It’s not everyday that a basketball team compares its star player to some of the biggest global icons in science, politics, and civil rights.
But that’s exactly what the Los Angeles Clippers did to try to entice 28-year-old power forward Blake Griffin to sign a massive contract extension earlier this week, reportedly donning t-shirts featuring his face alongside such historical giants as Mahatma Gandhi, Muhammad Ali, Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln, and Albert Einstein.
Clippers employees wore T-shirt after Blake Griffin's FA meeting likening him to MLK, Obama, Ali, JFK, Lincoln, Gandhi, MJ,Einstein,Mandela. pic.twitter.com/BZtXqhdrWr— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) July 1, 2017
Needless to say, the image has provoked backlash on social media, with plenty of observers not so sure the five-time All Star’s face belongs alongside, say, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The shirts were reportedly worn by Clippers team employees during Griffin’s free agent meeting, meaning they were part of an effort to ingratiate him to the team and convince him to stay. Griffin was drafted by the Clippers in 2009 and has never played for another team.
Celebrating the news of Blake Griffin re-signing with the Clippers and then seeing the shirt the team used in the meeting to re-sign him. pic.twitter.com/G2Vek4sbTb— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 1, 2017
What a great shirt, I can't wait for my kids to learn in history class about how Blake Griffin led the Clippers to another first-round exit😂 https://t.co/Y6U7R4e6Ke— andre (@andremayen_) July 1, 2017
Einstein— Chris Walder (@WalderSports) July 1, 2017
No wonder Chris Paul wanted out.
Blake Griffin tossing the cup of ice over his shoulder to extinguish the triangle shirt waist fire— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) July 1, 2017
blake griffin revealing that the monstars represent the prison industrial complex— Ben Detrick (@bdetrick) July 1, 2017
Blake Griffin refusing to move to the backseat of the Kia Sorento and becoming a civil rights symbol— Jason Lipshutz (@jasonlipshutz) July 1, 2017
Once JJ didn’t see his face beside the greats like JFK, Ali, and Blake Griffin, he knew his time with the Clippers was over https://t.co/LHzVdertoW— Clem (0-1-1 in Wank Battles) (@TheClemReport) July 1, 2017
Given that Griffin’s teams have been perennial playoff also-rans, it’s worth noting that, in the Clippers’s eyes, it doesn’t even require an NBA championship for a frontcourt player to be ranked against some of the most iconic figures of the modern era. If it did, maybe there’d be shirts comparing LeBron James to Malcolm X, or Draymond Green to Mother Teresa.
Griffin’s new deal with the Clippers is set to pay him $178 million over the next five years, one of the richest contracts in league history. As such, he holds the distinction of being the highest-paid “pioneer” on that t-shirt, blowing away Mandela’s $4 million estate―which, in fairness, may have been dampened somewhat by his 27 years as a political prisoner of the South African apartheid government.