Last night's Heat-Clips game was noteworthy not for Heat-Clips, but for Heat-Blake Griffin. The best team in basketball against a throwback to a more physical era. So young, so monstrous. He did not disappoint, although he eventually must.
It's not the numbers that define Griffin, although his 30th double-double in his 37th game does impress. It's the fact that a 21-year old kid can be so physical and so athletic that seasoned vets look like they don't belong on the same court.
He's been something of a cipher beyond his highlight reel, allowing us to project whatever we want onto him. But last night he showed a little passion, getting into it with Mario Chalmers, and we like it. Even more, we like the double-pump dunk on the ensuing possession — past Wade, and Bosh didn't want any part of it. He who lets ball do the talking, let ball get in the last word.
We haven't been more excited about a young player since, well, LeBron. And there's something about a young player that inspires more poetry and projection than even an established superstar. "To An Athlete Dying Young" could never have been written about a 30-something. It's the limitless potential, the ability to ascribe fantastic future feats. For those first few years, you expected LeBron on any given night to invent a move no one's ever seen before. Now, you can't help but think Kevin Durant could score 100 if he wanted to. And would it shock you if Blake Griffin was able to separate the backboard from the stanchion through pure downward force?
They rarely do, of course. LeBron lived up to the hype and more, but sometime after the 2007 Finals, he became another basketball player. We got the sense that we knew what we had. Durant has another couple of years. Griffin's just getting started, and we're almost afraid to see what he can do before he learns that humans shouldn't be able to do that.
Titles are won after that changeover from myth to superstar. The player figures out what he has in himself, and only then can he harness it into some kind of kinetic energy. It's not nearly as romantic as potential energy. Even now, 12 hours after the game, I'm thinking less about what Blake Griffin did, and more about what he's going to do tomorrow.