– This is Blake Griffin. This is Zach Randolph. As regular citizens, I’m pretty sure they’ve never hated each other, or even cared about each other. But here’s Blake and Zach at work. Things were different on the court. These two headlined a rivalry
between Western Conference contenders opposed not just in objective, but in style, and reputation. Griffin was star power
forward for the glitzy, high flying L.A. Clippers, AKA Lob City. Randolph was star power
forward for the rough, rowdy Memphis Grizzlies,
AKA Grit and Grind, and their on court battles looked like more than just basketball. This was basket-beef. These two actually could
have been teammates. I guess they kind of were for a moment. The 2008-2009 Los Angeles
Clippers were very bad. That’s despite acquiring Zach Randolph in a trade with the salary dumping Knicks early in the season. Randolph averaged over 20
points and nine rebounds a game as this L.A. squad’s power forward, but he lost a big chunk
of games to injuries, plus a smaller chunk to suspension after he fed Lou Amundson
this knuckle sandwich. The Clippers struck the right combination of losing and luck to win
the 2009 NBA Draft Lottery. But there was an interesting wrinkle. The mostly agreed upon top
prospect in that draft class was a power forward, Oklahoma
sophomore Blake Griffin. Randolph had that position held down, although when you stop
to consider the fact that a sweet shooting, overpowering,
floor bound slowpoke like Randolph, and a nimble
sky demon like Griffin both count as power forwards,
you begin to question the utility of position designations. Griffin had more dunks
in his rookie season than Zach Randolph had
in his entire career. These are not the same kind of player. But yeah, when the time
came, the Clippers just put all that aside and used
their top pick on Griffin. And a few days later, they
solved the apparent glut, and guaranteed Griffin a starting spot by trading Randolph to
the Grizzlies for nothing. Well, they got Quentin Richardson, but didn’t want him, and
immediately dumped him. Because of cold NBA financial
rules, Quentin Richardson was the 2009 equivalent of nothing. Randolph’s new team had also been bad, bad enough in ’09 to get the second pick, which they used to draft Hasheem Thabeet over some other guys. But over the next couple seasons, the Grizzlies improved, and
established a new identity under coach Lionel Hollins. Randolph joined Rudy Gay
and rising center Marc Gasol in the front court. Mike Conley emerged as
the leader at point guard, and Tony Allen arrived in
2010 to both utter and embody the Grizzlies new motto, Grit and Grind. By 2011, Memphis was a playoff team defined by rough, throttling defense. They made games slow and
ugly, and they loved to scrap, a perfect fit for the
man they called Z-Bo, who came into his own as a real star and relished threatening rival big men like Kendrick Perkins. – I’ll meet you outside–
– I’ll beat your (bleep)! – Speaking of rival big
men, the Clippers also grew into a playoff team, although
it took a little bit longer. Griffin missed the whole ’09, ’10 season with a knee injury. Blake’s brilliant debut
came the following year in which he was the rare rookie to make the All-Star team, Dunk Contest too. L.A. still wasn’t very
good, but they had a star. Then things escalated in an
instant when the Clippers acquired Chris Paul
before the 2012 season. Suddenly Griffin and DeAndre
Jordan had the league’s best point guard around to
toss them alley-oops. Blake gave the new Clippers their nickname the moment he found out about the trade. – Are you serious?
– It had to be the Lob City! – Oh my goodness.
– Lob City. L.A. had marketable superstars, an elegant, high flying offense, and by season’s end, a healthy 56 wins. The Clippers’ first playoff
series in years would come against a team with the
same record, the Grizzlies. It was Lob City versus the Grindhouse, flashy versus grimy, a
stark stylistic contrast epitomized by the Griffin,
Randolph match up. Those two already had some
physical regular season battles under their belt, but
nothing resembling beef. In their first couple match ups, Randolph held the upper
hand against the kid who replaced him, but
called Griffin a monster, and a tremendous player. In this first playoff match up, Randolph wasn’t quite himself, still playing back into form after missing most of the season recovering
from a knee injury. In the opening minutes of
the first round series, Griffin threw Randolph to
the floor with a hard foul. It looked for a moment like
the older, still recovering player was hurt, but then
Z-Bo did a few push-ups to show the Memphis crowd
he was ready for war. Ready or not, Randolph played
kind of poorly in that game. The Clippers made a huge
comeback to take game one, and went on to lead the
series three games to one. The Grizzlies grew increasingly irritable, not just about the losing,
but about perceived theatrics from the Clippers, flopping
and flailing to sell fouls. In game four, Randolph
put a foul on Griffin, and followed through
with a little chest bump. Blake didn’t respond, and
was described as smiling when he talked about that
moment after the win. He was feeling good. But things turned. Griffin suffered a knee
injury colliding with Gasol in game five. Paul was hurting too,
and Memphis eventually tied the series three, all. Randolph didn’t wanna hear
a word about the injuries to the L.A. stars. It’s the playoffs, everybody’s hurt. Zach’s knee was still hurting. No excuses, and as if to prove that, Randolph hopped on Griffin’s
back for a bit in game seven. At another point, he
got tangled with Blake and just f—ing smacked him in the face. Neither of those were called fouls. Playoff basketball. Despite their injuries,
the Clippers held Memphis completely in check, and
withstood that series comeback. They won game seven, and
sent their opponents home, though Zach wouldn’t leave
without the last word. While the Clippers advanced,
