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The best Clipper to wear No. 38

We’re going to call this one a tie.

Screenshot (YouTube)

Two players in Clippers history have worn the No. 38. Can you guess them?

Probably not, unless you are related or grew up with them. The No. 38 was used in back-to-back seasons in the mid-80s and never again before or since.

Give up? Here’s the lowdown on this bit of Clippers trivia.

Dale Wilkinson

The first of the pair to wear the fresh number was Dale Wilkinson. An Idaho native, Wilkinson played college ball at Idaho State and was a power forward.

Wilkinson was drafted in 1982 by the Phoenix Suns, at a whopping 221st overall (nowadays, the NBA Draft lasts just 60 picks each year), but didn’t get a contract and paid his dues in the CBA for a few years before getting his break at the bigs.

He played two games for the Detroit Pistons in the fall of 1984 before being waived and getting picked up by the Clippers in March 1985.

All told, Wilkinson played just 10 games for the Clippers, with his highlight coming in this game, when he scored eight points in garbage time against the Bulls, doing most of his damage from the free throw line.

He did leverage it into a short-lived contract.

“I was originally signed to a 10-day contract and I did not get to play until the last night in Chicago,” Wilkinson told the Idaho State Journal in 2013. “In that game I scored eight points in six minutes. The next day I signed a two-year contract.”

After that 10-game stretch, that was it for Wilkinson’s NBA career, as an ankle injury in the offseason ended his hopes of continuing on.

Just in case you want to impress someone with NBA trivia, he is the player taken latest in the NBA Draft in league history to actually play in the league. Additionally, to date he appears to be the only player in NBA history born in Pocatello, Idaho. The more you know.

Wilkinson finished his degree at Idaho State in 1991, and appears to have settled back there. His son Clark also played at ISU, and the elder Wilkinson was inducted into the Idaho State Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.

Jeff Cross

The other Clipper to wear No. 38 was Jeff Cross, who joined the team the following season, in 1985-86.

Cross was a New England native, growing up in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the first player from that state to play in the NBA. He played NCAA ball at Maine, where he was the conference player of the year in 1983, his junior year.

From there, he was drafted in the third round in 1984 by the Dallas Mavericks, but like Wilkinson he didn’t get a rookie contract after the draft. He also bounced around in the minors for a while, and then got his break, signing a 10-day contract with the Clippers in January 1986.

Cross was firmly a reserve, the big man playing about six minutes a game, but after his 10-day contract he was picked up for the rest of the season, and all told, he played 21 games for the Clippers in 1986, averaging 1.2 points and 1.4 rebounds per game.

After leaving the NBA, Cross’ profile stayed low, but a profile on LinkedIn of a man named Jeff Cross who says he played for the Clippers shows a turn to marketing work for a series of major shoe companies, including Nike, Reebok, Puma, Converse and Crocs. It’s not as publicized as coaching or media work, but it’s certainly a way to stay in the game, in a way.

So after running through the Clippers resumés of Cross and Wilkinson, I think it’s worth calling the quest to name the best No. 38 a tie. Their stories are remarkably similar, as big men from far-flung spots in the U.S. playing well at colleges that didn’t get much of the spotlight, having to put in time in the minor leagues for a shot at the NBA, then getting a cup of coffee and fading from memory. While it’s easy for media and fans to look over the box scores of players, callously declare this one good, that one great, this other one bad, it’s worth remembering what an accomplishment it is to play in an NBA game at all. I think most, if not all, of us would take that opportunity for just a taste of it like these players got, if we could. So here’s to Dale Wilkinson and Jeff Cross, who wrote their names in the history books, and fittingly share a number, the best players to wear No. 38 for the Clippers.