Eight players to date have worn the No. 0 for the Los Angeles Clippers, and the best of the lot was center Olden Polynice.
The Haitian-born New York native helped Virginia go to the Final Four his freshman year, he went pro after his junior year, taking a gap year professionally in Italy before being drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1987.
Polynice had a very solid career, but he was involved in several notable trades. First was his draft day swap to the Seattle SuperSonics for Scottie Pippen and we know how things turned out for that guy.
In his fourth season with the Sonics, Polynice was traded to the Clippers in 1991 for Benoit Benjamin and he put in roughly a season and a half in Los Angeles.
Polynice was a player who was both relatively common in the NBA and extremely unusual in the rest of the world. A muscular 6’11, Polynice played for five different NBA teams, had two shortish stints with the Clippers (he played two games in 2003 to wrap up his NBA tenure) and played more than 1,000 games over his total career. He bounced around the NBA, a lot, but it’s not unusual for imposing big men to enjoy a long career as specialists who can play center well and chip in to the team cause, on any team.
The half season after Polynice traded to the Clippers in 1990-91 was pretty good, as he averaged 12.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game over 31 games. Not a huge sample size, but career-high production to that point in his career.
The next season, 1991-92, wasn’t as productive, as he averaged 8.1 points and 7.1 rebounds a game over 76 games. The Clippers did reach the playoffs that season, for the first time in 16 years, but Polynice was firmly a reserve in the postseason and was traded to the Detroit Pistons in the next offseason for a truly forgettable haul, bouncing around the league until his brief return in 2003.
Polynice has been back in the news recently with the Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls documentary series “The Last Dance” briefly mentioning the Polynice-for-Pippen swap as a turning point in Bulls history. This interview from last year shows some weariness from the ex-player in being asked about a trade before he even played a game in the NBA, but it’s an indelible part of his history.
Polynice has lived in Los Angeles in recent years, and has stayed involved in the sport in various capacities, working in broadcasting, coaching and working on community camps. He’s also served as an ambassador for his homeland of Haiti and participated in community work for the Caribbean nation.
In the above video, he says he wants to coach in the NBA — “I just want to put it out there!” — and said he thought he would coach with Doc Rivers at the Clippers “but he never got back with me” about an opportunity.
After a devastating earthquake hit Haiti a decade ago, Polynice went on the “Dr. Phil” show and after expressing worry he may never see his parents again, was shocked to be reunited with his father.
Polynice possesses plenty of charisma and his roots in Los Angeles seem to have deepened his ties to the Clippers over the years. He may not have gotten that NBA coaching gig he was looking for, but Polynice seems to identify as much with the Clips as any of the still-existing (RIP Sonics) teams he played for. A journeyman who had a solid run in the league, he may not have gotten the respect he deserves for a long career, but hey, that fits the Clippers’ M.O. pretty well, too. And that’s why he was the best No. 0 in Clippers history.