Both of the Los Angeles teams are struggling this season. But the long-term prognosis for the famous Lakers looks better than that of the Clippers
Sunday was another tough night for LA basketball. The Los Angeles Lakers losing streak increased to five games after the Houston Rockets blew them out 118-95. Meanwhile the injury-plagued Clippers lost their third straight, falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-106. Despite coming into this season with radically different expectations, both teams have won just eight games and have a long way to go if they want to make it above the .500 mark. While its still early in the season, theres a strong possibility that we could be heading towards the first NBA postseason without an LA-based team since 2005.
Its been a particularly unusual time to be a Lakers fan as their team has already missed four straight postseasons, by far their longest playoff drought. In fact, prior to this stretch, they had missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons only once before, in 1974-76. Since 1960, when they moved from Minnesota (hence their geographically suspect nickname) to become the first NBA team on the West Coast the Lakers have won 25 conference titles and 11 championships, including two three-peats. This is a team that has showcased a laundry list of superstar players including Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille ONeal and Kobe Bryant.
Even if the Lakers hadnt established themselves as one of the most successful and popular franchises in US sports, the Clippers were always going to be the lesser loved of the two teams. They began life as the Buffalo Braves in 1970 before moving to San Diego in 1978 and rebranding themselves as the Clippers. They then moved to LA in 1984, just in time to be completely overshadowed by Johnsons Showtime Lakers teams, whose epic battles with Larry Birds Boston Celtics helped revive the league and laid the groundwork for the modern day NBA.
Of course, its doubtful that the Clippers would have gained a large fanbase even if they had an entire major market to themselves. For most of their existence the Clippers have played awful, uninspired basketball. They wouldnt make their first playoffs as the Clippers until the 1991-92 season. They lost in the first round, something that would become a fairly common result on those rare occasions that they actually managed to qualify for the postseason.
Much of the blame for the Clippers legacy of losing has to be placed on Donald Sterling, the bigoted slumlord and notorious cheapskate who owned the Clippers from 1981 to 2014, when the NBA finally banned him for life after he was caught on tape making racist remarks. During his reign, the Clippers werent just bad on the court, they were an absolutely toxic organization with a reputation for making players miserable, a situation that ensured that free agents tended to give the team a wide berth.
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