When things don’t go your way, the temptation to scapegoat others for your own shortcomings is a difficult urge to resist.
Sometimes you just have to look at yourself in the mirror and accept that you have as much responsibility for your troubles as anyone else. Sure, I know that sounds a little cliche—like something Steph Curry would read off a cue card while hosting the wackest episode of Sesame Street ever.
But it seems like the instinct to cast unspecified blame on everyone else for your misfortunes has reached a dangerous tilting point, not just in sports but in our culture writ large. And perhaps more troubling, this rise in scapegoating is increasingly infused with the insidious stench of conspiracy. A failure isn’t just a failure anymore, but the result of elaborate corruption at the highest levels of power at our most important institutions.
You guys see what I’m getting at here? Am I the only one that’s making this connection?
The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary - but also at many polling places - SAD— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2016
Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. In a culture so divided and fragmented, maybe there’s an upside to all this a few years down the road.
Still, I think Clipper Nation can learn a little from Ayesha. As a fan base, we veer more on the side of self-recrimination than casting blame on others. OKC Game 5, Houston Game 6, and the Final Destination-Portland series has forced us to conduct an outsized share of soul-searching.
We’ve asked our friends, families, and increasingly frustrated therapists the tough questions:
“Is this somehow because I went to games when Sterling was the owner?”
“Is it possible I cut off Tony Brothers accidentally on the freeway and he saw my “LWLRSLAW” license plate?”
“I honestly thought Josh Smith was a good signing...”
Clipper Nation, it’s not your fault. Let’s get ready for this season by indulging in an annual pastime as cathartic as any other for NBA fans—ranking the players, media members, coaches and other basketball personalities that we love to hate. Let us venture into the dark side of NBA fandom, let us hate fully and completely, let us be baptized in the waters of vitriol and resentment that Quinn Snyder apparently bathes in daily.
For those new to these rankings, here’s where we were two years ago, and here’s where we were last year. Looking back at these is almost nostalgic. Remember when our greatest enemies were Z-Bo suplexes and Serge groin-punches, fearsome but fundamentally surmountable rivals? Now...oh dear God I don’t want to face the Warriors.
Here again are also the guiding tenets of sports villainy, to separate the Anthony Morrows of the world from the Draymonds:
- When a nonpartisan friend mentions the villain's name, is your immediate and involuntary reaction, "God I hate that guy"?
- Has the villain injured a member of your team? Extra points if it's a key player/hometown favorite that suffered the injury, and if the injury was severe.
- Does the villain seem to play uncommonly well against your team? Extra points if the villain is typically terrible against all other opposition.
- Is the villain a dirty player? Extra points if the villain pretends he never punches or kicks people in the groin?
- Does the national media portrayal of the villain not conform at all to what you see when you watch the games?
- Has the villain broken your heart? Extra points for soul-crushing postseason defeats.
And without further ado...
Villains Also Receiving Votes
Zach and Marc
I can’t believe I’m writing this but...after the past three seasons, I can almost empathize with Memphis fans. Like the Clippers, the Grizzlies have never seemed able to assemble a fully healthy roster when it matters the most. Like the Clippers, the Grizzlies have suffered from some spectacularly bad luck and questionable officiating decisions (nobody outside Tennessee remembers the dubious Z-Bo suspension in Game 7 of the 2014 first-round matchup against OKC). And like the Clippers, there’s a sense that the window is about to shut on any championship aspirations, if it hasn’t already.
But we will never, ever, ever forgive that franchise for flip-flop night.
“The Basketball Gods”
They exist. And judging by their behavior the past three seasons, I’m pretty sure they consist of these dudes.
I’m a firm believer in basketball karma (if you’re a doubter, just ask Joe Lacob how these comments worked out for him). We could rationalize our first few postseason disasters by saying, “look, the basketball Gods gifted us Chris Paul out of nowhere—we can’t expect everything to be easy for us the rest of the way.”
But the tumult and heartbreak of the past few years go well beyond what’s supernaturally just. We are not a fan base with a history of unfounded hubris or a misplaced sense of entitlement. We don’t deserve this.
Obligatory Kobe Entry
Speaking of fan bases with a history of unfounded hubris and misplaced sense of entitlement...
Retired or not, for as long as I write this list Kobe will always have a spot. Not out of respect. Just because I hope decades from now when an 8-year old NBA fan Google images “What did Kobe Bryant look like?”, this image surfaces somewhere on the first page.
Many Clipper fans thought last season would be the last we would see trainer Jason Powell be weirdly too involved in late-game timeouts and hold Doc’s clipboard even though Mike Woodson could totally do it. I know Lucas even modeled how much cap space removing his malpractice insurance would free up for us.
