Does the Clipper Curse Exist?
The Los Angeles Clippers have undergone a number of changes as an organization since being established, as an expansion team in 1970. The team founded as the Buffalo Braves moved west and changed their name to the San Diego Clippers then relocated to Los Angeles in 1984, when owner Irv Levin sold the team to Donald Sterling for $12.5 million.
One thing the Clippers became known for was losing. From 1970 to 2011 the team had seven total winning seasons. Their franchise winning percentage currently stands at .396. They have never won an NBA championship, or even made it past the Conference Semi-Finals. As all franchise that can’t seem to win, there comes a curse. This has become known as the “Clipper Curse”
A brighter future slowly began to take shape in 2008 when the team selected DeAndre Jordan in the draft. The following year, they landed the number one overall pick and selected Oklahoma Sooner power forward Blake Griffin. Unfortunately, his rookie campaign was delayed as he missed the entire year. In 2011, Chris Paul was traded to the Clippers, after NBA commissioner David Stern vetoed a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. The team became nicknamed “Lob City.”
In his first season in Los Angeles, Paul led the Clippers to the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06. Since joining the team, the Clippers have five consecutive winning seasons, including a franchise best 57 wins in 2013-14. This was former Boston Celtics head coach, Doc Rivers’ first season with the team.
The core of CP3, Jordan, and Griffin remains in tack but they have never made it past the second round. Despite the lackluster success in the playoffs, Los Angeles’ “second team” recently received more buzz and headlines than the Lakers. Time might be running out for their three stars; however, there have been darker days for the franchise and their fans. There are a number of bad breaks the Clippers have had during their 47 seasons including:
And the Number One Pick is…
After posting five consecutive losing seasons, the team earned the number one pick in the 1998 draft. The Clippers selected Michael Olowokandi. The 7-foot center was going to be the savior and build block for the future. Instead the team began the season 0-17 and finished with a 9-41 record in a shortened season. Olowokandi became known as one of the biggest bust in NBA history. During his injury-plagued career, he averaged 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Some players Los Angeles passed in the draft include Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, and Dirk Nowitzki.
Whatever happened to Baron Davis?
Baron Davis became a free agent in 2008 after three successful seasons with the Warriors, which included a historical upset over the Dallas Mavericks in the 2007 NBA Playoffs. On July 10, Davis signed with his hometown Clippers and promised to bring success. In his first season with the team, the opposite happened. Davis disappointed, as the team struggled to a 19-63 record. Davis only played in 65 games and averaged a mere 14.9 points per game and shot .370 from the field. Davis also had a number of run-ins with the coaching staff and the Clippers’ owner, Donald Sterling. Davis criticized Sterling for repeatedly heckling him during games. In 2011, the Clippers traded Davis and his nearly 28 million still owed to the Cleveland Cavaliers along with a first round pick. This pick would eventually become number one pick Kyrie Irving. Yikes, that must have hurt. Just like that, the Baron Davis Experiment in Los Angeles was over.
Donald Sterling Controversy
Speaking of Sterling, he also made negative headlines in 2014. TMZ released a recorded conversation between Sterling and V. Stiviano, who were reportedly dating, in which he made several racist remarks. Sterling became frustrated with her after she posted an Instagram photo with former Lakers point guard Magic Johnson. He stated that it “bothers” him when she wants “to broadcast” that she’s “associating with black people” and she can do whatever she wants with them, as long as they don’t come to his games. The comment immediately sent shockwaves across the league. On April 29, 2014, the NBA issued the owner of 34 years a lifetime ban from the organization, along with a $2.5 million fine. About a month later, Sterling sold the team to former CEO of Microssoft, Steve Ballmer, for $2 billion. Sterling built a history of accusations of racist behavior dating back to the 1990s. It all came into fruition with the secret tape, which put an end to his ownership days.
Blowing 3-1 Leads before it was cool
The Warriors have become known as the latest team to blow a 3-1 series lead in the playoffs: however a year before that, the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Houston Rockets in the Semi-Finals. The Rockets took Game 5 at home, to push the series to Los Angeles. The Clippers owned a 19-point lead in the third quarter at home. Their first-ever Conference Finals appearance was on the horizon; however, they proceeded to blow the lead and were outscored 40-15 in the final period. Now anything could happen in a winner take all Game 7. The Rockets went on to defeat the Clippers 113-100. Blowing a 3-1 series lead is unfortunate, but there is always next year. Right?
No Curry? No Problem…Wait Never Mind
For a slight moment, the future seemed extremely bright for the Clippers. Leaving the collapse of the previous season in the rearview mirror, the team jumped out to a 2-0 first round series lead. News broke that the Warriors’ star point guard Stephen Curry slipped during Game 4 and was diagnosed with an MCL sprain. He would potentially miss two weeks. With both teams up in their respected series, a date in the next round seemed inevitable. There was even a chance the Clippers would breeze by the Warriors and possibly make it to the NBA Finals. Then the “Clipper Curse” kicked into overdrive. During the Clippers’ own Game 4, Griffin aggravated a left quadriceps injury and Paul fractured his right hand. Both would miss the remainder of the series and Portland would tie the series at two. In a flash, the dream of the Finals vanished and the team simply tried to survive the first round. Eventually, the Trail Blazers sent the team packing after another disappointing performance in the playoffs.
The Future of “Lob City”
The Clippers got off to an impressive start during the 2016-17 season. The team posted a 10-1 record and were on top of the Western Conference; however, their play has become inconsistent. Since then, Los Angeles is 8-6, which includes a double overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets on the road. The NBA’s “cursed franchise” once again attempts to leave their history in the past and capture their first title.
Is there such thing as the “Clippers Curse” or is it a figment of the imagination? It could be blamed on bad luck. It could be blamed on terrible management. Who exactly is to blame for the organizations misfortunes? The owners? The general managers? Head Coaches? Michael Olowokandi?
Only time will tell if the Clippers can put an end to their drought. The Chicago Cubs waited 108 years for a title. How long will Clipper fans have to wait to hear those satisfying words, “The Los Angeles Clippers are NBA Champions?”
Sources: Basketball-Reference, ESPN, The Score, TMZ, Sports Illustrated