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In Los Angeles Rings Talk, Hype Walks
I moved to Los Angeles from New York City at the beginning of the 2012-2013 NBA season, and I noticed an eerily similar phenomenon out west to what had been taking place back home all summer.
In both basketball epicenters, there was an unfounded notion of a new sheriff in town. The New York Knickerbockers and Los Angeles Lakers, two of the most heralded franchises in all of professional sports and steadfast fixtures in their respective cities, were all of a sudden sharing the spotlight.
After luring Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to Brooklyn via free agency, undergoing a total image renovation, and aligning themselves with Brooklyn’s beloved Jay-Z – the Nets quickly became a fixation to the casual basketball spectator in the Tri-State area.
Meanwhile out west, Los Angeles’ own Tyga released a club anthem entitled “Rack City,” which eventually, in a Clippers promotional campaign, was remixed to “Lob City” as an ode to the Clippers’ high octane, alley-oop filled offense. All of a sudden, the Clippers brand was engaging a young hip fan base.
Inhabitants of Laker Nation were rapidly moving to “Lob City” with the excitement surrounding Chris Paul, and the freakishly athletic front line of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Ultimately, in both New York and Los Angeles – novelty was challenging royalty.
This past NBA off-season both of the aforementioned “novel” franchises made acquisitions that further solidified themselves as contenders (ironically, both as a result of the Celtics rebuilding process). Brooklyn was able to acquire future Hall-of-Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, along with Jason Terry – while the Clippers enlisted the widely acclaimed Doc Rivers as their new head coach.
Both acquisitions even further amplified the new sheriff in town sentiments of the previous summer. I am all for some healthy inter-city competition, and avidly believe in competition breeding excellence, however in the NBA, tradition is sacred.
This leads me to the recent events taking place in the Staples Center, the home that both the Clippers and the Lakers share. Doc Rivers’ decision to apply a touch of interior re-decoration to the Staples’ Center rafters for the Clippers’ exhibition home opener last Friday certainly raised a clamor in the City of Angels.
The familiar banners commemorating the Los Angeles Lakers’ championships, and all of the legends that helped them garner such success were no longer visible. Instead, draped over the retired jerseys and championship pennants were banners of current Clipper players.
I understand Doc attempting to instill a winning atmosphere within the Clippers’ organization and all, but masquerading the success of your cross-town rival is not the way to change the glaring Clipper reputation for futility.
The Clippers have won only two playoff series since moving to Los Angeles in the 1985-86 season. Two playoff series… in almost thirty years. Instead of trying to level the historical playing field of the two franchises by concealing the illustriousness of the Lakers, perhaps Doc should focus his efforts on ensuring the Clippers do not grossly underachieve in the playoffs once again this season.
In sports championships are what matter, those trophies and banners are the measuring stick. Hype, personnel changes, image makeovers are all just white noise. NBA fans equate the Staples’ Center with the Lakers, not the Clippers, for the simple reason that the Lakers have dominated opponents there since the arena’s unveiling.
If the Clippers want to claim visceral ownership of the Staples Center, they need to win, and win when it matters. Those championship banners and retired jerseys are special. Kareem, Magic, Shaq, and the rest of the legendary Lakers players in the arena’s rafters have earned the right to have their name and number seen anytime the Staples’ Center opens for business.
Until the Clippers have something to show for their twenty-eight years in Los Angeles, they should bow down and kiss the rings…all sixteen of them.