[UPDATE: Hold on to 'Booing Blake' on this particular night; Griffin is out against the Wizards with a left hamstring strain.]
The Washington Wizards’ futility over the past four and a half seasons has had several consequences. Their games are no longer broadcast on TNT, ESPN or ABC; NBATV, sometimes. National pundits rarely discuss the team, unless they’re mocking them. NBA bloggers, many of whom became relevant around the time Gilbert Arenas was penning weekly posts for NBA.com, now associate Wizards history with the antics of JaVale McGee, Nick Young, and Andray Blatche. (The days of Gilbertology—and the playoffs—seem all but forgotten.) The Phone Booth now only sells out when fans of opposing teams buy tickets.
Another important fallout has been the loss of a true rival. Wizards fans of this generation always point to the postseason battles against the Cavs as a treasured memory. They were heated and controversial affairs—who can forget the origin of the Crab Dribble? Followers of each team genuinely disliked the other. DeShawn Stevenson and LeBron James definitely didn’t fake their disdain for one another. Even Soulja Boy, reliably relevant during the aughts, was somehow involved.
The Wizards eventually came out on the short end in their series against Cleveland, but they still had an everlasting emotional impact on the fan base. D.C. was united in its hatred of LeBron James and the Cavaliers. (For me, the name Damon Jones will forever trigger an immediate gag reflex; I imagine Boston Red Sox fans feel the same way about Aaron F’ng Boone.) But after Gil’s painful locker room flame out, the contemptuous relationship abruptly ended. With the Wizards now wallowing in NBA’s cellar, nothing has since replaced it.
Part of a good rivalry’s make-up is not just being able to root against the other team, but also being able to root against specific players. Disgust towards LeBron was obvious, but I also loathed Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao, Drew Gooden, and even Daniel “Boobie” Gibson. I was selfishly happy that Antawn Jamison never got a title with Cleveland, and I was cool with “King” James breaking Cleveland’s heart when he took his talents to South Beach. The national LeBron backlash from the public relations debacle known as “The Decision” seemed to justify past wicked pixels from Wizards Nation.
Wizards enthusiasts still voice their displeasure inside the Verizon Center, but most of these jeers are now reserved for individual players, not entire teams. Kwame Brown gets it, J.J. Reddick disgust made a comeback this season, and booing Andray Blatche will never, ever stop.
It is now time to induct a new member into the Wizards Hall of Villains:
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin.
On the surface, Griffin is an exciting young player who can jump out the gym. But despite his big game potential, he comes across as a cheap-shot giving, flopping, whining cry baby. He possesses some of the same arrogant characteristics that made the Wiz faithful dislike LeBron. Griffin bulldozes into defenders, then complains when he doesn’t get a call. He is often up to dirty tricks and gets away with numerous fouls. Griffin is essentially a bully, but the refs treat him with kid gloves. You see it in almost every Clippers-Wizards matchup.
Griffin was gifted favorable calls in his first game versus the Wizards, a double-OT thriller in 2011. Griffin probably committed a dozen infractions over the course of the game, but didn’t foul out until there were 20 seconds left in the second overtime period. His non-stop bitching rubbed many fans the wrong way.
Griffin also has a bit of history with Washington’s Trevor Booker. In last season’s lone match-up, Booker was trying to inbound the ball after a Clippers bucket, but Blake, barking at the refs for a foul call, wouldn’t give up the rock. A tug of war ensued and both players were slapped with technical fouls.
Then this play happened last month in Los Angeles:
Griffin and Booker were both issued fouls. After the game, Booker was still heated, and he demanded Griffin be reprimanded for the cheap shot.
“He should’ve got kicked out of the game for it,” Booker said of Griffin. “Hopefully they go review it after the game—and I’m looking for a suspension, at least. I mean, he elbowed me to my face.”
Griffin never received any punishment.
During a media day interview before this season, Booker was extremely happy about the new flopping rules. He emphasized over and over how much he hates floppers. He wouldn’t provide any names, but reading between the lines, I got a sense that Griffin would make his guilty list. Just look at this Griffin acting job while being hit with a phantom Nene elbow:
John Wall would have been named Rookie of the Year in 2009-10 if not for Blake Griffin, who was technically a first-year player after missing his rookie season with a knee injury. Ex-Wizards center JaVale McGee would have won the slam dunk contest in 2011, if not for Blake Griffin (whose showing didn’t earn him a spot in finals—his inclusion guaranteed him the championship because winner was decided by fan voting … the Kia fix was in).
Why should you hate Blake Griffin? In summary:
- Anointed the Association’s Golden Child and is never whistled him for a foul? Check.
- Benefits from dubious rules, screwing multiple Wizards players out of awards? Check.
- Flops like a flopper? Check.
- Destroys the Wizards every time they play? Check.
- Past beef with a current Wizards player? Check.
- Proven to be a dirty player versus the Wizards? Check.
- Just an overall jerk on basketball court? Check.
The evidence makes Blake Austin Griffin a shoo-in for the Wizards Hall of Villains. Hopefully the Washington home crowd will congratulate him in the appropriate manner this evening: