Five players have worn no. 50 in Clippers history, but only one remained with team for longer than one season. With apologies to Zach Randolph, whose 20/10 stat line over 50 games does not excuse his blood feud with Blake Griffin, the choice is clear: Corey Maggette.
Maggette didn’t actually begin his NBA career in Los Angeles, but it’s easy to forget his rookie season on the “heart and hustle” Magic under then-Orlando head coach Doc Rivers. The Magic went big-game hunting in free agency that offseason, scooping up Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill while coming oh-so-close to also signing Tim Duncan. That left little room for Maggette, who was traded along with Keyon Dooling and Derek Strong to the Clippers in exchange for a 2006 first-round draft pick.
In hindsight, that deal was an absolute theft for the Clippers, who were used to ending up on the opposite end of those kinds of trades. Maggette played eight seasons for the Clippers and Dooling four, while the 2006 first-rounder ended up at no. 22 thanks to the team making the playoffs for the only time in that decade.
Maggette was immediately a relatively seamless fit into the Clippers’ young core next to Quentin Richardson, Darius Miles, and Lamar Odom. Among them, Maggette was the only one who could really bulldoze his way to the basket. His ability to power through contact and get to the free-throw line made him an efficient scorer and thus a very valuable piece for the Clippers.
By Maggette’s third season in Los Angeles (his second as a starter), he was 11th in the NBA in free-throw rate. In front of him on that list were nine big men and Andrei Kirilenko. In his next four healthy seasons, he finished 5th, 7th, 2nd, and 4th in the league, getting to the line more frequently than any other guard or small forward. The Clippers had plenty of young talents who could run the floor and thrive in transition, but Maggette was a nice complement who excelled in the half court.
Even though he was a bruiser, Maggette still had incredible lift. He was an explosive jumper and even participated in the 2001 Dunk Contest, which is the moment I officially became a fan. He didn’t get past the first round of the dunk contest, but he did pull off a forward-facing flip that only resulted in a low score because the dunk that followed was exceedingly mediocre.
I once asked Maggette about that dunk, and he said the original plan was to do something different, but he was so excited that he kept his balance during the flip that he forgot what he was supposed to and just completed a simple dunk.
Over his eight seasons with the Clippers, Maggette averaged 17.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, topping the 20-point mark for three full years. His career-high was only 39 points (coming in 2007 against the Lakers), but he was remarkably consistent night in and night out. The notoriously cheap Clippers even matched his six-year offer from Utah in restricted free agency to keep him once his rookie contract was up, recognizing his value to their franchise.
One of Maggette’s most memorable highlights was a game-winner against the Miami Heat in 2005 in double overtime. He also featured prominently in a comeback against the Milwaukee Bucks in 2001, one that Bill Walton referred to as one of the greatest wins in the history of Western Civilization.
Unfortunately for Maggette, the Clippers’ best season came during his worst, when a foot injury forced him out of most of the regular season. He turned into a super sub in the playoffs, posting big games to close out the Denver Nuggets in the first round and to help keep the Clippers alive in the second round against Phoenix. That was the only time in Maggette’s career that he played in the postseason, and he acquitted himself well averaging 15.3 points and 6.7 rebonds over 12 games while shooting 91% from the foul line.
Maggette hopped around four teams after leaving Los Angeles before retiring in 2013. He had an outstanding Big 3 career, but is best known an analyst for the Clippers on Fox Sports in his post-playing life. He may not have started his NBA career here, but this is the organization that he will forever be most closely associated with.