There is a case to be made that no one in sports is more of an instigator than Blake Griffin.
Griffin, the phenom who emerged from Oklahoma as a power forward prodigy and matriculated his way to Los Angeles where obituaries were written for those who dared defy his attempts at dunking a basketball were embarrassed people at a rapid rate. For Timofey Mozgov, the act of being "put on a poster" lionized the admittedly shy and timid Russian big man. Getting Mozgov'd became a thing.
If you watch the video, you'll notice that Griffin has a tendency to put his crotch in people's face when dunking on them. Mind you, the act of dunking on someone is already an emasculating act, and the act itself usually ends up putting one's crotch near one's facial regions, but Blake has a way of going above and beyond in putting his crotch near one's face.
This video evidence could be considered circumstantial, but then there's that one time where Griffin actually shoved the trainer's head directly into his crotch while receiving some treatment on the bench.
If this event occurs in virtually any other environment and the dynamics of the relationship between the two people are normalized, Griffin's act results in a likely engagement of fisticuffs. Instead, a low-level employee is subjugated to lewd public harassment on national television by a superstar abusing his power.
However, Griffin's ability to instigate isn't relegated to dunking on people.
The reality is that Griffin is arguably one of the smartest players in the NBA. In some respects, he might be too smart for his own good. Griffin has always been known to get into skirmishes on the basketball court, more often than the average player. The Golden State Warriors have risen along with (and surpassed) the Los Angeles Clippers in the last five years, and with it means that a rivalry of sorts has formed. During this, we've seen the following:
- Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut both scuffled with Griffin on Christmas in 2013. Green elbowed Griffin in the mouth, then shortly after Bogut and Griffin engaged in a mini-brawl. Green and Griffin were both ejected, with Draymond noting that Griffin may or may not have instigated it with some choice words.
- That time when then head coach Mark Jackson accused Griffin of intentionally bumping into him and stepping on him while he inbounded the ball?
- Festus Ezeli fouled Griffin on the arm after getting beat on a blow by. Griffin turned himself into a prima donna soccer player and did a scorpion kick flop maneuver. (The Russian judge gave Griffin 8 out of 10 stars)
- Remember when David Lee was totally fed up with Griffin and told him to "STOP FLOPPING!"
This is what I wrote over at SB Nation about this very issue in December 2013, entitled "Why NBA players don't like Blake Griffin":
That's four separate incidents involving just Griffin and the Warriors! There are plenty of other altercations where Griffin is instigating something against other teams. From being accused of flopping to trying to play innocent, it's clear Griffin is no dummy. He's keenly aware of what's going on at all times, and while many can appreciate an instigator from time to time, it's easy to see how a superstar like Griffin could grow weary on the soul.
The transgressions have piled up against Griffin over the years, and the calls for the Clippers' star to retaliate have from those inside and outside the organization. As the Washington Post noted, both Chauncey Billups and Kobe Bryant both came out in the press and said that he needed to do more, to fight back.
Griffin came out after the fact and stated in an ESPN interview the following:
I've never really worried about being called soft or people thinking I'm soft. If anybody wants to step and take that challenge I'm more than happy -- off the court -- because I don't want to get suspended. It's not something that I dwell on. I've never really had a problem with being soft.
On Tuesday, Griffin was found to have twice punched the Clippers' equipment manager in the face. Griffin and the manager, Matias Testi, are apparently good friends and were having dinner in Toronto when the two of them got into an argument. Griffin punched him while inside the restaurant, then followed him outside and punched him again. According to ESPN's Michael Eaves', the escalation occurred because the two exchanged jokes to each other and Griffin got sensitive and took offense.
Griffin is slated to miss possibly 1-2 months of game action and could hurt the Clippers playoff seeding, which, if the Clips were to bow out early in the playoffs – this iteration of the best basketball team in Los Angeles could be blown up.
Oh, and Griffin will likely be suspended and/or fined by the team and the NBA for punching an employee.
Ultimately, this comes down to respect. In a barbaric sense, physically demonstrating what you're capable of is a simple way of gaining one's admiration. In a basketball sense, winning is the ultimate way to gain respect. The Clippers, for all their growth and development, still seem flawed. Players like Matt Barnes and Kenyon Martin were willing to stand up for Griffin for the betterment of the team, but even then that desire to stand up for someone who won't do it themselves waned.
Being "soft" might end up derailing the Blake Griffin Era in Los Angeles prematurely, or at the least the current Big Three of the Clippers. Maybe we should've all seen this coming a long ago, as there's nothing more simple a man can do for than stand up for himself.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”