I won’t pretend to know how precisely culpable Powell might be for Blake’s quad debacle, or Big Baby’s ankle debacle, or Jared Dudley’s knee debacle, or other instances of weird Clipper injury stories. Regardless, the team’s seemingly perpetual health problems suggest an entirely new approach to healing may be in order. Conventional Western medicine simply isn’t doing the trick for this team.
Fuck it. It’s time for reiki.
Who could possibly hate Steve Kerr? That breezy and disarming smile at every postgame presser, that charming and self-effacing wit on every Zach Lowe podcast (hahaha Steve, that’s right, you really did carry those Bulls teams didn’t you!, hahahaha so tongue-in-cheek Steve!), that calm and collected sideline repartee with officials, that “your friend’s cool dad who took you surfing for the first time when you were 12 and kind of made your dad look lame by comparison” tanline.
While Lacob might be be more easily caricatured as “pompous rich tech guy”, it’s Kerr’s brand of relaxed arrogance that more accurately mirrors the infuriating vibe of Silicon Valley. I was in the Bay for each and every one of those 73* wins, and sure, there were a lot of 20-something coders with way too much disposable income at sports bars yelling “Milwaukee has a basketball team?!?!?” at the top of their lungs.
But walk around San Francisco or San Jose and you’re also bound to see a zillion Steve Kerrs hopping into Ubers, middle-aged white men with the confidence of having already made their Friendster money in their younger years. These are the guys who know they’re smarter than everyone else, who know with certainty what the future will look like and have bet large amounts of money on that knowledge, and who don’t get upset at the little bumps along the way because they know in the long-run that everything works out for them.
That is, until Lebron fucks up your wi-fi.
4. Andre’s Shoulder Shrug
He has got to stop this.
Seriously dude. You can’t do this after you swish a three AND after you bank one in.
Iguodala is a spectacular basketball player and, as is the case whenever we play a team with a competent wing, I can’t help but fantasize about how perfectly he would fit on the Clippers’s roster.
But the shoulder shrug—enough with the shoulder shrug, man.
The great unraveling of Steph Curry was one of many unexpected joys for Clipper fans last Finals.
With Durant’s addition, it’s arguably Curry’s basketball legacy that will suffer the most. Even if the Warriors disappoint and only win 30 of the next 31 NBA titles (Timberwolves in 2033!), the Charles Barkleys of the world will always have this rejoinder: the only year Steph was the unambiguous best player on a championship team, J.R. Smith was Lebron’s second best teammate in the Finals.
It’s tough on a fan base when a star player’s legacy is judged on somewhat arbitrary postseason outcomes. Not that we know what that feels like.
It’s still unclear to Clipper Nation what exactly went down between KD, Blake, DJ, Doc and Ballmer in the Hamptons last summer. But we’re pretty sure it went something along these lines:
Ballmer: Kevin. We want to build something extraordinary with you.
DJ: If you join Golden State, everyone will think you’re taking the easy way out. People will call you a coward. Believe me, it’s not easy when everyone hates you, even for dumb reasons.
Blake: Coward is a ridiculous word. But it would be an easier way out. If you join us, and we win it, there would be no question about your competitive spirit. We’re really good, we could do it with you, and you could leave all that baggage behind in OKC.
Doc: I won a championship uniting superstars. This would be no different. And our players are very unselfish.
Durant: That all sounds great. But I’ve got to get past this Lil B shit, and this is the only way out. Also, where’s Chris?
If there is any hope that the Warriors do not cruise to a championship, it resides in what looks to be the increasingly fragile psyche of one Draymond Green.
Prior to the 2016 postseason, Draymond had done a remarkable job of convincing the media and the public that yes, he may be an asshole, but he was a lovable asshole. Any championship team needs an asshole like him, he would intimate in friendly post-game interviews on Sportscenter. ESPN Draymond was just a firecracker, a live wire, someone willing to do just enough dirt to keep his team afloat.
This narrative was incredibly frustrating to Clipper Nation, because we knew the truth: Draymond was just an asshole. There was nothing lovable about him. And he was a hell of a lot dirtier than other “tough guys” we had encountered over the years.
Two highly publicized nut punches, an errant dick pic, and a still somewhat inexplicable fight with a MSU football player later, and the world is finally starting to sour on Draymond. You can look at his subpar performance at the Olympics as a result of DJ just being a better fit, or the result of Draymond being in Rio for far too long.
Or maybe, just maybe, Draymond isn’t as mentally tough as his brand says he is. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll see the Dubs teeter as their key defensive linchpin buckles under the weight of extraordinary pressure.
But most likely they’re winning the next 30 NBA titles. Good God I hate the Dubs.
As always, a shout-out to the homie Connor, who killed it in this one. Connor, you are the Al Thornton as a rookie to my Al Thornton every other season of his career.