Blake Griffin on jean shorts and free throws

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
11:49
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive


The start of the basketball season brings giddy anticipation, renewed goals ... and new ad campaigns from NBA stars.

Blake Griffin is back, wearing with his ubiquitous red track suit as he cruises around town in a Kia Optima.

Though the feature isn't available to North American consumers, Griffin's vehicle can transport him in a flash him back in time. In the first ad, Griffin returns to 1997, a world where OMC's "How Bizarre" is inescapable and an 8-year-old Griffin plays football (wrong sport) and, of far greater concern, wears jean shorts.

In the second spot being rolled out for the start of the season, Griffin travels back to 1995 and takes a self-deprecating jab at his lousy free throw shooting.

Griffin's ability to simultaneously charm and irritate NBA fans makes him one of the most fascinating and polarizing stars to come along in a while. Take a spin through Griffin's Twitter feed, watch his off-court work on YouTube and engage in conversation with him, and it's as if Griffin's professional job is to be effortlessly cool. He's really good at it, but in a likable, deprecatory way that makes him come across as entirely authentic (in contrast to, say, Dwight Howard, who seems so desperate to endear himself to us that it makes him a little sad).

On the court, Griffin's favorable ratings are flipped. Whether it's because he deliberately tries to embarrass opponents or because he works the officials to death every trip downcourt, I know a lot of basketball fans -- thoughtful people who aren't prone to forming wholesale opinions about athletes they don't know! -- who loathe Griffin's on-court persona.

Meanwhile, if you catch him after a game in the locker room, Griffin can often be programmatic, grunting monosyllabic answers on the record that offer no window into what he's thinking or feeling -- even though you know this is a guy who thinks and feels in interesting ways.

Maybe we're living through a new era of celebrity, a period where young athletes are informed by having grown up on "The Real World" and talking to webcams. Maybe Griffin enjoys the balancing act of walking the tightrope from Deadpan Blake to Aggro Blake.

Or maybe he just wants to keep us guessing.

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