I went to the Clippers home opener last night, despite the fact that the man I came to see was riding the pine thanks to a knee injury that was grossly overlooked by an incompetent medical staff, and yet I still seemed to get the Blake experience.
While LeBron has all the tools to be the most popular player in the game, Blake has all the tools to become an ambassador for the game.
LeBron James does represent what basketball is all about - the fun, the drive, the showmanship, the skills - but he doesn't make himself easy to identify with. He's the heir, with the air of his Airness. He's an icon, an idol people worship.
He's also a little more hood than some people care to admit. The tattoos, the swagger, the entourage, I mean you love him, I love him, but you could never hang out with LeBron (though he's a sweet enough guy to pretend you could).
Blake seems to give off more of an identifiable vibe. Like Tiger Woods and Barack Obama his mixed background has a lot to do with that fact of course, but congratulate his parents for creating the ultimate hybrid...no, I'm not talking about his race right now.
He has the fundamentals to please the white fans and the flash to please black fans.
He has the workmanship to impress the old fans and the passion to draw the young ones.
He's clean enough (no tattoos) to soothe the mothers and possesses the chiseled frame to lure their daughters.
He's humble enough to befriend the blue collar crowd, but determined enough to identify with the rich.
Where most nonactive players saddle up at the end of the bench dressed in the league required untucked button-down dress shirt with a chain hanging out and the cleanest pair of jeans they own, Blake sat in between his teammates and his coach in the smoothest, well tailored suit I have ever seen.
There was nothing corny about that suit. My man was sharp. Young people look at that suit and know this is a bad man. The older crowd, well, we know they appreciate it.
Blake's hair is low, smooth and manicured. And not in a metro way either. He's a role model. A true icon.
And this is just the home opener. Blake didn't even play, but his presence was felt in that arena. You could hear people talking in the stands, anticipating his return to the floor. When that does happen I can only pray that his talent is as well crafted as his image. Because if it is, we just may be looking at the new face of the NBA. That's right, in a Clippers uniform.