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The best Clipper to wear no. 51

The most lovable athlete in the NBA.

New Orleans Pelicans v LA Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

There are so many reasons to love Boban Marjanovic.

He is legitimately the nicest guy in the league — everyone from coaches to arena workers gushes about how much they enjoy seeing him. His web show with Tobias Harris, spawned from a genuine friendship between the two, was a must watch. His smile just warms your heart. And his hands, well his hands have their own subreddit called “Boban Holding Things”. Don’t worry, Boban loves the page, too.

As Devin Gordon outlined in his ESPN profile on Boban last season:

“Indeed, Boban Marjanovic might well be the most popular guy in the NBA right now based on sheer approval rating. Everybody loves Boban. He has zero haters. He has melted the fickle hearts of NBA Twitter.”

Then Boban gets on the court and does apocryphal things like dunking with his feet still on the ground or inadvertently pulling the rim below 10 feet while slamming the ball home or playing keep away from Anthony Davis.

But Boban isn’t a sideshow. He is a legitimately good basketball player who could have been the best center in the league if he had arrived a decade earlier. Even now, he is still the best Clipper to wear no. 51.

If Boban gets the ball in the restricted area, look out. He shoots 75% on shots at the rim, and even that number seems to undersell the devastation he wreaks on opposing defenders. The Clippers were a full 16.0 points per 100 possessions better with Boban on the court the season he arrived from Detroit, and that number only diminished the following year because Doc Rivers either played him alongside a horrible starting lineup or with deep bench players.

Nevertheless, he managed to be effective, providing the heft Montrezl Harrell couldn’t against players like Joel Embiid and gobbling up every offensive rebound unless he was double-covered. This image of the Clippers attempting to box out Boban while playing against the Mavericks in the preseason underscores the kind of pressure he puts on the glass.

Dallas Mavericks v LA Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Boban’s per-game averages of 6.4 points and 4.3 rebounds don’t exactly jump off the page (even though they are substantially better than any other player who wore no. 51), but he left a presence with the Clippers, both in the locker room and on the court.

It’s too bad the league hasn’t figured how to use Boban in bigger doses, but Boban continues to prove himself whenever he gets the minutes. He was a force with the Clippers. Even in just one season, he left behind legions of fans and friends.