Welcome to the refreshed Clips Nation! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we're sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you'd like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We're collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
Why am I a fan of the Clippers? The short answer: I'm a Los Angeles native and they're a fun team to watch. The long answer, however, requires far more perspective and circumstance.
I have been a fan of the Clippers since 2011. Saying that alone brings a lot of criticism for various reasons, but especially-so in Los Angeles, where purple and gold have reigned supreme for far longer than I've even been alive.
I will be 30 years-old this year, which means I grew up during the Jordan era; the mythos of Michael Jordan helped make the 1990s, in the minds of many, arguably the greatest period in NBA history from both a marketing and fandom standpoint. The NBA has long-been a star-driven league, and while Larry Bird and Magic Johnson certainly pioneered the narrative around individual stardom and rivalry, a bevy of Hall of Fame players, along with Jordan, made the ‘90s an exciting time for young milennials. Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, Hakeem Olajuwon, Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, David Robinson, and John Stockton all played through their prime years during this time. Notably, none of these players represented either Los Angeles NBA team.
By the the time Los Angeles basketball became exciting again, thanks to the dominance of Shaquille O'Neal and then up-and-coming star Kobe Bryant, my attention had become drawn to other interests: music, skateboarding, girls. Being young and living in Los Angeles, there were always innumerable ways to occupy my time. Despite having so many popular teams, there's year-round sunshine, diverse culture, and entertainment aplenty...it's just as easy to become alienated from sports fandom as it is to become immersed in it.
Years had passed, and while the NBA never completely left my grasp, it was not a primary focus at any time. I remained heavily invested in music, navigating the trials and tribulations of young adulthood all the while. It had become more important for me to develop creative outlets, socialize, and learn to cultivate relationships. There simply wasn't the time or energy to consciously throw sports into the mix. But life sometimes has an interesting way of shifting course.
I've been lucky enough to have grown up in a loving household. I have two very involved and caring parents and, as a triplet, have a brother and sister who were built-in friends for life. Throw in the close friends I've kept for many years, and it's clear that I've been fortunate enough to have an excellent support system in my life. But in spite of all of that, for reasons that I don't even fully understand, severe anxiety reared its ugly head in my life.
Anxiety can present itself in many forms and magnitudes; for me, it had become crippling, keeping me from even wanting to leave my house most of the time. Anxiety is a broad term, often used to describe brief periods of mental stress. For so many, though, it's an amalgamation of strong mental and physical symptoms that coexist and perpetuate one another, caused by a variety of environmental and biological factors. Having anxiety, even in the 21st century, can carry a stigma, often leaving those suffering from it feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and unable to even begin dialogue about it. There are myriads of ways for people to cope with it. While I had a great support system around me, even that wasn't always enough. The fear of the outside world can become so staggering that people often turn toward different vices to cope. Others turn to their faith during a tough time like this; it can become very important to believe in something beyond oneself when struggling to find answers, or simply the mental fortitude to live day-to-day. As an agnostic, faith, in the traditional sense, simply wouldn't be an answer for me. I certainly didn't view drugs as an option, either. Oddly enough, I ended up finding refuge in sports.
The 2011-12 NBA season, as many will recall, was a lockout year; the season hadn't even started until late in December of 2011. But I remember flipping through channels and coming across Blake Griffin catching a high lob pass in fast transition; at that point, I had deemed it one of the single most impressive displays of athleticism I had ever witnessed. I couldn't believe that a 6'10" power forward was running the floor, catching a pass several feet above the rim, and dunking it with such ease and authority. I already knew who Griffin was, and I was well aware of the Clippers and their storied history, but nothing about either had moved me the way they did in that very moment. I remember sort of feeling the way I did during moments when I saw some of the NBA's greatest play during the ‘90s. Most importantly, though, I remember suddenly feeling this strange connection to something beyond myself. I wanted more of it. I wasn't yet fully aware that I was just witnessing the inception of "Lob City", but I knew that I was witnessing something special. The Clippers, and the NBA as a whole, were becoming a sort of religion for me.
It had been instilled in me, because of the NBA stardom that was so prevalent during my childhood, that most of the excitement of sports came from the excellence of individual players. Consequently, I had never previously attached myself to an entire team the way that people traditionally do. I was never a bandwagon or fairweather fan, either. I simply had liked star players as a kid, moved away from sports for some time, then, fortunately, happened to gravitate back toward it right when the excitement of Lob City was just beginning. Griffin was quickly becoming a star, Chris Paul had just arrived via trade, and it didn't even matter to me, at that point, whether they won it all or not. I was happy just to be watching a highlight reel on a nightly basis. I knew instantly that I would be a Clippers fan. And I would quickly become embedded in the fabric of its culture. It was all so alluring.
