Long before the emergence of “Lob City” or the arrival of a very excitable owner, the franchise now known as the Los Angeles Clippers was playing home contests in upstate New York as the Buffalo Braves. Introduced as an expansion club prior to the start of the 1970-71 season, the Braves sputtered some in the beginning, but by ‘73-74, the crew in the funky blue and orange uniforms were well on their way to becoming the talk of the league.
Hall of Famer Dr. Jack Ramsay assumed the head coaching reins in ‘72-73, and while the Braves only won 21 games that year, supporters were encouraged by the dynamite play of big man Bob McAdoo. The Rookie of the Year averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds per game during his inaugural crusade, and he blossomed into a powerhouse in ‘73-74 to lead the league in scoring and guide the Braves to their first-ever playoff appearance. The club would return to the postseason in ‘74-75 as McAdoo captured NBA MVP honors, and the ‘75-76 campaign saw yet another trip to the playoffs and another scoring title for “Can-Do.” However, fan enthusiasm was starting to cool off, and the franchise would stay in Buffalo for only two more years before deciding to head west.
After spending six seasons in San Diego, the squad moved again to Los Angeles. The fledgling franchise hadn’t found success in their first California locale, and they didn’t crack the code in the City of Angels either. From 1985 to 2005, the Clippers won more than 40 games just twice and appeared in the playoffs in only three of those campaigns. To make matters worse, they were sharing an arena with the Lakers, a team that won a lot of games and made it look darn easy, too.
There’s an old saying that states “there’s no sense dwelling on the past,” and fans have certainly adopted that stance when it comes to the Clippers. And who can blame them? Not only did the club book trips to the postseason in ‘12, ‘13, ‘14 and ‘15, but it happened with some of the game’s brightest stars on their roster. Forward Blake Griffin won Rookie of the Year in ‘10-11, and in addition to being a perennial All-Star, he also emerged as one the most flat-out likable guys in the league. Diehards marvel at his high-flying exploits, while more casual fans enjoy the fearless sense of humor that he displays in TVcommercials. Point guard Chris Paul arrived a year after Griffin, and together, the pair quickly turned LA into “Lob City.” Paul led the league in assists in both ‘13-14 and ‘14-15, with Griffin slamming home most of those passes.
Having witnessed the club spend so many years in the league basement, it’s no surprise that most hoops fans cheer for the Clippers these days. Everyone loves a good underdog story, and LA’s other franchise has crafted a tale fit for Hollywood. Once synonymous with futility, the team is now renowned for its resiliency. With the past firmly behind them, supporters couldn’t be more thrilled about the bright future that lies ahead.