From the minute he stepped foot into the league, Blake Griffin carved out a reputation for himself as one of the most explosive dunkers in the history of the NBA.
Despite missing what should have been his entire rookie campaign with an injury before the start of the 2009-10 season, Griffin wasted no time putting on a show for basketball fans with his dunks that were both high-flying and powerful.
From dunk contests to in-game, Griffin’s abilities made him a must-watch player across the NBA. His posterizing dunks became a thing of folklore, but one dunk, in particular, became an infamous dunk at the expense of his victim.
Kendrick Perkins built a reputation as a bulldog in the NBA. While he never put up flashy stats, and his style of play was rarely going to show up in the highlight reels, Perkins was a valuable member of several contenders’ starting units, including the champion Boston Celtics and the Big 3 era Oklahoma City Thunder. When Blake Griffin found him in his path, however, he ended up on the wrong end of the highlight reel.
The dunk was equal parts athletic and ferocious. Griffin, after receiving a pass from Lob City initiator Chris Paul, jumped from the side of the key and into the body of Kendrick Perkins. At the time, it must have looked like either a block or a charge in the making, but instead of leaving it up to the referees, Griffin put out his arm and threw the ball into the basket.
There were rumors that the dunk caused Perkins to delete his account because of all the backlash on social media. However, Royce Young confirmed that it had already been deleted weeks earlier, but the legend of the dunk that caused him to delete remained.
Griffin’s poster over Perkins was in many ways the perfect encapsulation of his perception as he built his legacy in the league. Despite putting up all-star numbers from his first year on the court, many defined his legacy by his ferocious dunks, and his self-coining of “Lob City” upon hearing that Chris Paul was coming to the team did not help him.
Although Griffin’s legacy as a dunker was fairly earned, it sells his diverse skillset short, and even as his athleticism has diminished ever-so-slightly, Blake, like other legendary dunkers who were also NBA All-Stars, has proven time and time again that he is more than a human highlight reel, but a complete player.
As for Perkins, after this embarrassing moment, many fans agreed he was never the same. He finished out the year solid, but never really found much success in the league after. Perkins spent a few more seasons with the Thunder, then bounced around a few teams before being waived by Cleveland in 2018.
Griffin’s journey from his entrance into the league in 2010 to today marks a vast change in the way that the NBA brand of basketball is played. Players like him, athletic bigs who could crash whenever they wanted, were far more valued than they are in today’s league, and because of this Griffin had to adjust his game. Part of this was the addition of a jump shot.
Going into the 2016-17 season, Griffin had never shot more than .6 three-pointers a game, but by this previous season, he was shooting seven three-pointers a game, hitting 36% of them in the process. Because of this, he is a player who teams don’t only have to worry about in the post, but on the entire offensive end of the court.
Griffin has also made a name for himself as a playmaker, becoming a reliable passing big man with a more definitive role as the number one option in Detroit. This too is a far cry from his role in Los Angeles, where Chris Paul was often the main facilitator of the offense. He’s also become an increasingly reliable free throw shooter after struggling to do so earlier in his career.
Blake Griffin is a testament to the way in which a player can become both a victim of and bigger than their perception around the league. With hard work, numerous adjustments, and a willingness to learn from his past, Griffin has carved a place in this league as a dynamic power forward who isn’t only good for a highlight dunk.