The Clippers, back then, were the underdogs, second fiddle in a city with a great basketball history that did not include them. Really, they still are second fiddle, but it's clear that there's at least been a shift in the proportion of popularity amongst the city's two NBA teams. Over the last four seasons, the Lakers have been lottery-bound every year, never eclipsing a win percentage of 33%. Conversely, the Clippers have made it to the postseason for four straight years after tallying at least 50 wins during each regular season. In addition, they regularly sell-out games, a feat once unfathomable for the franchise.
The Clippers are appealing to a whole new generation of fans, many of whom are young and just discovering the sport. But many others are simply finding that the Clippers' brand of basketball has suddenly piqued their interest, much they same way it piqued mine not long ago. And since the inception of Lob City, the Clippers have evolved quite a bit.
Despite never reaching the Conference Finals, there's no arguing the Clippers of today are not like any of those of yesteryear. In 2013, they won their first-ever division title, following with another in 2014. In 2013, they also brought in Doc Rivers, who had championship experience, to coach and run basketball operations, and, ultimately, establish credibility where there was none before. In 2014, the ever-unpopular Donald Sterling was forced to sell the team following a racist recording that had gone public; his provoclivity for this sort of behavior was known anecdotally for decades, but the recording was, finally, the team's, and the NBA's, ticket to escaping years of embarrassment from the franchise's most powerful figure. Owner Steve Ballmer, billionaire and former Microsoft CEO, is a person whose enthusiasm and philanthropic nature have helped to inject new life into the team and enhance the total fan experience.
Since 2011, Clippers players have, collectively, amassed: an NBA Rookie of the Year award, an NBA Teammate of the Year award, 2 NBA Sixth Man of the Year awards, 3 All-NBA Third Team awards, 4 All-NBA First Team awards, 5 All-NBA Second Team awards, 7 NBA All-Defensive First Team awards, and 11 NBA All-Star selections. They've also made it to the postseason for 7 straight years. Those, like myself, who have been fans of the Clippers during the Lob City era, have witnessed the team's greatest years thus far.
I will remain a lifelong fan of the Clippers, and for many reasons.
Most importantly, I will never forget that the excitement and magic that allured me in the first place helped me cope with a very tough period in my life and gave me a medium to feel connected to the outside world. It began by simply watching games, which then became a regular series of events that allowed me to bond with those close to me. Some of my most cherished memories now include the many, many times I have sat alongside my father and my brother gathered around the television set in conversation or in anticipation of something special.
Listening to the dulcet tone of Ralph Lawler's voice, calling games like a docent guiding viewers through the Clippers' past and present, is an unparalleled basketball experience. His calm demeanor is only interrupted, often abruptly, by enthusiastic exclamations of, "Bingo!", or, "The lob...the jam!"
Clippers fandom has also served as a direct conduit for my all-encompassing love for all of basketball. Clippers love never wavering, I began watching every NBA game I possibly could not too long after my fandom blossomed. In fact, for four straight years now I've had a League Pass membership because my love for the game has expanded in ways I never expected. I never would have thought that I'd spend so much time enjoying statistics, advanced analytics, salary cap math, and re-watching games just to study player tendencies and break down offensive and defensive systems. So much time has been spent devoted to the game I love and have found great refuge in. And I didn't even think I would ever get to have an outlet for my thoughts on it all.
That I get to write about basketball, that I have been granted so many creative liberties and the platform to express my thoughts has been a blessing. The entire staff at Clips Nation, and ultimately SB Nation, has been extremely supportive and inspiring. I get to write alongside a widely diverse, insightful, and humorous group of writers who have established and developed their own community that meshes perfectly with the culture of the Clippers.
My newfound love for basketball also served as an impetus for finding love for all sports. It has led me to discover that sports transcend the entertainment they provide. Sports bring people together in ways that nothing else does. They possess the capacity to unite a very large, very diverse group of people towards a common culture. The product itself, as well as the sub-narratives, provide ongoing dialogue among a large community of people who might have otherwise never engaged one another.
Ultimately, the Clippers have meant far more to me than a team that plays basketball. They have given me something to always look forward to. They have allowed me to become even closer to those who were already close to me. They have also allowed me to forge new relationships. I have found new purpose and a reinvigorated passion for life, and it all started because I discovered the Clippers.
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