Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blake Griffin's Brought Back The Old-School TV Experience

Blake Griffin is Johnny Carson.

Well, sorta.

In his 2006 book, “Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas,” Klosterman reveals that despite not being a huge fan or even a regular viewer, he was profoundly saddened by the late night legend’s January 2005 passing. In the same piece, he marvels at the number of obituaries in which he read that “there will never, ever be another Johnny Carson.”

He goes on to argue that while this is not so much true of Carson himself, it’s undeniably true of the idea of the man. Carson was certainly funny and clever and cool, but he was not blessed with these qualities to such an extent that the world will never again see his comedic peer. For 30 years (1962-1992), as the host of NBC’s Tonight Show, Carson was a fixture in American households. Whether you loved him or simply didn’t have anything better to watch, at 11:30 PM, you were either “watching Carson” or you weren’t- and most were. It is in this ubiquity, bred from a lack of viable alternatives, that Carson delivered to the viewing public what they craved from him- a shared experience.

Someone who was watching Carson, whether alone or with family or friends, could be certain he was sharing that very experience, at that very moment, with tens of millions of other people. In today’s on-demand/DVR age, with cable providers offering customers hundreds of channels- many aimed at satisfying niche viewing cravings- it’s increasingly rare to have a large number of people watching the same program at the same time.

Not unlike the overall television experience itself, in recent years the experience of viewing NBA basketball has changed profoundly. No longer are TNT Thursdays and post-Super Bowl Sunday afternoons the only opportunity for NBA fans to watch a game, knowing that other fans nationwide are watching the same game. Now, for approximately $1.10 per day, NBA League Pass offers access to every game for every team. On most, nights, fans will multiple options in the same time slot! It’s glorious. Laker fan in New York City? No worries! Don’t want to wait until Christmas to see Derrick Rose slice into the lane? Watch him against the Washington Wizards on the 22nd. Suffering from insomnia? The Kings are on! You get the picture.

This is where Blake Griffin comes in.

Now, let’s be clear, Griffin is more spectacularly and singularly gifted at his chosen endeavor than Carson was at his, but not in such a way that the human race will never see his likes again. Beyond his transcendent basketball ability, the reason that Griffin has gripped NBA fans like no one else in recent memory- the Blake Effect, if you will- is that he’s once again allowing us to enjoy the shared viewing experience.

Griffin is an absolute beast. At 6’9”-255, and seemingly chiseled out of granite, he is a hybrid of a young Charles Barkely, a young Shawn Kemp, with a heavy dusting of LeBron James. And while he doesn’t possess LeBron’s skill set on the perimeter- he’s not that far off- he’s blessed with great hands, a powerful low post game, a soft touch around the basket, exceptional ballhanding skills and the NBA’s most devastating spin-move. I have said this on multiple occasions, every single time he takes the floor, 50-20 is on the table. How many guys can you say that about? Even throughout NBA history that number can’t more than a dozen. As long as he doesn’t hurl his body into a debilitating injury, Griffin will spend the next 10-12 years as one of the NBA’s best, and most mesmerizing, players.

He’s already one of the greatest in-game dunkers in history. His leaping ability is amazing in that it’s simultaneously ferocious and effortless. He is in constant danger of concussing himself on the rim, whether jumping off of one leg or two, catching an alley-oop, filling the lane on a break or driving to the hole himself. He plays with an uninhibited game that’s both electrifying and frightening, devoid of consideration for the big picture. A lot of athletes claim to approach every game as if it was their last- Blake Griffin actually plays that way.

I can’t remember an NBA newcomer that’s done this to the viewing public. From tipoff to the final buzzer, Griffin sets Twitter aflutter. In his first 12 weeks of NBA action, he’s put together a highlight reel that rivals that of any player in history over the same period. More than any rookie since probably Michael Jordan, Blake Griffin is appointment viewing.

And while there are certain teams are most consistently watched and written about- the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Magic, Bulls, Heat, Mavericks and Thunder- the fact that we are no longer tethered to our local teams and a couple of national TV games each has turned the idea of appointment viewing into a relic from a bygone era.

Until now. That's what's Blake Griffin has done to the NBA viewing experience. I have connected with NBA fans that I've never met (and may never meet) while going Blake-shit (Apeshit? No? Whatever. I tried). On a random Wednesday night with 10 or 12 games on the schedule, if I’m watching at home, playing remote control maestro, I am acutely aware of a) whether or not the Clipper are playing, b) when the game is scheduled to start and c) that even with all of the same choices at their fingertips, most NBA fans that in front of TV at that moment are doing the same.

Blake Griffin: either you're watching or you're not. 


emin said...

You're right. Blake is taking the NBA by storm and that is hard to do in this era. In an era where Kobe arguably is the greatest to ever live and have Kevin Durant come in and take over next, Blake is making a strong case for himself. People compare him to a Barkley, or a Malone, or a Duncan or all 3 combined into 1. How about Kobe? That #5 highlight is Kobe-esque.

I keep hearing about this guy on the radio and yesterday I thought, this can can be the greatest of all time. Now, I hate that term because of my strong support for Kobe and the Lakers and my mentally of no one else matters. Blake is just a rookie and that term shouldn't get tossed around like that, but I mean wow, the potential of this kid. If he is this dominate this early and he can STILL get better with a jumpshot and some defense, imagine the potential of this guy and everyone around him. His attitude is great, his game is off the walls, his talent is through the roof, and he is an efficent player with some flamboyancy and flare.

If Blake Griffin is the reason the Clippers will matter in the future, we could be talking about the greatest to ever live, or maybe one of them. I love the Clips because I a homer, but the purple and gold have my heart. Maybe Mitch and Jerry can pull something off? Hopefully. We need something after Kobe and this guy is it!

He can literally do everything, just like Kobe in his Blake he did against the poor Knicks this season at Staples. He can shoot, push the ball up court, dribble, break down defenders, over power you, finesse you, D up on you, and pass the ball.

I hope injuries have nothing to do with this guy's career from now on because there has NEVER been anyone in league HISTORY to have as much promise and potential as Blake.

You're right Emile, he has that about him to be the face of the league.

emin said...

Oh and #4...I mean come on. At his size and strength to have the combination of all that and skill and quickness. Come on, how do you stop that?

Arjun Chandrasekhar said...

every time my roommate and i are up late at night with problem sets we ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS make sure to turn on the clippers game just to see what blake will do next. other than the spurs, lakers, heat, and celtics there isnt a team that i enjoy watching more than the blake griffin show. while i'm not sure blake is better at his craft than johnny carson, i completely and wholeheartedly agree with the analogy. blake is what every single non-lakers hoops fan is talking about here in socal; he's rejuvenated the most dead franchise in sports history and made the fucking clippers matter!!! donald sterling doesn't deserve this combination of karl malone and shawn kemp, not at all. Lebron, as great as the heat are, you should have joined us here in LA!!!

by the way everyone make sure to check out when youre done here