far East Movement fittingly performed their song, “Rocketeer.”
Griffin, himself, was seemingly powered by rocket fuel. For his final dunk, Griffin launched himself over a Kia Optima sedan, caught a lob pass from teammate Baron Davis peeking through the sunroof, and delivered a two-hand jam.
“They told me there were no rules,” Griffin told the LA Times. “I was like, so I can jump over a car?”
The Crenshaw Elite Choir sang “I Believe I Can Fly” during his dunk and the fans, who scored the final round of the contest, witnessed that Griffin could indeed fly. He earned 68 percent of the fan vote and hoisted the event trophy.
“Quake Griffin” was a trending topic on Twitter that evening. Los Angeles was the epicenter and the whole world felt the tremors brought by Griffin’s arsenal of dunks.
Griffin broke his usual unassuming demeanor with a smile when he raised the trophy. Of course, the loss of Holloway was still fresh in his mind.
“I wanted to do this, not just for myself but for him,” said Griffin. “I think I’m actually going to give this (trophy) to his family. That’s why I really wanted to win.”
Sunday, the final day of All-Star Weekend, was capped off with the All-Star Game. Griffin got his turn to go against a select few of the most talented athletes in the world.
As a member of the Western Conference, he scored eight points, grabbed five rebounds, and had five assists off the bench in just under 15 minutes of playing time. His team got the 148-143 win over the Eastern Conference.
The “We want Blake” chants made an unsurprising reappearance in the fourth quarter. This time, the Staples Center crowd would get their wish granted, as Griffin re-entered the game.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Griffin. “It was an experience I’ll probably never forget.”
While it was undoubtedly a weekend to remember for his still-young NBA career, it will be Holloway that Griffin will never forget. He dedicated his participation in All-Star Weekend to his lost friend.
“He’s just one of those guys that was always positive and always a great guy,” Griffin said in the LA Times. “To see him go through what he did and keep smiling and keep staying positive about it was an inspiration to a lot of people. I’m definitely going to miss him. But I know he’s in a better place right now.
“It’s just crazy how it happens. I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be able to do this and hopefully dedicate some of this to him.”
Griffin will return to Oklahoma on Monday to attend Holloway’s funeral service.