NEW ORLEANS – Blake Griffin is one of Hall of Famer Karl Malone’s favorite players.
“I always loved watching him play and how hard he played,” Malone said during Friday’s media availability for All-Star Saturday Night. “I just love the way he plays. There are about 10 or 12 guys that if they’re playing on TV I’ll watch them. When he comes off the floor or something like that I’ll change the channel and go back.”
Griffin, who is an All-Star for the fourth consecutive season, is in the midst of the best regular season of his career. He’s averaging 24.2 points per game with 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals. He has nine games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds and has helped lead the Clippers to a 37-18 record at the All-Star break, one game off the pace for the best mark in franchise history through 55 games.
It’s arguable that Griffin, 24, is incomparable. He possesses the stature of a power forward, the ability to flourish in space like an NFL linebacker, the ball-handling and floor vision of a guard and a knack to finish over and through defenders like perhaps no one.
But among the players throughout history Griffin is compared, Malone is most often cited. They are similar sizes: Griffin 6-foot-10, 252 pounds; Malone 6-foot-9, 250 pounds through most of his 19-year playing career. Malone, like Griffin, showed dramatic improvement in his shooting numbers from his first season to his fourth and they both were All-NBA second team members by their second year.
Of course, there are differences, according to Malone.
“Number one, I never jumped like that,” the 2010 Hall of Fame inductee and NBA’s second all-time leading scorer said. “I jumped when I had to. As far as the physical play, I liked that. I just like his demeanor. I would like to see him get mad one time. Me, it didn’t take too much to get me riled up, but Blake is just one of those guys who just plays the game no matter what.”
Malone said he first admired Griffin when the Clippers’ star was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. His son, Karl Malone Jr., was a top high school football player and attended a football camp in Norman when Griffin was paving the way to being the No. 1 overall selection in the 2009 NBA Draft.
“Growing up, my younger son loved the Oklahoma Sooners,” Malone said. “So, we went there for a football camp, so right off the bat I knew who Blake was. I didn’t spend any time but I started watching him because my son loved Oklahoma. He ended up going to LSU, of course, but I always watched Blake coming out of there.”
When told of Malone’s comments, Griffin said he was humbled.
“It’s an honor. I grew up watching Karl Malone and obviously he’s one of the best power forwards to ever play the game and had consistent success. That’s an honor and I’m humbled by that. But I’ve got a lot of work to do to get to where he was.”