For decades, the Los Angeles Clippers were a perpetual laughingstock, not just across the NBA but all sports.
They usually missed the playoffs, often seemed to have one of the league’s worst records, and never seemed to make a real effort to go after or retain good or great players.
But that all changed about a decade ago when they traded for perennial All-Star point guard Chris Paul.
Suddenly, the Clippers were a good team, and soon afterward, they were considered a title contender.
After Paul left in 2017 and fellow star Blake Griffin followed suit several months later, the team went through a very quick rebuilding project that ended in 2019 when it nabbed Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
Still, the Clippers have struggled to gain respect throughout the greater Los Angeles area, which is still very much behind the Los Angeles Lakers.
Former Lakers guard Byron Scott gave the Clippers some disrespect during a recent gala to raise money for cancer research.
“Ehh, they’re alright,” Scott said mockingly. “I mean, they’re the Clippers, let’s just put it that way. I’m not gonna give them any props until they win something. Simple as that.
“What we got, 17? Oh, okay. I just want them to win one. Just one. Then we can talk.”
As someone who won three NBA championships with the Lakers in the 1980s and later coached them from 2014 to 2016, Scott may be a bit biased, but there is truth to his statement.
The Clippers Have Always Fallen Short Of Expectations
Since the 2011-12 season, the Clippers have usually had what has been considered one of the league’s best collections of talent, but they have always failed to get it done when it mattered most.
The 2015 playoffs seemed to be their opportunity, as they knocked off the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round, then took a 3-1 series lead over the Houston Rockets in the next round.
But L.A. lost Game 5, then blew a huge lead at home in Game 6 despite James Harden being on the bench for much of Houston’s rally before falling in Game 7.
With a potential first round playoff matchup between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers, I thought I should bring back one of the greatest 4th quarter comebacks in playoff history, which sparked a 3-1 comeback in 2015 #Rockets #Runasone #NBA pic.twitter.com/NIP5Hij77K
— Amsal Madhani (@amsal_madhani) April 4, 2019
The year they acquired George and Leonard, the Clippers were considered the favorites to win it all in the minds of many national pundits.
They took a 3-1 series lead over the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals, but again they choked, blowing sizable leads in each of the final three contests.
— Betfred Sportsbook (@BetfredSports) December 27, 2021
Last season, with Leonard out all year due to a partially torn ACL, the Clippers blew leads in both of their play-in tournament contests against the Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans.
Is there a Clippers curse still lurking around?
Los Angeles Fans Demand More
Los Angeles is a market that is all about total excellence, and it measures sports success in terms of world championships.
The Lakers have won 17 (12 since moving to L.A. in 1960), and in doing so, they have become the gold standard of the city and of pro basketball in general.
In reality, given the generational attachment Southern Californians have to the Lakers, it will take more than one NBA title for the Clippers to start to overtake them.
By comparison, the New York Mets won the World Series in 1986, yet that city and area didn’t exactly shift towards the Mets – it was still and has always been behind the New York Yankees.
The Clippers haven’t done anything to earn an elite level of respect from a fan base that has been spoiled by an embarrassment of riches in multiple sports.