Blake Griffin's dunk over a KIA is one of the most iconic Dunk Contest dunks of all time. It still lives on in people's memory, and this dunk showed everybody the kind of high flyer that Griffin would become in the NBA.
We know what happened to Blake Griffin: multiple-time All-Star, successful NBA career, and now a chance to win a title with the Brooklyn Nets. But what ended up happening to the KIA? That is what Paolo Uggettti of The Ringer tried to find out.
Most weekday mornings, 27-year-old Michael Longa wakes up in his suburban Tulsa home and makes the 20-minute drive to the Blue Sky Bank branch where he works in IT. Sometimes, when he’s asked to visit other branches around Oklahoma, his drive can take as long as two hours. But regardless of where he’s headed, the first thing Longa sees when he gets into his 2011 Kia Optima is Blake Griffin’s autograph on the steering wheel.
It’s been 10 years since Griffin caught a Baron Davis lob and leaped over the hood of this car in the 2011 dunk contest, but neither the silver Sharpie ink on the horn nor the black ink of Griffin’s signature near the driver’s door has faded. Longa has been driving the car since roughly 2015 and says it’s still in good condition. It has just under 89,000 miles on it and gets about 26 miles per gallon in the city. Longa is sure the value of the car is substantial—a normal 2011 Optima that hasn’t had an NBA player dunk over it could fetch anywhere between $3,000 and $11,000 today. But he is content with never finding out what his is worth.
The article by Uggetti details how the Optima came into Michael Longa's possession, and it starts with Blake Griffin donating the car to an auction, whose profits went to a cancer research program. From there, the car made its way to Henry Primeaux's KIA dealership.
Griffin was given the car in the spring of 2011, as a prize for the dunk contest win, and soon after he donated it to an auction. The money it made went to Stand Up to Cancer, a program that aids in cancer research, in honor of Griffin’s high school friend and teammate Wilson Holloway, who died in 2011 after a three-year battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While Griffin had gone to Oklahoma to play basketball, Holloway had played for the University of Tulsa’s football team, and, coincidentally, a businessman from Tulsa had set his eyes on the Optima.
Henry Primeaux owned a large Kia dealership in Tulsa in 2011. He remembers watching the dunk contest and immediately thinking to himself that he wanted to buy the car. At the time, it felt like wishful thinking—he had no connections to Griffin or the NBA. Then one day, Primeaux saw a Facebook post advertising the auction where the car would be sold and pounced on the opportunity. Soon he was in a bidding war with two other dealerships and another collector.
Primeaux ultimately paid $35,220 (well above market value) for the car, which was promptly delivered to his dealership. There, he immediately began not just displaying it, but also marketing his business around it. Primeaux made posters and advertisements featuring the car and the dunk. He allowed people to come to the dealership just to see the vehicle and even created giveaways around the car and the legend of the dunk. Everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of the Optima, and the business, he says, more than benefited from it.
It is later detailed how the car transferred hands from Primeaux to Longa. Primeaux was Longa's grandfather and gave him the KIA as a gift when he retired from the dealership.
A few years passed and Primeaux, who was then in his mid-70s, started thinking about retirement. He decided he wanted to sell the dealership, and eventually he got a bite from a group that included Switzer. Primeaux finalized the sale in 2015, but says the group wasn’t interested in buying the Griffin Optima that was, at the time, four years old. So he told them they didn’t even have to worry about it. He wanted to keep it in the family.
Enter Longa, one of Primeaux’s two grandsons. Primeaux wanted the boys to inherit a part of the dealership they could use right away, so he decided to give them each a car. Brian, Longa’s brother, wanted a convertible, but Michael had always liked the Optima. Whenever he and his friends would hang out and go to the dealership, he enjoyed seeing how star-struck they got when they caught a glimpse of the car. So when Primeaux called him to tell him the Optima was his, he had no hesitation about accepting it—even if he felt some about actually driving it. After all, he was just a busboy for a local pizza place at the time and he still remembers how shocked his coworkers were when he first pulled up in the car.
“It was terrifying because I never thought I’d drive anything that nice,” Longa said with a laugh. “Anytime I drove it out any place I was, I was really scared. ... I was just trying to be as careful as possible.”
Occasionally over the years, the family has had discussions about selling the car. But Longa doesn’t want to part with it any time soon. “My future plans are kind of just to keep going with it as long as I can,” Longa said. “I mean, it is kind of getting up there in years, but it’s hanging on pretty good.” And with the average lifespan of an Optima being around 200,000 miles, the car will probably outlast Griffin’s career.
There is no doubt that the world works in mysterious ways, and the car's journey from owner to owner is extremely interesting to see. The car has become a relic for Michael Longa, and hopefully, it serves him for a very long time.