The Clippers will never be the Los Angeles team, but they should be the best

My little brother, Jamie, isn’t really my “little” brother. To me, he’s just my brother; my equal; his own person, just as I am mine. I would never call Jamie my “little brother” if I introduced him to a stranger, and I wouldn’t even call him my younger brother. I would clarify if asked – “Younger or older?”

I was asked a question last month following the question of how many siblings I have – but in my eyes her age is hardly a defining characteristic. To everyone else, though, because of the 801 days between our births, he’s my baby brother.

For example: When we were in high school, Jamie and I often met in the same dining room. Being nice people, we never failed to make small talk with the lunch ladies. I had a two year leap over Jamie when it came to cultivating a relationship with the kitchen staff, to the point where they knew me by name. When they first met him, they were thrilled to discover that “there is another.”

They never called him Jamie. From then on he was known as “little Will”.

This distinction infuriated me then and still bothers me, despite being five and more years away from school and over 300 miles between me and that canteen. People can often tell that Jamie and I are related, so it wasn’t exactly criminal for those cafeteria workers to immediately establish a connection between him and me. After all, some say we are the same. (Beyond a passing resemblance we don’t see, but if being pasty and blond means you’re related, then I guess Ryan Gosling and I have some catching up to do.)

But I guess my main grievance is the idea that, for some, brothers can never be just brothers. There will always be a separation. A younger, an older; one taller, one shorter.

One was there first, the other second.


A familiar sight for the Lakers: banners and trophies, one in the same. Their little sister franchise is still waiting for similar glory, all these years later.
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Founded in 1946 as the Detroit Gems before moving to Minneapolis the following year, the Lakers have been around for what one might nowadays call a minute.

They were iconic from the jump, with players like George Mikan and Elgin Baylor even before the team moved to Los Angeles for the 1960-61 season. (That’s why Jerry West, although drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers, was never really a laker from Minneapolis; he never played for a Lakers team that was not located in Los Angeles.)

The rest, as they say, is history.

The Lakers have won a total of 17 championships as a franchise and boast an all-time roster that would be easily favored in any imaginary tournament pitting historic teams against each other.

Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James…should I continue? It’s an endless list, and this truncated version only scratches the surface of the who’s who of Lakers legends. I could list 50 other names before I even thought of including Shannon Brown, and anyone with a passing knowledge of this team’s history knows him, even if it’s only because of this blockage.

So it’s fair to say that the Lakers aren’t just the first franchise in NBA history: they’re the first franchise in sports history. The Lakers are to basketball what the Yankees are to baseball: woven into the fabric of the game and its legacy. Take them out of the equation and there’s no more equation to be had. We don’t know what basketball looks like without the Los Angeles Lakers. And it is a legacy that is both vital and eternal.

The Los Angeles Clippers, on the other hand, hardly have the historical consideration that the Lakers have. The Clippers were founded in 1970, 24 years after the Lakers franchise was introduced to the sport, and were one of three expansion teams to join the NBA that year. Then known as the Buffalo Braves, they were driven out of town due to a dispute with the Canisius Golden Griffins – yes, of Canisius College in Buffalo, New York – over the use of the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium.

As a result, the franchise moved to San Diego, where it spent six seasons wading through the NBA basement. The Clippers failed to make the playoffs in their six years in San Diego, before then-owner Donald Sterling moved the team to Los Angeles in 1984. league, but met with few consequences. Los Angeles suddenly welcomed two NBA franchises.

Only four times in their first 27 seasons in Los Angeles have the Clippers made the playoffs; they won only one series. And while the team became more relevant once the 2010s passed, thanks to the success of the Lob City teams led by Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, they still didn’t make it past the second round during that regime. It wasn’t until 2021, led by Paul George and Reggie Jackson, that the Clippers battled to their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals. They fell to the Phoenix Suns in six games.

They are the oldest franchise in the league to not only never win a title, but never to play in the NBA Finals.

We could even go so far as to say that he is and will forever be the little brother of the Los Angeles Lakers. It doesn’t matter what they do to get ahead.