Randolph accused them of being the league’s
biggest floppers by far, and blamed Chris Paul’s
negative influence. He said Griffin only
started embellishing fouls when Paul arrived in L.A. So, yeah, Randolph was grumpy
about how that series ended, but he stayed pretty quiet
throughout the off-season. Zach is a beefs-man of the
show, don’t tell variety, and he showed Blake how he
felt in the very first game of the next season. On one end, Griffin and
Randolph had some words after battling for a loose ball. On the other end, Randolph
taught his younger counterpart some wrestling moves with
a picture perfect suplex. There were 52 combined fouls in this season opening rivalry match. The match up stayed physical,
but avoided major conflict, unless you count Randolph
body slamming Griffin in one of the last games
of the regular season. That was a warning shot
for the battle to come in the 2013 post-season,
a first round rematch between the four seed Clippers
and five seed Grizzlies. Griffin predicted that
Randolph would continue trying to frustrate him, and
that he’d have to get physical with Randolph, without losing his cool. Zach reminded everyone he’d
been hurt the prior season. He was ready to scrap. And thus began a series
defined by mutual aggression. You rarely see double
fouls called in the NBA, but the constant physicality
between Griffin and Randolph left officials unable to
determine who fouled whom. They picked up one such double foul call in L.A.’s game one victory
after which Griffin explained that grappling was simply Randolph’s game, and all he could do in
response was even things out. Said Blake, “that’s the way he
wants to play, let’s do it.” And they were back at it in game two. This elegant dance in the
third quarter got called a double foul, the
third personal for each. Randolph pretty clearly
initiated that tangle, which was typical. He craved the rassling,
as evidenced by the moment in the next game, where
Matt Barnes hit Randolph with a hard foul, and Zach responded by thanking him with a hug. Griffin made an effort
not to engage Randolph in extracurriculars, though
when asked if it was easy to keep his composure
amid all that manhandling he said not really. The middle of this 2013 series followed a similar trajectory to 2012. L.A. took an early series lead. Memphis came back and tied
it, then Griffin got hurt. He sat a bunch of game
five with bum ankle. Memphis won that game
to take a series lead and once again Z-Bo got to mocking his banged up counterpart. He was banged up too. It’s the playoffs. It’s a big boy game. And yet again, weakened pray
only emboldened the predator. With a big Memphis lead
in game six at home, Randolph fell to the floor with Griffin, got him in some sort of hold, and then maybe kind of choked the guy. The ref’s ruling? Double foul, and a tech on Randolph, which would become relevant
later when Randolph picked up a second technical in the closing minutes of the series clinching Memphis victory. Blake was on the bench, but
Randolph let him hear it during some free throws, then kept barking after he got ejected. The Grit and Grind
Grizzlies fans loved it. By the way, if you’re
wondering what Zach said– – He used the F-bomb, he
threw the P word out there, he said a bunch of stuff about
Blake Griffin, to his face! – Stephen A. Smith gave
that recap in the context of a conversation about
whether Griffin was soft, a conversation Randolph himself
stoked after that series. Memphis advanced to face
the Oklahoma City Thunder and Randolph told reports
that unlike the Clippers, unlike Blake, Thunder big
men like Kenrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka were tough. Griffin said he was more
than willing to fight, but–
– Off the court, ’cause I don’t wanna get suspended. – And fittingly, Randolph
hit Steven Adams in the face in the 2014 post-season and got suspended for the crucial game seven of that series against the Thunder. Memphis lost that game without Randolph, thus denying the world a second round match up with the Clippers. We could have had a World War III, and it’s a real shame we didn’t. A regular season that included Tony Allen kicking Chris Paul in the face deserved a third straight post-season match up. But yeah, the Clippers
faced the Thunder instead, and L.A. coach, Doc Rivers,
made an example of Randolph to remind Griffin to never take the bait. Griffin stuck with that,
almost always walking away from hard fouls, and cheap shots, even as he acknowledged
the pressure from others to just turn around and punch somebody. And when Blake did finally punch somebody, it was off the court,
and it was very weird, and he broke his hand. Randolph, meanwhile, got
old, got in some more fights, said some tough quotes,
left Memphis as the sun set on the Grit and Grind era, and
in one of his final match ups with Blake got f—ing cooked. Blake had one weird interaction
with Memphis fans in 2018, but this beef is over, and we are left to reflect on what it was. Randolph says it was just
him being competitive. Geoff Calkins describes it very well, as “the pretty boy who jumped over Kias” versus “the tough,
in-the-mud guy who couldn’t “jump over a phone book”, but would “have his way with Blake”. The fouling in those playoff
series was excessive. Two guys who averaged two
or three fouls per game for their careers routinely
put four plus fouls on each other in the post-season. But like Calkins said, when
regular fouling crossed over into beef, it was almost
always Randolph doing whatever he wanted, saying what he wanted, and Griffin basically refusing to respond. Maybe that’s just because
these people didn’t, and don’t, hate each other. They were just perfect foils on the court, the machismo mascots,
the torchbearers in one of the most fun and violent
rivalries of the mid-2010s. There’s something to be said for that. So much of the beef we discuss touches on real world stuff,
friendship, romance, money. This was aggression on the
floor fueling beef on the floor. It was pure.