Let’s get this off the table right now: I don’t like the Los Angeles Clippers, I have no investment in their past, present or future.
In actuality, for the vast majority of most of my basketball-watching life (yours too, reader), the Clippers have been as irrelevant as any franchise in the NBA, in sports period.
This franchise has for the entirety of my life been under the authority of one of the most loathsome, underperforming owners in the history of sports, a man who was firmly in that category even before his racial transgressions were rightfully splayed out in front of the nation.
The Clip Show for so long has been Craig Ferguson to the Lakers’ David Letterman, Jay Leno to the rest of the league’s Johnny Carson…an after thought or a place holder or even little more than a distraction because L.A. just happens to be big enough to hold two professional basketball franchises.
But now? Now they are a legitimate NBA championship competitor, a deeply flawed franchise with unforgivable stewardship houses a roster of players with as much heart as any in the game. They proved it Sunday afternoon in one of the greatest come backs in playoff history, working off a 22-point deficit built by the Oklahoma City Thunder, who looked for most of yesterday like a team finally playing within itself and utilizing its supreme talents just the way they should — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each at the top of their game — a scary thought for anyone in the NBA, except for maybe these Clippers.
You may want to fight it with every bit of sense you have.
You may despise the possibility of this team winning a title that Donald Sterling can claim, even though he won’t be able to even touch the Larry O’Brien Trophy probably without said trophy being in protective custody, like a deadbeat dad who was caught endangering his child.
The Clippers threaten us with the most awkward championship run ever, the most bittersweet trophy ceremony, the most gilded victory parade, a construction so false it could only go down in the land of studio back lots.
But more than that, this team also threatens us every night they hit the court with impossible lobs leading to dumbfounding dunks, they threaten us with Chris Paul’s bulldog determination, his willingness to defend Durant and his fearlessness when driving the lane for needed scores.
L.A.’s newest best team threatens us with Blake Griffin’s devil-may-care physicality, the flip-side of his deceptive impishness in the commercials of his that fill up each game break.
The most exciting team left in the NBA playoffs threatens us with each comeback effort, each disappointing quarter — “oh, we could make this playoff season so much easier to digest,” they say, “but we aint going nowhere.” If they win tonight in Game 5 at OKC and take control of their series, we will likely be set up for a completely diametric opposition in the Western Conference Finals with the league’s steadiest franchise (San Antonio) against its most drama-filled and unstable. Ask yourself, who do you think would be more interesting to see in the Finals?
At some point, this Clippers team and their man-of-respect coach Doc Rivers had to sign themselves over to the devil in order to give themselves their best chance another title — or in most cases their first — but they withheld more of their souls than we could have imagined.
What do we play for, Herm Edwards? We play to win the game…no basketball team knows that more intimately than the Clippers. There’s nothing else for them to play for — there’s no legacy to uphold, no secure future for whom they could form a dynastic platform to stand. If the Sterling name remains a part of this franchise there’s a good chance everyone involved with this team currently will no longer be a part of it two or three years in the future, if not five or six months.
It may make you sick, the NBA’s marketing force jumping on “We Are One“-style post-racial heroism may make you shake your head, the thought of an already over-valued franchise jumping up into the potential record profit range — a Dre-sells-Beats type of come up for the most hated owner ever — could squeeze out any thoughts you had left about life being fair, but its real, realer than real.
Is it cool to root for the Clippers at this point? Who can really say? Sometimes we get the heros we deserve instead of those we’d prefer, the same goes for our champions.
If every champion is a hero to you, then go head and enjoy this run as long as it goes. The rest of us, much like Oklahoma City Sunday, will just be watching something unfold that we know we can’t control.
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