Golden State Warriors vs Los Angeles Clippers

The banners hung for the Clippers’ home games at Staples Center in 2014. A slight difference from the ones that populate the rafters when the Lakers enter the field.
Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Steve Ballmer’s latest dream is not something he can buy. He wants his Clippers — the team he’s owned since 2014 — to surpass the Lakers in popularity. Taking ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk on a tour of the Intuit Dome construction site late last month, Ballmer noted how important it is for the Clippers not to have to share an arena with the Lakers. .

“I think it’s another statement that goes, ‘Hey look, we’re nobody’s little brother,'” Ballmer said. “We are a real team. At the end of the day, we still have to win games. We have to win championships. If we can give that to Clipper Nation and fulfill my responsibility as steward, then I’ll feel good.

“You said it was Laker Town,” he added. “No. Laker-Clipper. And one day I want to be able to say Clipper-Laker.

While he will never change the past and is unlikely to alter their popularity in the future, perhaps the “one day” Ballmer is referring to is closer than we think. Despite back-to-back losses the Clippers suffered in last season’s Western Conference play-off tournament, a gulag they were heavily favored to escape from and instead stumbled to elimination at the hands of the New York Pelicans. Orleans, they still managed to have an advantage over the Lakers in 2021-22.

The Clips finished the regular season — a season spent largely with one or both of their star players injured — with a better record (42-40) than their local rivals (33-49).

And while they didn’t exactly have a postseason to remember (or a postseason at all, for that matter), the Clippers went further than anyone could have imagined if you told them at start of the season that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George would miss 133 games combined.

In 231 all-time head-to-head matchups, the Lakers have won 150 and the Clippers have won 81. The latter team, however, has won seven straight and 11 of the last 15 since 2017-18. Of course, they don’t hang banners for those kinds of accomplishments, if you can even call them accomplishments. What they can prove, however, is that these winds are winds of change; “The future is in the air / Can feel it everywhere.” You can not ?

Many fans, writers, analysts and players have spent at least part of this offseason positioning the Clippers as title favorites heading into next season. At the moment, our sports betting partner, DraftKings, has the Clippers tied for second in overall league odds (+600, like the Golden State Warriors), just behind betting favorite Boston Celtics (+450). And it wouldn’t be far fetched at all to place a decent bet on the Clips to win it all next year, given the pieces that will return (George and Leonard from injury; Norm Powell, Reggie Jackson, Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, Ivica Zubac, Nic Batum, Robert Covington and others just for another title shot) and the only big one they added (the always enticing John Wall).

They’ll be one of the deepest teams in the NBA at the start of the 2022-23 season, and that’s only counting the guys who get consistent minutes. Brandon Boston Jr. is as intriguing a local prospect as the team has had since Blake Griffin; Jason Preston is lingering behind the scenes as a possible point guard in the near future, and he has yet to play a regular season game with the team due to an injury he suffered shortly after. time after being drafted in 2021.

The Lakers (+1600, in case you were curious), meanwhile, are in the middle of another hellish offseason. Calls to trade Russell Westbrook for a bag of magic beans are getting louder and more compelling by the day. Apparently the The Lakers are Kyrie Irving’s next favorite destination, whether he gets there via trade before next season or in free agency next summer. And the chatter about LeBron James returning to Cleveland, no matter how little truth there is in those talks, certainly can’t sit well with those who support his current team, and therefore, him. Vibrations, as they say, could use a little work.

On the other side of the room – not for long, but for now – the vibes have never been better, even though they exist on paper…for now. Long gone are the days when a single team in Los Angeles could command attention, respect and expectations. The days of ridicule are long gone, the days of early starts in the playoffs. And long gone are the days when a fan named Darrell would even consider leaving his longtime Clipper fandom to join the dark side.

Still a long way off is the day when Los Angeles becomes the domain of the Clippers to rule at all levels.

But in terms of basketball supremacy, it’s hard to explain why Steve Ballmer’s “someday” can’t be today.

Posted In NBA

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