The new slam-dunk Christian

GetReligion readers who are basketball fans — especially those who follow NBA hoops — know that this entire weekend is, semi-officially, a giant launch party for a young man named Blake Griffin. He is a rookie (sort of, but that’s part of the tale) who was selected to play in the All-Star Game and last night he literally jumped over an automobile (while a gospel choir sang, live, on the court) to win the slam-dunk media festival.

Griffin is hotter than hot right now, a humble guy who is already a superstar — via YouTube and ESPN highlights — from sea to shining sea.

The young man has a very interesting life story, including a strong home-school and Christian high-school theme that is linked to his strong Christian family background. In fact, he is a pastor’s son.

This side of his life is quite well known, if you dig even a few mouse clicks into his story.

In particular, the young man’s father has not been silent on faith issues. A sample?

“We’ve deviated (in America) from our past to where we are right now. Here’s a nation founded on the opportunity for freedom of religion, and every time you look around, there’s people saying God has to be taken out of this, out of this,” says father Tommy Griffin.

It will surprise no one that the empire called ESPN.com has a gigantic feature story up right now that asks: What makes Griffin tick? Why is he such a humble, yet strong, young man? Where did he come from? Where is he going?

Let me stress that it was not, in my opinion, absolutely necessary to include Griffin’s faith in this story. However, I find it hard to believe that the editors failed to do so in light of some of the themes included in the story. Here is a long passage that captures the feel of this piece, with the help of a Los Angeles Clipper teammate who has become a close friend:

“I set a goal to be an All-Star this year,” Griffin reveals. “I know that’s an extremely high goal for your first year, so thankfully it happened. But I’m never going to be afraid to set high goals because they might not happen.

“When I look in the future, I want to set extremely high goals. I think that’s important. Because the higher you set your goals, the more motivation you have and the harder you work.”

Chris Kaman was among the first to really see it. All summer he watched Griffin arrive at the Clippers’ training facility in Playa Vista, Calif., around 7:30 a.m., before the morning marine layer had burned off. All summer he watched the way the kid worked.

It was shocking, Kaman thought, how much Griffin had added to his game since last season. The way his jumper was falling now, the amount of knowledge he’d absorbed simply by watching from the sidelines. Griffin might have a few adjustments to make once the real games started, but he was clearly ready for just about anything that might come his way. …

Though he hasn’t been on the court since Dec. 5, Kaman has stayed close by the rookie. He sits next to him on flights and bus rides, offering counsel or just an ear.

It makes for an interesting pairing. As men, they are very different.

In other words, these two young men are very different — yet they have clicked. The older player is concerned about the young superstar.

You caught that they are radically different?

Griffin is a highly regimented perfectionist who dreamed of being in the Special Forces growing up in Oklahoma City. He likes to stay home, watch DVDs and eat one of the personalized meals he has delivered to his house in Manhattan Beach. Every day he eats between 5,300 and 5,500 calories. The carbohydrates, protein and fat are all carefully calibrated to his specific needs.

Kaman is an independent, outdoorsy type from western Michigan. He likes to go deep-sea fishing, fly model helicopters around his backyard and eat prodigious amounts of pie.

Other than playing for the Clippers, they have very little in common. Somehow the relationship works.

All they share is the Clippers and hoops, you see. Somehow the relationship works, but this is a mystery.

The connection apparently has nothing to do with Kaman’s faith and his years in Christian schools. As one mini-profile of Kaman notes:

Chris Kaman is an outspoken Christian and gives credit to God for all his success in the NBA. He admits to praying on a regular basis and believes God has a plan for him. In his seven-year career at the Clippers, Kaman has averaged 11.7 PPG with 8.4 rebounds.

What a strange connection these two young men have. They have “very little” in common, yet that little bit of something has had an impact.

Oh well. Bless be the ties that bind. Cue the gospel choir.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://brandondutcher.blogspot.com/ Brandon Dutcher

    Griffin’s parents are wonderful. I remember when Taylor and Blake were young kids. At our church, when families would come forward for communion, Tommy Griffin would always walk behind the two boys with a hand on each boy’s shoulder. I remember having the distinct impression that the father in this family had struck just the right balance: firm (without being dictatorial) yet loving (without being permissive). You could tell for certain that this was one dad who, shall we say, had the situation under control.

  • James

    “He admits to praying on a regular basis…”

    Am I the only one bothered by the stigma that oozes from this phrase, as if praying daily is something one must admit to?

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “What a strange connection these two young men have. They have “very little” in common, yet that little bit of something has had an impact.”

    Nice observation.