When you live in Southern California there are always things to do, teams to root for. As one would expect, the worst of them was the hardest to support, yet some did. How do you become a Clippers fan in Southern California?
That’s a question I’ve been asked my entire life. As any Jets or Mets fan can attest to, supporting the less popular team in a major city is an uphill war that never ends. But respectfully, Jets fans and Mets fans don’t know misery like I know misery. We don’t have a Broadway Joe Super Bowl or World Series titles in ’69 and ’86. No, The Clippers history stands alone.
I was born August 6, 1981 in San Diego. We lived there for one year before we relocated to Los Angeles. From 1982 to 1989 I lived right smack in the middle of Los Angeles, Silver Lake area before $5 coffees and beanies in July defined the neighborhood. This was the middle of the Showtime era, this was Magic…Worthy…Kareem…Cooper….Scott. You know who they are. I understand that team had moderate success, and I was staunch enemy.
My earliest memories as a kid include seeing a man on TV flying and contorting his body with gold chains around his neck with the word ‘Chicago’ written in cursive across his chest. Still had hair, original Jordan shoes on his feet. I didn’t know much about basketball at the time but I remember thinking to myself ‘He’s special, he’s different‘. I was a Michael Jordan fan from the jump, or off rip, as the kids say. His style of play and athletic ability attracted me instantly. Though his early teams didn’t find success, it was pretty clear that he was playing in a way that was not only capturing the country’s attention, but also seemed destined to succeed. Going to elementary school in Los Angeles at that time, I naturally found myself arguing solo/dolo against older, “wiser” kids who explained to me that Magic was better and then pointed to his Championships to really drive home the point. I was undeterred. I would be validated at some point, I convinced myself, for my unwavering support of His Airness.
In the meantime I needed a local team to support. Chicago was not close and I needed a team in my backyard to root for. Enter The Los Angeles Clippers. My dad and uncle had mentioned this other team that played in LA, not at the Forum but at The Sports Arena. In 1988, at 7 years old I made a business decision and started following the Clippers and learning the players. Danny Manning, Gary Grant, Ken Norman, Greg Kite, Charles Smith, Benoit Benjamin. This bum ass team was my introduction to this franchise.
But I loved them and business decisions developed into passion.
My obsession with Michael Jordan never left but I became immersed with The Los Angeles Clippers. This was my team, I didn’t know anyone else that was a fan outside of my family and in my early years I found real comfort knowing that I was an individual and had something that was mine and only mine. (Side note: I think I later found out that I may be a contrarian by nature. I mean, I sided with Biggie during the East/West war in the mid 90’s that claimed lives. I’ve always lived in Southern California but it felt natural…just always found him as the better lyricist and technical rapper over Tupac. ‘Who shot ya, separate the weak from the ob-so-lete, hard to creep them Brooklyn streets‘…all day over ‘Hit em up’. Don’t @ me).
Each year my support grew stronger despite the losing records, poor draft choices, and the realization that the owner was a racist slumlord. But you know what? I live by one simple rule as a fan and this is non negotiable: You pick a team as a kid, and you stick with them NO MATTER WHAT. There is no switching teams, there is no free agency as a fan. You ride through the bad times and you develop a thick skin. Should you not choose to abide by this rule, then you get moved to a lower tier of fandom. A casual if you will. And hey, hey, there’s nothing wrong with being a casual. Hell it’s less stressful, you can come and go as you please without ever really being fully invested. But you don’t get to have a voice when the real supporters are having a debate.
You, my casual friend, get to sit that one out.
I’ve lived through Danny Ferry refusing to play for us (yes, us), the workman like approach of Loy Vaught, the trade of Dominique Wilkins, the 9-41 strike shortened season, the Michael Olowakandi pick (sigh), the Lamar Odom pick!, the young promising core of Odom, D Miles, Q Rich (shoutout Knuckleheads podcast!), Keyon Dooling, Corey Maggette, the excitement of Shaun Livingston promise, the soul snatching injury of Shaun Livingston, the Yaroslav Korolev pick. I’m gonna say that again: The Yaroslav Korolev pick.
The 2006 season with Elton (who was 3rd in MVP voting), Sam, Cuttino, Shaun, Corey (Daniel Ewing when he hadn’t played all game?? Curse you Mike Dunleavey!!). The Blake Griffin 2009 pick and his insanely entertaining rookie year that followed. The acquisition of Chris Paul in 2011, Lob City, V Stiviano da gawd!. The Houston game meltdown, the Houston game meltdown, the Houston game meltdown, the Hou…
Sorry I short circuited.
The Deandre Jordan heist, the eventual downfall of Lob City, the signing and dumping of Blake, and finally the current roster with unprecedented expectations. From Kia giving away free Clipper tickets just to test drive one of their cars to now being the consensus pick to win it all. It’s a weird feeling, I’m not used to this. Lob City has a reputation of underachieving but if we’re all honest with each other they were never the clear cut favorite and probably only really had a shot in 2015.
How does one become a Clipper fan in Southern California? You have the foresight to get in early because you know eventually Board Man and PG-13 will come home to deliver that first ‘chip.
Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!