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Blake Griffin T-shirt sends social media into a frenzy

Clippers had employees wear ‘LA Pioneers’ shirt with Griffin, Ali, Obama and others

The Los Angeles Clippers putting Blake Griffin on a T-shirt alongside the likes of Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy caused a stir on social media on Saturday.

Griffin agreed to re-sign with the Clippers on a five-year, $173 million deal after meeting with the only franchise he’s known on Friday, hours before NBA free agency began. After the meeting, Clippers employees greeted the five-time All-Star with black T-shirts they were asked to wear that read “LA Pioneers,” with pictures of Griffin, Ali, Obama, Kennedy, King, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Michael Jackson. After The Undefeated acquired a picture of the T-shirt on Saturday, the reaction on Twitter ranged from confusion to disappointment to humor.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, team executives Doc Rivers and Lawrence Frank, and new consultant Jerry West gave Griffin “a walk down memory lane” pitch on Friday, according to The Orange County Register. It included high-tech displays and a “carefully curated” Blake Griffin museum, the newspaper reported. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, guards Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers, and newcomers Patrick Beverley and Sam Dekker attended the successful meeting, a source said. Just days after trading heralded point guard Chris Paul, the Clippers faced a lot of pressure to keep Griffin.

The team drafted the 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year with the first overall pick in 2009. The four-time All-NBA selection’s career has been highlighted by lots of scoring (21.5 points per game), rebounding (9.4 per game) and dunks, but also injuries.

A source close to the Clippers said the T-shirt probably would be confusing for those outside the franchise. The source said that initially the T-shirt included every icon but Griffin and was passed out to the team during the preseason in an effort to challenge Clippers players to live like men who have changed the world. Doc Rivers often wore the original T-shirt last season, the source said.

While the T-shirt had personal meaning to the Clippers organization, it certainly was quite curious outside the franchise.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.