In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins, Los Angeles Clippers star player Blake Griffin explained his “love-hate” relationship with dunking. Known for being one of the best dunkers in NBA history, Griffin says he always wanted to be a complete player and felt as though dunks started to “overshadow other parts of my game” in the early stages of his career.
“I felt like that’s all that was being showcased,” Griffin said. “That’s why I shied away from it a little over the years. I kind of had a love-hate with it.”
Griffin was a dunking machine when he first entered the NBA. He recorded a total of 214 dunks in his rookie season with the Clippers, according to Basketball-Reference, and followed it up with 192 dunks in the 2011-12 season and 202 dunks in the 2012-13 season. He then started to decline in 2013-14, culminating in 68 dunks in 61 games last season.
Although it hasn’t stopped him from being one of the most exciting players in the league – Griffin, for example, had a ferocious dunk over Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle in the first game of this season – he’s gone from 19.3 percent of his shot attempts being dunks to 7.8 percent of them being dunks.
In return, Griffin has expanded other areas of his game. While he entered the NBA as an inconsistent shooter, he has since developed into a reliable threat from outside the paint. He used to be most comfortable operating from midrange, but he’s beginning to venture out to the perimeter with an average of 5.2 3-point attempts per game this season. Only three power forwards have made and attempted more 3-pointers than him thus far, which is a stark difference from his rookie season when he attempted a total of 24 3-pointers.
The transition from volume dunker to capable shooter has helped Griffin become as complete of a power forward as there is in the NBA. There’s a lot of pressure on him to perform this season now that Chris Paul is no longer on the Clippers, but he’s off to an impressive start with 22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. If he can get the Clippers into the playoffs with those numbers, he could even make a return to the MVP conversation, much of which would be a testament to how he has evolved as a player.