The number 23 is one of the most hallowed in the NBA — there is an entire documentary series running for the next month about the player who made that number famous.
For most of the Clippers franchise history, the players who donned the no. 23 have been fairly forgettable. Then in 2017, Lou Williams came to Los Angeles and became the 23 that the Clippers and their fans deserved.
Two Sixth Man of the Year trophies and one indelible nickname later, it’s hard to think of the Clippers without Lou Williams. A trade that was thought to be pivotal for the organization for sending out Chris Paul ended up being noteworthy for who it brought back. Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams have become the heart and soul of this franchise, the inspiration for the “grit over glam” culture that has come to define the team.
Williams was at a pivotal point in his career when he got to the Clippers. In his words, he had rejuvenated himself in Toronto in 2014-15 when he learned what kind of player he could be after tearing his ACL. But two years and two trades later, he was once again questioning his place in the league, which he discussed with Ros Gold-Onwude on WYD? last week.
“Never give up. That’s my Clippers story, never give up. I was at a place in my career where I thought I was done, and Doc and the rest of the guys rejuvenated me again and gave me that confidence that I needed to move forward in my career, and I’ve had the best years of my career with the Clippers.”
Williams has been the most consistently good player for the Clippers in his time in L.A. He led the team in scoring each of his first two seasons before falling behind Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this year. He holds a 20.6 points per game scoring average through three years as a Clipper, fifth all-time in franchise history. Williams has also become a better playmaker than anyone ever imagined, as his 5.4 assists per game are good for eighth place among all Clippers.
He is a player any Clippers fan trusts to have the ball in his hands at the end of games, and he trusts the Clippers to be the place where he will spend the end of his career.
“This is it, listen all the teams out there, I’m not playing for anybody else after this. That’s my leverage. I hope Doc, L [Lawrence Frank], and Steve [Ballmer] are listening, you know this is my last stop.
“I identify with this group of guys, I identify with this organization. I don’t see me finding that somewhere else.”
Williams says he has four years left, which probably means one more contract after this one, but Clippers fans needn’t worry. He put his money where his mouth is two years ago when he signed a below-market extension to come back for 3 years, $24 million, and as he told Gold-Onwude, he plans to again.
Lou Williams found his home with the Clippers, and he and the team have brought out the best in one another. That’s why he’s the best Clipper to ever wear no. 23.