Los Angeles Clippers: 10 Most Memorable Moments in Franchise History
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When people think of the Los Angeles Clippers there's not a whole lot that comes to mind other than some variation of the words "lose", "stink" or "sad."
The current Clippers squad is looking to change that perception, though. With a talented, exciting roster led by Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, the Clippers are poised to leave a new generation of fans with a boatload of memories that stick with them long enough to tell their grandkids about.
That's not to say some memorable moments have not come to pass already. Some of them have been left by the new kids on the block like Blake Griffin (as you can see from the photo). Others date back to the origins of the Clippers over three decades ago, after the Braves left Buffalo to become the San Diego Clippers.
Without further ado, I present to you the 10 most memorable moments in Clippers history.
10. Donald Sterling Heckles Baron Davis
I can't hear you Mr. Sterling!
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Just as the 2010-2011 Clippers were gaining traction as a team to be reckoned with on a nightly basis, owner Donald Sterling had to go out and remind everyone why the Clips were named the worst franchise in sports history.
Sterling could be heard loud and clear, heckling Davis (his starting point guard and highest-paid player) about his poor play and subpar conditioning.
Hey Mr. Sterling, maybe this is why no legitimate superstar wants to sign with your team. Better get your act together if you want the likes of Griffin and Gordon to commit long term.
It's a wonder that a man like Sterling could be allowed to own an NBA team. Most lucrative businesses wouldn't allow incompetent people to rise to such an influential position. Maybe Clippers fans will turn the tables and take to heckling Sterling at games.
9. Clippers Make Los Angeles Their New Home
You can't think of LA without thinking of...the Clippers??
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After six seasons in San Diego, owner Donald Sterling moved the Clippers to Los Angeles, making L.A. the sole city to host two NBA franchises.
The team took up residence at the LA Sports Arena, a place never fit for NBA habitation. Thankfully, the Clippers have since upgraded to rooming with the Lakers at the Staples Center.
Although it's still the Lakers who get to reap all the choice home dates on the calendar, the current Clips squad has gained a small foothold as a team to keep an eye on. The fans are beginning to stream in to watch them and Staples Center is finally rocking for a team not wearing purple and gold.
With the Clippers on the verge of a resurgence (while the Lakers are on the verge of reshuffling their team), Los Angeles could indeed become Clipper Nation.
8. The Curse of the Sacred Buffalo
Unfortunately. injury seems like it's always around the corner for Clippers stars
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Ever since the franchise moved from Buffalo to Southern California and became the Clippers, the injury bug has bitten the team's better players hard and often.
The entire chronicle of the Curse can be found in this open letter to Blake Griffin from Clippers season ticket holder and ESPN's Sports Guy Bill Simmons.
Here is a sample of eight such cases:
Bill Walton: Missed 323 of the Clippers' 492 games in his six seasons with the franchise from 1980-1985, never making the playoffs (though he won a title with the other two teams he played for).
Terry Cummings: One season after being named Rookie of the Year in 1982, Cummings is diagnosed with a potentially deadly heart condition.
Derek Smith: A year after emerging as a waiver-wire pickup who averaged 22 points, Smith blows out his knee 11 games into the 1985-86 season.
Danny Manning: The Clippers selected Manning with the first-overall pick in 1988. Just 26 games into his rookie campaign, Manning tore his ACL.
Ron Harper: Through 28 games of the 1989-90 season, Harper was averaging 23 points. Want to guess what happens next? Yup, torn ACL.
Shaun Livingston: One season after the Clippers make their deepest ever playoff run, their point guard of the future suffers the most gruesome knee injury I've ever had the misfortune to witness.
Elton Brand: Just 15 months removed from making second-team All-NBA, Brand ruptures his Achilles and misses all but eight games of the 2007-08 season.
Blake Griffin: The No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft had to wait a year to have his rookie season after breaking his kneecap in a 2009 preseason game. The collective thought of Clipper Nation had to run something like: "Here we go again...".
7. Clippers Trade for Dominique Wilkins
It's okay 'Nique. You only have to play for the Clippers for half a season.
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In 1994, following back-to-back playoff appearances, the Clippers traded their former No. 1-overall pick and free-agent-to-be Danny Manning for one of the greatest guards in NBA history, Dominique Wilkins.
Though Wilkins was already 34, he was still putting up monster numbers and living up to his nickname, The Human Highlight Film. He was arguably the biggest piece the Clippers had ever acquired via trade in the franchise's history.
The fans were justified in their excitement as 'Nique lit it up for the Clips to the tune of 29.1 points per game in 25 games. The only issue was the Clippers finished 28 games under .500 and Wilkins signed with the Orlando Magic after the season, his brief stint with the Clips now a mere footnote in his Hall of Fame career.
6. Clippers Trade for Elton Brand
Elton Brand became the face of the Clippers franchise for the better part of a decade.
