LOS ANGELES -- One of the more fascinating aspects of covering both the Lakers and the Clippers is hearing and seeing the same quips from Lakers fans whenever I write about the Clippers. They come at me in waves on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, without fail, whenever I post anything about the Clippers.
So before the Lakers and Clippers play Friday, I thought I’d tackle the things Lakers fans love pointing out to Clippers fans the most.
Where are the Clippers’ banners?
Whenever the Clippers have a big win, Lakers fans will always respond with some variation of: “That’s cute. How many championships have you won? How many banners do you have? Call us when you get 16.” I heard it enough while covering the Clippers’ 17-game winning streak to realize that’s the go-to line for Lakers fans if their team is struggling or they feel Clippers fans are getting too full of themselves.
But what about this season and this year’s teams? I have yet to meet a Clippers fan who thinks the Clippers are a more storied franchise than the Lakers. If Clippers fans cared about history, I’m sure they would have hopped on the Lakers’ bandwagon long ago, embraced the Minneapolis Lakers’ titles as their own and bought a Jerry West throwback jersey.
The problem with the banners argument is that it has nothing to do with the here and now. It would be like a Boston fan clinging to 16 banners while the Celtics languished in mediocrity for nearly 20 years before winning another title. The Lakers last won a title in 2010, and only three players are left from that team. In fact, right now more Clippers players (four) own rings than Lakers players (three).
Clippers fans are bandwagon fans.
This one probably makes the least sense to me. You have two teams in Los Angeles. One team has won 16 championships and has missed the playoffs only twice since 1976. The other team has never won anything and has missed the playoffs in all but five seasons since 1976.
How in the world is cheering for the latter team considered hopping on the bandwagon? If anything you’re taking the road less traveled in a city that bleeds purple and gold. I don’t even think a bandwagon can exist until a team wins something.
I know where Lakers fans are coming from. Yes, there are far more Clippers fans now than there were three seasons ago, before Blake Griffin and Chris Paul came to Los Angeles and created “Lob City,” but how many Lakers fans do you really think switched allegiances? My guess is there are more Clippers fans at games and wearing blue and red these days because they actually have something to be proud of. Many Lakers fans were essentially born on the bandwagon -- their team has contended for a championship every year they’ve been alive. It’s not hard to root for a winner. I’m not going to fault Clippers fans for wanting to be a part of something new and different.
The Clippers play in the Lakers’ arena.
Well, technically the Lakers and Clippers play in the Los Angeles Kings’ arena. The Staples Center was built by Kings owners Philip Anschutz and Ed Roski in 1999 and attracted the Lakers and Clippers as tenants, as well. Lakers owner Jerry Buss and Clippers owner Donald Sterling had nothing to do with the building of Staples Center and don’t own it. Considering all the Lakers banners in the building and statues outside the building, however, I can understand the confusion.
This is just a fluke; the Clippers will go back to their old ways.
It’s understandable for Lakers fans to think that. The Clippers made back-to-back playoff runs 20 seasons ago before fading away and made an unexpected second-round run in the playoffs six seasons ago before fading away again. These Clippers, however, are different. They have franchise cornerstones in place and are expected to contend for at least the next five seasons, maybe longer.
The Clippers had nice pieces in place before but they never had two of the top 10 players in the league like Paul and Griffin, both of whom are expected to be with the team for the foreseeable future. Add players like DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe to the mix and the Clippers are built for long-term success, which has never been the case before.