Royce Young of the superb OKC blog Daily Thunder grew up with the Griffin brothers, played baseball with them, even rolled a house or two with Blake’s brother, Taylor, back in the day. I asked Royce to share some of his impressions of Blake, the human, and Royce generously agreed:
When most think of Blake Griffin, they think of “powerful,” “strong,” “skilled,” “aggressive,” “No. 1” or “Beast.” But when I think about him, I see that annoying little kid that used to run around and climb on everything during baseball practice. We all called him “Blakey” and everyone was always asking him to get out of the dugout.
You see, I played baseball with Blake’s brother, Taylor, when I was 14. And that summer, it was one of those tournament teams and I think we played something like 60 games. In other words, I got a pretty heavy dose of all things Griffin. Not to complicate the story too much, but I was actually playing on two teams – one for a “league” and one for tournaments. The one with Taylor was the tournament team. And some of the parents on the tournament team weren’t happy I was moonlighting with another squad. They’d complain, they’d shun my parents at ball games and they’d raise hell when their kid would sit and I’d play.
But one family never said a word. I bet you can guess who. In fact, the Griffin’s were actually really the only people that were friendly to my parents at games. Taylor became a good friend and Blake, well, Blake was still that annoying little brother that I actually tried to ignore. Imagine that. But a foundation was laid for an excellent person.
I joined a new team the next summer and while Taylor was in a Bible study with me at church and we still hung out now and again, I really never saw Blake again. Except the first time I interviewed him on campus last year, he remembered me. He looked and me and said, “Hey, you’re Royce Young. You played baseball with Taylor. Good to see you man.” I shook his hand and said the usual crap, but seriously, this guy is going to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, and he remembers me? He even remembered something Taylor and I did. “Didn’t you go TPing with my brother? And didn’t you guys get caught or something?” Yes, yes we did. On both accounts.
Some people are just saying Blake is “normal.” I guess that’s how you could describe it. As normal as a 6-10, 260 pound monster can be. But personality wise, he is. He’s a jokester that supposedly has a spot on impression of Jeff Capel and Michael Phelps. He’s very witty and may end up being a bit like a Dwight Howard in the humor department. You will never once have to worry about him saying something stupid, doing something stupid or being something stupid. The guy’s every bit you and me – except for the 6-10 and awesome at basketball part. (Unless of course Karl Malone is reading this…)
You’re going to hear a lot about Blake and his family and where he came from over the next few weeks. Homeschooled and then moved to a mid-level private Christian school. Raised right. Great parents. Wonderful family influence. But it’s all legit. Blake is a great guy. And that’s because he comes from an excellent family. He’s not your typical lottery player. He doesn’t care about himself, he doesn’t care about fast cars and beautiful women (well, he cares about those things, but that’s not ALL he cares about) and most importantly all he wants to do is play ball and make his team better. That’s it. He didn’t enter the draft for all the money and the stardom. He entered because he was ready, as he said, to take his game to the next level.
Blake took so much punishment and abuse this year and never once lost his cool. Every time, he just turned and walked away. He’s incredibly level-headed because he understands why other players are doing it. He keeps his calm and never loses sight of what he’s trying to do. And that type of thing translates off the court as well. He’s going to always keep his head, no matter the situation.
You’ve got to understand about Blake is he didn’t take the new “traditional” route to becoming a McDonald’s All-American and then National Player of the Year and then likely top pick. He didn’t use a hype machine. He played AAU ball (with Heisman winner Sam Bradford, mind you), but he never “campaigned” if you know what I mean. He didn’t have advisors or mentors. He just played basketball and was good at it. He doesn’t have any kind of baggage, and the only thing that comes attached with Blake is his family. And let me tell you, his family is good baggage to have.