We asked our writers to rank their top stories of 2011, moments that defined the teams they cover, and affected the fans who followed them. Here, columnist Ramona Shelburne makes her picks for the Los Angeles Clippers. Vote on your favorite moments in the poll at right, or add your own in the comments.
5. Clippers trade Baron Davis
This trade has already felt so right and so wrong on several occasions. Wrong on the day it was learned that the first-round pick the Clippers gave up in this deal had turned into the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Right on the day it was completed and then again in mid-December when it finally became obvious that ridding themselves of Davis' burdensome contract was a key factor in their ability to acquire Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets. Mostly though, this trade was important in that it marked the end of the Elton Brand era and the official beginning of the Blake Griffin era. As soon as Davis and his outsized presence were gone, the team became Griffin's for however long he chooses to stay.
4. Clippers beat the Miami Heat
In the scheme of things it was one game in mid-January that ended up mattering little to the Heat, who went on to the NBA Finals. But the Clippers' 111-105 win over Miami on Jan. 12 was an important step for a young team learning to trust in its new franchise player. Griffin had 24 points and 14 rebounds, his 30th double-double of the season. Over the summer the Clippers weren't taken very seriously when they courted James as a free agent. After this win, they would be taken seriously by the entire league.
3. Blake's triple-double in season finale
There was already little doubt Griffin would win the league's rookie of the year award as he took the court for the final game of the season April 13 against the Memphis Grizzlies. Still, he wanted to end things on a high note. In typically spectacular fashion, Griffin posted his second career triple-double with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the team's 110-103 win over the Grizzlies. After winning just one of their first 14 games and five of their first 26 games, the Clippers went 26-26 over their final 52 games.
2. Griffin wins slam dunk title
It was hard to believe there could be a way Blake Griffin could live up to the stage that had been set before him at All-Star Weekend. It was harder still to imagine him topping some of the dunks he already had thrown down in games during a magical rookie season. But like any good stuntman, Griffin didn't focus on any of that. He just said "yes" when someone asked if he wanted to be in the competition, figured out how to jump over a car while dunking a basketball, then just went out and did it. "I guess I could've clipped my foot on the side and smashed my face into the car," Griffin said. "But I didn't really think about it like that. It's just one of those things where I knew I could get over it, so I just did it."
1. CP3 introduced as a Clipper
Chris Paul probably expressed the magnitude of Dec. 15 best when he wrote on his Twitter feed: "L.A!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #WhoWouldveThought."
But it was true. Unbelievably, improbably, it was true. The best point guard in the NBA was a Clipper because, get this: He really wanted to be a Clipper. It was a staggering moment for one of the NBA's most woebegone franchises, one that was made possible by three years of shrewd, disciplined front-office maneuvering and a bit of extraordinary luck back in 2009 when the team won the lottery and the right to draft Blake Griffin. It's too early to tell whether Paul and Griffin will turn the Clippers into an elite team, but the fact we're even asking the question certainly says something.
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.