LOS ANGELES -- There was a time not too long ago when the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t like their "Lob City" nickname.
Sure, Blake Griffin coined the phrase when he was caught on camera uttering the nickname for the first time and side-bumping DeAndre Jordan after finding out the Clippers had just traded for Chris Paul.
He later said he regretted it, and he and the Clippers, especially Paul, tried to spend much of last season trying to downplay the nickname.
"It's unfortunate," Griffin said last season. "It's one of those things where we understand it, but that's not what we're about. Before the game we're not going out thinking, 'All right, it's Lob City tonight.' We're just trying to win games and trying to get better."
Paul agreed at the time: "It's something we can't control. We are a complete team, and we want to continue to be a complete team. That's the only way we're going to win games. It doesn't matter if you get 10 lobs and lose the game. It's all about winning at the end of the day."
There was never a point when the team began embracing the name and stopped rolling their eyes whenever a reporter uttered it. It was more of a slow progression. One day Tyga’s “Lob City” remix began playing in the locker room. Then players started to wear a line of “Lob City” hats and shirts from a local clothing line. And then the team started to sell its own shirts and hats at the team store.
Like most good nicknames, it eventually took on a life of its own, and the Clippers are living up to it on a nightly basis, with lob dunks so spectacular they instantly become trending topics on Twitter.
"That was the best dunk of the year," Griffin said. “That’s the best dunk I’ve seen in person. … It was a great read, a great play, a great pass and an even better finish.”
Paul joked that it was “almost as good as the one I did in practice the other day.”
“Yeah,” Griffin said. “We lowered the goals like 6 feet and let the little guys go crazy.”
Almost as amazing Jordan’s dunk on Knight is watching his teammates’ reaction right after the play. You can seemingly spot something new every time, from Matt Barnes jumping on the wing, grabbing his head and running in place to the look on Jordan’s face as if he had just smelled something nasty.
"I couldn't really run up to him because I wasn’t in the game,” Griffin said. “I didn’t know what to do. I was just running around. I honestly couldn’t believe it for a while. I was just kind of running in circles and Vinny (Del Negro) told me not to get a technical so I had to calm down.”
Paul is always the calmest player on the court after big lob dunks, but even he yelled and shoved Jordan after the play.
“I usually try not to react after all those different types of dunks but that was pretty good,” Paul said. “Me and DJ had been trying to get to that play for three or four possessions and I kept telling him to slip, you’re open, and we finally got it.”
Jordan paused after the game when he was asked where he would rank that dunk and Griffin, listening in, immediately said, “Don’t be stupid, say No. 1.”
After the game, Clippers players laughed as they scrolled through Twitter and saw some of the early memes created after the dunk.
“I guess I would rank that No. 1,” Jordan said. “That was the fastest I think I’ve seen Caron (Butler) move when he ran to give me a chest bump so I guess it wasn’t bad. I mean Ronny (Turiaf) was dancing back there so I guess he liked it.”