No, Blake, No! Say it Ain’t So! The Sports Philospher Seeks to Save a Young Man’s Career

May 28, 2009
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By Brad Eastland, the Sports Philosopher


      Luck has so much to do with one’s lot in Life.   No one wants to admit it.   But it’s the truth.

      Take the case of Blake Griffin.   He doesn’t know it yet, but his life is about to take a series of unfortunate turns, all because the wrong ping pong ball got sucked up the chute.

      For those of you unaware, Blake Griffin is the best player in college basketball.   This last year, playing for the University of Oklahoma, he averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds a game.   He’s a beast.    

      He’s also only a sophomore.   Still a kid.   Still two more years of college yet to enjoy.   Except that the lad has already decided to come out for the 2009 NBA draft, he informed the world of his decision weeks ago, putting him at the mercy of whichever team might win the “Draft Lottery”.    Well, a few days ago, they did indeed do that Bingo-esque thing they do with the ping pong balls to see which team will pick first on draft day, June  25th.   What they do is put 1,000 ping pong balls into the hopper, and whichever team’s ball gets sucked out is the winner, it’s totally random.   This year, the winning team only had 177 ping pong balls in the hopper out of a thousand.   But they lucked out.   We now know which team has the #1 pick in the draft, and officials of that team have already stated clearly and candidly, with pride and without equivocation, that they intend to draft Blake Griffin.   Since he’s the best player available, ‘makes perfect sense.

      So which team was it that won the 2009 NBA Draft Lottery, you ask impatiently?

      Yep.   I’m sad to report that it was our very own Los Angeles Clippers.

      Bad luck.   Only 177 ping pong balls out of a thousand.   That’s only 17.7%.   Meaning there was an 82.3% chance Griffin would have gone to another team, any other team.   Therefore, that’s the only way I can put it, people; bad, bad, very bad luck.   Because as anyone who follows professional basketball knows, playing for the Clippers falls somewhere between enduring basketball purgatory and falling all the way into basketball hell.   It’s not merely that the Clippers are always bad (only a couple playoff appearances over the last 30 years or so), but rather that they are usually embarrassing.   Most of it has to do with their clueless, moronic owner, Donald T. Sterling, who would consume an entire column by itself.   Put it this way:  Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis takes a lot of heat for being a pathetic senile malevolent old idiot, right?   Compared to Sterling, Davis comes off as a cross between Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi. 

      The comical part of this is, Clipper Assistant General Manager Neil Olshey revealed recently that they had decided who they were going to select in the 2009 draft all the way back in “June of 2008”.   Which means the Clippers have been planning on foisting all this bad luck upon poor unsuspecting Blake Griffin for a whole year.  (ouch!)

     Now Blake, I know this isn’t your fault.   And I know you’re excited about the prospect of becoming a very rich young man.   But trust me, playing for the Clippers can not only be hazardous to your career, it can also be hazardous to your health.   Danny Manning was drafted No. 1 overall by the Clippers in 1988.   He was always injured while on the Clippers, and never did realize his pro potential.   In recent years, star power forward Elton Brand labored in virtual obscurity in Clipper red and white, finally jumped ship last year for the big money in Philadelphia, but wound up missing most of the season with a badly injured shoulder.   The Clipper jinx?   You bet.   He tried to get out, but it was too late.   And now he’s another Danny Manning, he’ll never be what he was supposed to be.

      And then there’s the curious case of our own Lamar Odom.   He’s on the Lakers now, out of Clipper Purgatory, but I would argue that playing for the Clippers for four years early in his career ruined him as a basketball player forever.   Does any NBA player have a lower basketball I.Q. than Lamar Odom?   Is there any player in the league who demonstrates poorer basic fundamentals shooting free throws and boxing out—which is to say failing to box out—on the boards?   Has there ever been a player (including even the comically legendary Happy Hairston) who misses more shot attempts inside of four feet??? 

