BEST OF 2012-13: BLAKE GRIFFIN'S TOP 5 DUNKS
In three NBA seasons, despite his wealth of diverse talents (passing, ball-handling, an improving post game, etc.), Blake Griffin has become synonymous with dunks.
He has a league-high 609 in the regular season in his three-year career, including 203 in 2012-13. In 228 games he’s dunked at least once in all of but 15 games. Griffin made his first appearance on the world stage, leaping over Timothy Mozgov and twisting past Danilo Gallinari, and has added enough highlight slams in three seasons to stuff anyone else’s career reel.
The list of potential candidates for Griffin’s best five dunks of 2012-13 exceeded 40. On opening night he went coast-to-coast, faked a pass and finished in traffic with a right-hand dunk. That one did not make the list. He caught a lob over J.J. Redick’s back in January. Not included either. He had a play similar to Gallinari, wrapping the dribble around his back and dunking around Nicolas Batum. Also not there. He dunked on Chris Kaman, went up-and-under on Ersan Ilyasova, caught a gorgeous lob from Lamar Odom in New York and had a double-pump, two-handed alley-oop after a blocked shot in Detroit. None of those made it.
There were enough dunks outside of Griffin’s best five that Casey Kasem could have counted down on a syndicated radio show. Without further ado, here are the five best:
Note: Much like DeAndre Jordan’s Top 5, the following list was determined by the degree of difficulty of the dunk, public reaction and sheer athleticism.
5. 2/26/13 vs. Bobcats: Threes Company
In a game that featured 13 dunks by the Clippers, including seven by Griffin, it seemed impossible to narrow it down to just one. Although, if forced to choose, the 75-foot lob from Chris Paul where a wide open Griffin catches the ball in the lane, contorts his body toward the basket and dunks with two hands is probably the best of the bunch. The second one is a play in semi-transition where the Bobcats fail to pick up Griffin and soars in for a powerful one-handed slam. And the final selection in the Charlotte dunk montage comes after a DeAndre Jordan block. The Clippers push the ball back in the other direction with Griffin jumping around Gerald Henderson and dunks with his left hand despite Henderson trying to yank him to the ground. That entire play is exemplary of why the Clippers were arguably the deadliest team in transition west of South Beach: defense leading to quick-strike offense.
4. 2/10/13 at Knicks: Where Did He Jump From?
The play did not appear on NBA.com’s Dunk of the Night and was not even listed as the best dunk of the Clippers’ 14-point win in New York. However, from an athletic standpoint it is one of Griffin’s most pristine dunks. He catches the ball on dump in from Chris Paul as he dives towards the rim. He already drew Tyson Chandler away from the rim as he moved up to set a screen for Paul and slipped through a crease to receive the ball. With no one between Griffin and the hoop, he jumped from a step inside the foul line OFF TWO FEET, which explains why the throw down followed was so powerful. Listen to the reaction from the Madison Square Garden crowd… that says it all.
3. 12/17/12 at Pistons: Motown Throw Down
One of the best things about Griffin’s dunks are that they come in so many different ways. Sometimes they come in a half-court set, sometimes on the break. Two feet, one foot, power, finesse, both. And while some of Griffin’s best have occurred with a defender in the way, two of his best this year were with nobody around. In this case, Matt Barnes assisted off the backboard and Griffin did the rest, catching the ball and in one swift motion throwing down. The Pistons bench reaction in the background, or tendency to visibly NOT react, is somewhat of an amusing sidebar, if you can take your eyes off the dunk itself.
2. 3/6/13 vs. Bucks: Yeah, That Actually Happened
All things considered this one probably should be No. 1. In reality, it was likely the dunk of the year until DeAndre Jordan obliterated Brandon Knight four days later. It is arguably the most inventive in-game dunk the league has seen since Tracy McGrady threw the ball off the backboard to himself. But that happened in an All-Star game, not a regular-season outing in March. Crawford, who was ahead of the pack after a steal by Eric Bledsoe, gathered the ball and put it between his legs in the air before flipping it over his head to a trailing Griffin. As Griffin caught the ball he whipped it clockwise from his left shoulder before throwing down a right-handed windmill.
“I honestly had no idea what he was going to do,” Griffin said after the game. “I thought he was going to throw it off the backboard. Normally in situation like that you’re looking at each other like, ‘What are you going to do?’ But he didn’t even look back and I was just kind of stuck out there. And I saw him do his little between the legs and I’ve seen that before in practice so I just tried to finish.”
1. 2/11/13 at 76ers: The Philadelphia Switch
As mentioned, the Crawford alley-oop was a more spectacular play. But considering Crawford’s role in the dunk was so important, Griffin’s play in Philadelphia is perhaps more impressive on an individual level. It has to be seen in slow motion to fully appreciate. Griffin catches it in the deadly “launch zone” about 12 feet from the hoop on the left side on a side pick-and-roll with Paul. Paul throws a hard, one-handed bounce pass that Griffin gathers with his right-hand. He takes one step towards the basket and leaps. Somehow as Spencer Hawes helps from the opposite side, Griffin avoids him in mid-air, switches to his left hand and throws down a dunk despite being shoved by Hawes. Again, think about the degree of difficulty of this one. A player would be hard pressed to pull it off in practice with consistency and Griffin managed it in a game. Truly unreal.
“I thought he actually should have gotten stuck somewhere in the air before that and never actually made it to the rim,” Jamal Crawford said. “It’s unbelievable to watch him and D.J. (DeAndre Jordan) dunk. It really is. I would pay to watch that.”
BONUS: 4/7/13 vs. Lakers: Finger Roll, or Not
In the fourth game of the season-series with the Lakers, Griffin got loose behind the pack and looked like he was too far away to dunk. He may have thought so, too, appearing to attempt a finger-roll layup until he changed his mind at the last minute and flipped the ball over for a flush. Watch the third replay from the basket camera to get the best view for how difficult the dunk was, particularly considering he was going full speed.
BONUS 2: 12/11/12 at Bulls: Double Alley-Oop
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have mastered the double alley-oop. But Crawford and Griffin nailed the play on their first-ever attempt as teammates. In the middle of the 17-game winning streak, Crawford caught a lob from Griffin and while still in the air lobbed it back to his high-flying teammate.