NBA Closeup (Blake Griffin)

By Stephen Copeland
From the 2010 Fall Issue

"Telling Blake to sit out is like saying, 'Okay, don't breathe.'"

The words were Tommy Griffin’s, the father of 2009 No. 1 NBA draft pick Blake Griffin, as he reminisced on Blake's high school career. Tommy, the head coach at Oklahoma Christian School, had just given Blake his first start at the beginning of his sophomore season. That's when Blake abruptly went down with a foot injury that sidelined him 6-8 weeks, something difficult "for a kid that had been waiting to get to that moment as a starter."

Best to order an oxygen tank.

Five years later, the scenario was all-too familiar. He had worked hard. His confidence was flying high. And after two acclaimed seasons at the University of Oklahoma, he was picked No. 1 in the NBA draft by the Los Angeles Clippers and named the Summer League MVP. In the Clippers' final preseason game, however, right when Blake broke through the Hornets' defense for a highlight dunk, he broke his left kneecap.

"I think it's one thing for a rookie to get hurt, but another thing for a player to be hyped up as much as he had been," says Blake's older brother Taylor Griffin, who plays for the Phoenix Suns. "Everyone was looking forward to seeing what he could do out there. It makes it even harder."

His knee didn't heal properly, and in January Blake found out he would need surgery and miss his entire rookie season. It was the biggest injury of his career - and at the biggest time of his career.

"I was just excited about the opportunity to play in the NBA," Blake says. "I was ready to go, but everything came crashing down, so to speak. But these things happen. That was God's way of just humbling me."

Blake, although unbelievably competitive, also realizes that God’s plan trumps his. No matter how bleak the situation, Blake's positivity outweighs the negative reality - a trait he learned from his father.

"If you feel sorry for yourself and talk negatively, that's how you will feel and act, but if you look at the positive...I can't tell you a situation I've been in where I've acted positively and got something negative out of it."

Now, Blake says he is 100 percent and ready (again) for his rookie season debut. He has remained grounded in his faith despite the trials of last season - even in a happening place like Los Angeles with the free time he's had.

"My lifestyle hasn't changed much except getting to go to the beach," Blake jokes. And his faith has grown significantly.

"It was frustrating, but at the same time, I know everything happens for a reason," Blake says. "I don't know what the reason is, but only God knows. I just have to wait and let his plan unveil."

A full year off the hardwood, and Blake Griffin is still breathing.

Click here for Blake Griffin’s profile, featuring Blake’s stats and highlight videos.

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