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Clippings: The underdog franchise

It’s Underdog Week at SB Nation, and no team captures the spirit of the underdog than the Clippers.

Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Andy Hayt/NBAE via Getty Images

“The Last Dance” has brought to the surface how draining it can be to be the championship favorite year in and year out. The burden of expectations weighs heavy, and even Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls struggled with the pressure of winning and maintaining a dynasty.

The Clippers, for essentially their entire existence, have operated on the other end of the spectrum. Their story is one of a downtrodden franchise debased by inept ownership. Forget expectations of contending: The Clippers have barely dreamed of making the playoffs for most of their history. No one understands being an underdog better than the Clippers and their fans.

The franchise’s underdog story essentially begins and ends with Donald Sterling. He was too cheap to run the team well, so top draft picks tried to stay away or negotiated early outs on their contracts. Little attention was given to training staffs and practice facilities, which compromised the franchise further and led to highly-touted players regularly suffering injuries with the Clippers. The allure of playing in Los Angeles wasn’t even a draw to free agents because of Sterling’s odious personality. Donald Sterling’s most positive contribution to the NBA was convincing Dr. Jerry Buss to buy the Los Angeles Lakers, an action that ended up relegating the Clippers to bystanders within their own market.

The Clippers know how it feels to be counted out before the games even start, to step on the court with a talent disadvantage, and to live in the shadow of others’ success. Before Steve Ballmer entered the picture, the Clippers were the truest definition of an underdog, and the scars from living that reality for so many years persist.

In a way, that was the draw of rooting for the team back in the day. There was joy in even fleeting victories knowing that the odds were stacked against the Clippers. It’s a far cry from where the franchise is now, but that mentality is forever a part of this community’s DNA.

It is Underdog Week at SB Nation, a topic that should be very near and dear to all Clippers fans, so we want to celebrate your favorite underdogs. Let us know in the comments if there are any particular teams or players that you’d like to revisit this week, perhaps even games where the Clippers upset a massive favorite.

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