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In June 2001, the Clippers swung a draft-day trade that sent their No. 2 overall pick (Tyson Chandler) to Chicago for former Rookie of the Year Elton Brand.
Brand would go on to become the face of the franchise for the next seven seasons. He made the All-Star team in his first year with the club and would do so again in 2006.
That 2005-2006 season put Brand and the Clippers on the map. Brand averaged a career high 24.7 points to go along with 10.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. In addition to being an All-Star, Brand was named Western Conference Player of the Month for November 2005 and made the All-NBA second team.
Beyond the individual honors, Brand led the Clips to the franchise's lone playoff series win that season, getting the team to within one win of the conference finals while averaging better than 25 points and 10 boards a game.
Until Blake Griffin surpasses him, Brand remains the best player to ever don a Clippers jersey.
5. Back-to-Back Playoff Appearances
Ron Harper led the Clippers to two consecutive postseasons.
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A little past the midway point of the 1991-92 season, a legendary coach by the name of Larry Brown took over the Clippers. Brown worked his magic not just for that year, but for the next as well, as the Clippers made consecutive postseasons under Brown's tutelage.
This marked the only time in franchise history that the Clippers enjoyed back-to-back playoff berths (as well as the only time they enjoyed two-straight years without a losing record). They were bounced in the first round both times, but they could still brag about finishing ahead of their crosstown rivals, the Lakers, each season.
Unfortunately, Larry Brown left the team after the 1992-93 campaign and it would be 13 long years before the Clips finished better than .500 again.
4. The 1998 Draft
Why draft Dirk when you can nab the Kandi-man instead?
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The lottery balls bounced in the Clippers' favor in 1998. They were blessed with the No. 1 overall pick for the first time in 10 years, poised to draft their new franchise player.
With several surefire talents at the top of the draft board to potentially build their team around, the Clippers selected...Michael Olowokandi, a 23-year-old center from the University of the Pacific with one good college season under his belt.
The Kandi-man went on to average eight points and seven rebounds a game for his disappointing career, posting a PER of better than 12 just once (a PER of 15 is considered average for an NBA player) and shooting just 43.5 percent from the field (unspeakably atrocious for a center).
So who could the Clippers have drafted in his stead? How about Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Al Harrington, Rashard Lewis or Cuttino Mobley? Heck, Brad Miller went undrafted that year and he was 27 times better than the Kandi-man.
Instead of landing a franchise building block, the Clippers landed perhaps the worst No. 1 overall pick of all time.
3. Blake Griffin Rises
Doing something as athletically profound as this can only be described as "Blaking Bad".
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As noted earlier, Blake Griffin had to delay his rookie season by an entire year.
Suffice it to say, it was worth the wait.
Griffin burst onto the scene with jaw-dropping dunks and magnificent all-around skills. He averaged a staggering 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds to run away with Rookie of the Year honors.
In February of 2011, Blake put on a show in front of his home fans during All-Star Weekend. His series of scintillating slams brought the dunk contest back from the grave, with the image of him throwing down an alley-oop while soaring over the hood of an automobile etched into the minds of fans across the globe.
Griffin's biggest accomplishment, however, has to be single-handedly resurrecting the Clippers franchise. Blake has turned the Clips into must-see TV on a nightly basis. He's the most exciting player in the league and he's turned his team into one of the most fun squads to follow on the court.
At his current pace, Blake is poised to easily become the greatest Clipper of all time.
2. The Daniel Ewing Debacle
Coach Mike Dunleavy's face says it all. "Why did I put Daniel Ewing in the game?!"
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The Clippers made it to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 2006. They were squaring off with the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals. The series was tied 2-2 and Game 5 was going down to the wire. The Clippers were up 111-108 with 3.6 seconds to play in OT.
Coach Mike Dunleavy elected to put rookie guard Daniel Ewing into the game (a guy who was trusted with five total minutes of action for the entire playoffs) to defend Raja Bell on the season's biggest possession. Bell promptly drained a three-pointer over Ewing from the corner to send the game to a second OT where the Suns clinched the victory and a 3-2 series lead.
Had the Clippers held on to win Game 5, they would have taken a 3-2 series lead of their own back home to L.A. where they eventually won Game 6. Instead of defeating the Suns in six games, they fell to Phoenix in seven.
And that's the closest the Clippers have ever gotten to the conference finals.
1. Clippers Clinch Their 1st Playoff-Series Victory
The Clippers finally get out of the first round.
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May 1, 2006 was the day. The day the Clippers finally advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
It came after drubbing the Denver Nuggets 101-83 in front of the hometown faithful, capturing the series four games to one.
The Clippers overcame over 25 years of bad karma, a terrible coach, an even worse owner and Reggie Evans' foul play to finally make it past the first round.
The team's deepest-ever playoff run came to a halt in the conference semifinals where they fell to the Suns in seven games, but 2006 remains the greatest season in the history of the franchise.