Today marks the historic release of Panini Prestige Basketball, the company's first NBA-licensed product launch since acquiring an exclusive trading card license earlier this year. What better way to celebrate than catching up with Panini's very-own, LA Clippers rookie Blake Griffin?
Here's what the NBA rookie had to say:
Panini: First of all congrats on a remarkable college career... being named Naismith Player of the Year and being drafted No. 1 overall in the NBA draft.
BG: Thanks, it's an honor and I feel lucky to be in the position I'm in.
Panini: A lot of people credit you and Coach Capel with helping to put Oklahoma back on the map - what do you think about that?
BG: It's an honor to be a part of that but it wasn't just me or Coach Capel. It was our team and coaching staff. I was only there two years so I'm really proud to be a part of that.
Panini: What's life been like since you left Norman?
BG: It's been pretty hectic - nonstop all over the place. I've either been training or traveling. With the draft - it's just all been nonstop. Then I came out to L.A. and got set up out here in a loft. I'm all settled in now and just training.
Panini: Talk about your decision to leave school early. When did you "know" it was time?
BG: To be honest it was a lot easier this year. It was a lot tougher as a freshman because physically I felt I was ready and I could take on the length of an NBA season but I also felt that I had a lot to improve on. So last summer I worked hard and improved throughout the season at OU and proved to myself that I was ready both mentally and physically to leave early.
Panini: What advice would you have for a guy like Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford now that you've been drafted into a pro sports league?
BG: To take your time and make sure you're ready. It's a big jump from college to pro. I knew it was going to be different but you don't really realize the full difference until you get here. You're not in college anymore, you're not around your friends everyday - you're in a business now.
Panini: You played high school ball at a private school in Oklahoma. What was it like playing there with your father as the coach?
BG: I decided to go to the private school after my dad got the job. Playing for my dad was one of the greatest things I could've done because he knew how to push me to a point where a lot of other coaches might not have gone. He knew exactly how to get us to do what he wanted and get his point across.
Panini: What was it like to hear your name called first at the draft?
BG: The couple hours leading up I was pretty anxious. It was one of those things where I kind of knew it was going to happen but just waiting and waiting it seemed like it took forever. By the time we got to Madison Square Garden it was an hour before and that hour seemed like 24 hours. When I finally heard my name called it was a relief - but cool experience over all.
Panini: Talk about being drafted by the Clippers and the perception that you can be the savior of the franchise?
BG: I don't believe in pressure. It's something that other people put on you. I have expectations for myself and how I should play and the type of player I should be - and that's what I'm going to come out and do for the Clippers. I know I don't have to do too much - we already have guys that can score. I just need to come in and be a contributor and help out.
Panini: Have you had your "Wow" moment where you think to yourself this is all unbelievable?
BG: At the draft and since it's been a gradual process. After you come off the stage and do interviews and sign autographs you think "Wow" this is something I will never do again.
Panini: What's been the toughest adjustment to life in the NBA?
BG: Being away from home and my family - also being away from some of my old teammates and friends from Oklahoma... that's probably the biggest adjustment.
Panini: Talk about some of the biggest differences?
For me it's just the realization that you're out in the real world now. College is a different experience - you are around kids your age all day and now you're out playing in a league with grown men who are making a living to support their families - it's the real world.
Panini: Have you had a chance to hangout much in L.A. - what's your favorite hotspot?
BG: I don't really have too much time... there are some restaurants out in Hollywood like Mr. Chow and STK that I eat at often but not much outside of that.
Panini: You've had some legendary workouts with Frank Matrisciano out in California - any more of those workouts lately?
BG: I haven't trained with Frank since before the draft. We actually do some training out here on Manhattan Beach, kind of similar but not quite as crazy. His workouts are a little unconventional but he definitely gets the best out of you.
Panini: Which NBA player are you looking forward to playing against the most this year?
BG: Some of the marquee guys like Kobe and Lebron - Dwight Howard, Dwayne Wade - guys that I've been watching since high school. I finally get a chance to play against them. Panini: You mentioned Kobe. Is there room for both BG and Kobe in L.A.?
BG: Yeah, I believe there is [laughing]... you know he's got the spotlight and deserves it after winning the championship last year. But hopefully we [Clippers] can make a name for ourselves this year.
Panini: What was it like for your seeing your first Panini NBA Trading Card?
BG: It was cool - as a kid I grew up collecting and to see one of your own is pretty surreal.
Panini: Have your friends and family seen your Panini cards. What was their reaction?
BG: I brought some home to my mom - she always likes to have that kind of stuff. She thought it was cool. I signed a bunch of them and she's going to use them for when friends and family want autographs.
Panini: Prestige Basketball is the first ever basketball release for Panini America, Inc. - what's it like for you to have your rookie card in such an exclusive and historic product release?
BG: It's cool but you have to take it all in stride. It's an awesome feeling but at the same time I still know that I have a lot to work on. I feel lucky to be where I'm at and to even have a card.
Panini: What was the Rookie Photo Shoot like? Anyone's autograph you couldn't leave without?
BG: That's a tough question but I will go with my brother Taylor... I got everyone's autograph, though.
Panini: How is Taylor? Do you talk to him much?
BG: I talk to him every day. He's doing really well in Phoenix... they are actually out in San Diego right now for training camp but he's doing well. I think Phoenix is a good fit for him.
Panini: What was it like to be at the National Trading Card convention for your first exclusive signing session with Panini?
BG: It was my first real signing event. It was crazy to see how into it everyone was. People came to the booth with their authorization cards to get autographs... people were serious about it. I had never been to one of those shows before, so it was cool to see all the different booths set up and all the different things they had to do... and how many people came out.
Panini: Texas Tech Coach Pat Knight once referred to you as the Terminator? Are you an Arnold fan? What fictional character do you identify with most?
BG: They kind of made a big deal about that in the newspapers after we played Tech that day. I can't really say I'm much of an Arnold fan - I've seen some of his movies. I saw Terminator. I identify with Superman the most - he takes the cake on that one.