Once an endangered species, Clippers fans are once again populating the Staples Center.
Not that long ago—just a few years in fact—the Clippers would not even rank second in a poll of favorite NBA teams among Angelenos. That's the kind of deplorable state the Clippers franchise was in.
They weren't even second class citizens in their own city; they were third world.
In fact, the Clippers were labeled the worst franchise in pro sports (not just basketball) as recently as 2009 by ESPN. And they truly were. Before Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Clipper Darrell there was Michael Olowokandi, the immortal Keith Closs and this guy.
Different reasons have been thrown around for the Clippers' malaise. Perhaps it was the Curse of the Sacred Buffalo. But the real reason the Clips can't be beloved is because of their owner, the infamous Donald Sterling.
Sterling would rather turn a steady, stable profit than invest in a championship contender. When given the opportunity to bring in a championship-caliber coach to take the reins this season, he opted for the cheap route and let Vinny Del Negro hang around, even though Del Negro is the biggest non-opposition obstacle to the Clippers winning a title this season.
It's the biggest reason that Chris Paul might not remain with the Clippers (though the front office has done a good job clearing the cap sheet in the near future to cushion the blow).
Players aren't just shafted by Sterling at the negotiating table. They also have to deal with his misbehavior in house. Sterling famously heckled Baron Davis—his own starting point guard and highest paid player—from the sidelines during a game.
There are also recorded instances of him bringing women into the locker room after games to gaze at the "beautiful black bodies" of his players.
This kind of behavior is sickening and it's the reason that most people in Los Angeles would never want him to win a title. A person of his character doesn't deserve it.
As loathsome as it would be for Sterling's Clippers to win a title, there's a bigger reason L.A. natives won't support the Clips in droves.
It's the Lakers.
The Lakers are synonymous with Los Angeles. Their gold uniforms match the color of that beautiful Southern California sun shining down on the city. The "I Love L.A." song they blare over the loudspeakers reminds everyone where they are. L.A.'s most heralded attribute, its Hollywood stars, dot the lower bowl of Lakers games, bringing added glamour to the franchise.
And what better way to match the stars in the stands then with stars on the court? How about Magic, Kareem, Wilt, West, Worthy, Elgin, Mikan, Shaq and Kobe (and now you can add Dwight and Steve to that list too)?
Even their broadcasters are legendary (R.I.P, Chick Hearn). The Buss family runs things the right way and won't hesitate to pour money into the team in order to hang banners.
That's the other thing. Those banners.
Sixteen, and that's if we're only counting NBA championships—not the worthless division champion ones you see at your average arena. There's too much heritage. The winning tradition is embedded into Los Angeles culture. Who's going to turn that down to root for a perennial also-ran with fewer winning seasons than Lakers titles?
Let's run the numbers real quick. Since becoming the Clippers in the 1978-79 season, the Clippers have won 15 playoff games total. Over that same time frame, the Lakers have made it to the NBA Finals 16 times.
Take a moment to let that sink in.
Unless their beloved Lakers were forced to leave L.A. for some mind-boggling reason, there's no way Angelenos would ever switch their mass allegiance over to the Clippers. Even after the Donald Sterling dictatorship comes to an end, the Clippers will always remain Los Angeles' other NBA team.