LOS ANGELES – Nearly a decade ago, Blake Griffin was calling Wayman Tisdale to see if he could wear his No. 23 jersey at the University of Oklahoma. Now, after Tuesday’s celebration, both jerseys hang in the rafters.
Griffin’s college jersey was honored at halftime as Oklahoma took on Baylor, an experience Griffin said he doesn’t take for granted and will never forget.
“I didn’t know what I was going to feel, what to expect,” Griffin said. “I know any time I come back here, it’s such a family atmosphere. It’s home for me. A little bit overwhelmed with emotion, but like I said, incredibly honored to be up there and very appreciative of everybody that helped me get to this point.”
Long before making his mark at Oklahoma, where he finished his sophomore season the consensus National Player of the Year and earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors, Griffin still remembers the call he made to Tisdale and the nerves that took over as he asked permission to wear the jersey.
At Oklahoma, jerseys get honored in the rafters, but the numbers can still be worn again.
“There was this long pause,” Griffin remembered. “I was worried I’d offended him, and he let out this warm laugh.”
Griffin said Tisdale embraced the idea, and that concept of “one big family” at Oklahoma continued for Griffin throughout his college career – and still continues every time he returns to the school. On Tuesday, the Oklahoma native found himself back in Norman, in the same company as Tisdale, Alvin Adams, Mookie Blaylock and Stacey King as the only players to have their basketball jerseys honored by the school.
“Blake is a huge part of Sooner basketball history and we’re elated to welcome him back and honor him on a night that fits his busy schedule,” OU head coach Lon Kruger said in a release. “He was and continues to be a great ambassador of our university and program.”
Griffin averaged 22.7 points, 14.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game his final season at Oklahoma, leading the nation in rebounds and double-doubles and guiding the Sooners to the Elite Eight. Not long after, he became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft for the Clippers.
As much as he’s already made a name for himself in the NBA as a five-time All-Star, he’ll always remember his time in college. Each time Griffin returns to the school, the countless memories come back to him. What stands out most to Griffin is making a tournament run his sophomore year and playing against the top teams in the country.
“Coming into Lloyd Noble Center every night and hearing the crowd, hearing how amazing everybody’s been, those are all things I’ll never forget,” Griffin said.
Griffin keeps up with the Sooners and said he always enjoys watching when he can. This year, led by Buddy Hield, the Sooners have compiled a 23-6 record.
“It’s awesome, especially right now, the way the team is playing and the way the fans have responded, it’s at an all-time high,” Griffin said. “Like I said, it’s fun to be able to talk to my teammates, talk to people around the league, and people are excited about Oklahoma basketball. There’s a buzz about it. It makes you proud you were part of a program like that.”
Soon, Griffin will be able to talk to his teammates about it back on the court, as he gets closer to a return while rehabbing from hand and quad injuries.
“Very close,” Griffin said. “Not exactly sure on the timetable, but very close.”