There are two legitimate candidates for the best Clipper to wear no. 35. Both of them were first-round draft picks out of colleges in Michigan who played eight seasons with the franchise. Both of them appeared in 11 Clippers playoff games. One of them was an All-Star, but the other one is the best no. 35 in Clipper history.
It hurts my heart that Chris Kaman is not the choice here, but objectively, Loy Vaught is the best Clipper to wear no. 35. Putting their numbers side by side, Vaught is the more effective offensive player, a more efficient scorer and a better rebounder despite Kaman being a center. Kaman was a slightly better defender, but not enough to overcome Vaught’s advantage on the other end.
Vaught played collegiate basketball at Michigan, where he won a national title in 1989. Fun fact: Clippers assistant GM Mark Hughes was the captain of that Wolverines team, and the head coach Steve Fisher later went on to San Diego State, where he unleashed Kawhi Leonard.
The Clippers selected Vaught with the 13th pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. He was a reserve for the first few years of his professional career, except for a brief stretch where he filled in for in the injured Charles Smith. He came off the bench for the team’s back-to-back playoff appearances in 1992 and 1993 (they lost in the first round both times), but grew into a starter by 1994. He was a great rebounder, particularly for his position, finishing in the top ten of the NBA twice. Vaught ranks fourth in franchise history in rebounds, three spots ahead of Kaman.
Vaught is also fourth all-time in games played, sixth in minutes, fifth in field goals, seventh in steals, and ninth in points. Much as Kaman came to define the Clippers during the aughts, Vaught was the Clippers in the 1990s, despite his reserved demeanor and his continued disbelief that he had made it. His longevity and commitment to the franchise didn’t go unnoticed (c/o of the Los Angeles Times):
Loy is a loyal worker who has stuck through hard times and good. Or, in the case of the Clippers, hard times and harder. Only he and Billy Crystal still cling to the franchise—like two guys singing hymns at the rail of the Titanic.
You wonder what would happen to the Clippers if Loy ever left. They’d probably disintegrate. “He’s my rock, “ says his coach, Bill Fitch. If the comparison isn’t sacrilegious to him, he’s their Stonewall Jackson.
Ralph Lawler had a special phrase for Vaught’s jumpers: “Vaught from the spot!” That’s reason enough for Vaught to earn a place on this list.