      Wait a minute, you’re probably thinking.   Odom is still a pretty good player, isn’t he?   Sure he is, and that’s the point.   He’s “pretty good”.   But is that enough?   Are you kidding me?   This is a 7-foot guy who can dribble like a guard and jump like a kangaroo, with all the talent and coordination in the world.   He’s a freak.   He should be one of the best players in the game, a superstar.   If he played up to his potential and ability, with Kobe and Pau doing the heavy lifting I’m telling you the Lakers would never lose a playoff series!   My explanation makes the most sense.   The Clippers ruined him.

      (My apologies to Odom.   Yes, he’s the biggest underachiever in the game, but I hear he’s also the nicest guy in the world.   Of course, that’s also part of his problem.   Too nice.   No wonder the Celtics pushed him around in last year’s Finals….)

      Okay, Blake.   Let’s assume for a moment that I have convinced you that playing for the Clippers is a bad idea.   What’s the alternative?   Fair point.   It’s one thing to diagnose the problem, the trick is to come up with an actual solution.   Well, fear not, sports fans.   No one can say that The Sports Philosopher isn’t all about trying to make the world better for everybody.   I’m here to help.

      As I see it, Blake, you’ve got two choices.

      Choice No. 1, go back to college.   You’re only a sophomore.   You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.   Don’t squander your youth.   Be a kid.   See what next year’s Draft Lottery brings, or the year after that.

      Choice No. 2?   You can pull an Elway.

      We all remember John Elway.   An all-time NFL great, a Hall-of-Famer, a football legend if ever there was one.   But it almost didn’t happen.   He was slated to be the No. 1 pick in the 1983 NFL draft, and the Baltimore Colts—once the very model of a pro sports team but by 1983 a dying franchise—had already indicated they were going to take him.   Elway put his foot down.   Said he wouldn’t go to Baltimore.   Whined like a baby.   Even threatened to go play minor league baseball if the Colts drafted him.   Anyway, the Colts caved in, traded Elway, their owner wound up achieving eternal scorn and infamy the very next year by secretly moving the entire franchise to Indianapolis in the middle of the night, and Elway, his petulance and cowardice rewarded, found fame, fortune, and two Super Bowl titles in Denver.   Five years ago, Eli Manning felt the same way about the San Diego Chargers drafting him as Elway had 20 years earlier about Baltimore.   So he pulled an Elway.   Said he wouldn’t go.   Wouldn’t budge.   The Chargers caved, and Manning has already won his Super Bowl with the New York Football Giants.   Y’see, Blake?   Sometimes whining and acting like a spoiled child works.

      I believe I am uniquely qualified to comment on this sad state of affairs.   Over 20 years ago, I wrote a novel about the Los Angeles Clippers, called THE BASKETBALL EXPATRIATE*.   (*published by Boson Books of North Carolina,   I wrote this book long before Lamar Odom played for the Clippers, or Elton Brand, or even Danny Manning.   Without giving away the ending, let me just say that it is a story about a young man who gets drafted by the eternally pathetic Clippers, and soon afterward every compartment of his life becomes infected by the Clipper malaise, and his basketball life, personal life, love life, sex life, and overall mental health all suffer accordingly.   Yep, I was all over this Clipper thing ‘far back as the late 80s.   That’s why I can help.

      But I’m being selfish too.   I’d just hate it if my novel were someday to be trumpeted as not a singular transcendent work of Art, but rather as merely a cautionary tale mirroring the short sad life of a guy called Blake Griffin….

      You have to feel bad for Blake Griffin.   It’s not his fault the lottery went the Clippers’ way.   Bad luck.   It happens.

      But that doesn’t mean you have to take it.    Seriously, if anyone out there happens to know Blake Griffin, please put this column in front of his face.   Whatever you do, Blake, don’t let the Clippers take you, don’t allow yourself to descend into basketball hell.   The actual draft isn’t until June 25th, there’s still time.   Go back to Oklahoma or pull an Elway.   Make a deal with the Devil, before it’s too late….

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, and sports nut, in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written four novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of Brad’s fiction work can be discovered within the links below :       




 The Sports Philosopher

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