Active hatred for the Clippers from Lakers fans appears to have reached an all-time high this season as the Clippers became widely regarded title contenders while the Lakers recorded the most losses in franchise history. Why does such a significant portion of Lakers fan base feel so much vindication and ecstasy over the Clippers loss to the Thunder? The explanations by Lakers fans for their passionate vitriol says more about the state of the Laker fan psyche than it does about Clippers fans. Let's walk through the common Laker fans justifications for Clippers hatred in chronological order:
#1: The Clippers are the worst-run franchise in sports, the anti-thesis of the win-at-any-cost Lakers approach to management, and therefore should not receive fan support
This has been the predominant Lakers fan mantra since the Clippers moved to LA and an argument I sympathize with the most. I have been a Clippers fan since 1991 and have often questioned why I support a team that made so many questionable management decisions, often explicitly at the expense of winning. Let's put aside the ownership issue (i.e., Donald Sterling) for a moment--there has always been justification to root against Sterling--and focus on the management of the team. The Clippers have generally prioritized winning since Neil Olshey became GM in 2010 and this argument has even less currency since the Clippers committed to spending $7M a year on Doc Rivers to be SVP of Basketball Operations and Head Coach. If Clippers management was the reason to oppose this team, then it should now be the reason to support them or at least be indifferent (again, putting aside the ownership issue).
#2: If you are a "real" Lakers fan, your second favorite team is whoever is playing the Clippers
This may be the second oldest argument in Clippers history and there are some parallels with multi-teamed Chicago and New York and the Ducks/Angels in LA. However, the tension between fan bases in multi-teamed regions usually emanates from geographic or competitive rivalry. Regarding the former, the stadium locations of the Lakers and Clippers before they co-located in Staples Center in 1999 probably have very little influence on the geographic spread of Clippers and Lakers fans. Regarding the latter, the Clippers and Lakers have never been on-court rivals. The closest they came was in 2006 when the Clippers were the sixth seed and the Lakers were the seventh seed. Moreover, as Lakers fans love to point out, this Clippers season is the best in its franchise history, but it would be a footnote in a Lakers history filled with 31 NBA Finals (an average of almost every other season since entering the NBA). While a Clippers fan often has to define himself as rooting for the "other" LA team, the opposite is not true of a Lakers fan. "Real" Lakers fans should not need Clippers fans to define who they are. In fact, for most of the Clippers' history, a victory by the lowly Clippers usually benefitted the Lakers in the standings. Showing anything but indifference to the Clippers' on-court performance contradicts the Lakers tired narrative that the Clippers will not be relevant in LA until they win 16 titles. I doubt many Clippers fans consider the Lakers recording-setting losses to be a highlight of this season.
#3: Clippers are the direct beneficiaries of the David Stern veto of the Chris Paul trade and its haltering of the next Lakers dynasty
Lakers fans will forever be bitter over the "what if the trade was not vetoed" conjecture, but as Clippers fans know and Lakers fans like to point out to the rest of the NBA, "what if we..." fantasies are the hindsight fans cling to when they face a loss. Lakers fans suffer from the same revisionist history of the opponents they have beaten. In hindsight, the Lakers would clearly be better off had the trade gone through, but at the time, the expected consequences of the trade were much more controversial than Lakers fans care to remember. In the initial discussions of pursuing Dwight Howard vs. Paul, fans overwhelming wanted Howard. 85% of fans polled by SBNation preferred trading for Howard with visions of DPOY Howard becoming the anchor of a Mike Brown defense, setting picks for Kobe, and becoming the indestructible machine to replace the frail Andrew Bynum. These fans got exactly what they wanted. When details of the trade broke, an LA Times poll found that only 28% of Lakers fans thought it was a good deal for the Lakers. ESPN Lakers writer Brian Kamenetzky was cautious that the Lakers "are, at this very moment, not a better team" because they lost the "most formidable and versatile frontcourt in the NBA". There was widespread concern (from reporters such as NBC's Brett Pollakoff) about whether the two ball-dominating guards could coexist, whether Paul's knees would hold up and whether the Lakers could obtain Howard for Bynum to make up for the loss of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. For what it's worth, Paul is clearly on a better team today and going forward with the Clippers than he would have been with the Lakers.
#4: Lakers fans can't stand these smack-talking Clippers bandwagon fans and would love nothing more than to see these fans punished for their phoniness by watching a Clippers playoff meltdown
This whine by Lakers fans is the most recent and most hypocritical. Let me get this straight. The Lakers with their 16 titles and self-described championship-or-bust fan base has "real" fans while the Clippers with their aspirations of winning a title as the third seed has bandwagon fans? I think the Lakers fans' twisted logic comes from a belief that new Clippers fans are trendy followers of the "Lob City" flashiness and the media hype about the Clippers taking over LA. Let me try to calm them down. First, fans that like "trendy" teams or attend their games are usually either children who idolize the feats of specific players or adults who only like basketball for entertainment and therefore they typically like to only watch the most exciting players/teams (i.e., why the Thunder are more popular than the Spurs). I hope we can agree that these fans should not be ridiculed for their preferences and do not represent a team's loyal fan base. Second, the Clippers' loyal fan base is miniscule in number compared to the Lakers' and therefore these "bandwagoners" represent a larger share of followers, but let's not kid ourselves (including Clippers fans listening to the media-generated narrative)--the Lakers have always been the ultimate bandwagon team. How hard was it to be a Lakers fan before this season? Which team is notorious for attracting non-Angeleno celebrities and see-and-be-seen socialites to their games? Where was the Lakers fans' outrage at the "bandwagoners" in 2009 and 2010? Joining the Clippers bandwagon actually takes some effort. Do you want to hear Clippers-oriented talk on the radio? You get one hour after every game on KFWB and 24/7 Lakers coverage on ESPN radio with their self-serving, contradictory recommendations on what's best for the Clippers (e.g., Clippers should trade the "one-dimensional" Griffin for Howard, Clippers will never win with a perennial loser like Paul who should have been a Laker). Do you want to read any Clippers-oriented news from the local media? You better find a Clippers blog because the local papers are written by sports writers with a Lakers agenda. Do you want to watch a regular season Clippers game at a bar? You better ask the bar to put on the game and deal with the Lakers fans around you rooting against them. Do you want to join the bandwagon live at Staples Center? You better drown out the antagonistic voices from the Lakers fans and opponent's fans in attendance. The fact that Lakers fans have usurped the Clippers fans "anti-bandwagon" identity must be the ultimate low for a Lakers fan. What's next? The Lakers are the lovable losers?
This Clippers fan is looking forward to the Lakers and Clippers being a legitimate on-court rivalry. Clippers Nation, what are your thoughts?