Winning is a Foreign Concept for Lob City Citizens

I get thrown off every morning whenever I pick up the Los Angeles Times. It’s unusual to look through the sports pages and find more headlines about the Clippers than the Lakers. What’s even stranger is that I can’t find those ads from local blood banks offering free Clippers tickets if I donate blood.

Something’s not right in Clipperland. Every time I hear about the Clippers, I only learn good news.

The gigantic mural of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan on Hotel Figueroa, overshadowing the Kobe Bryant mural on a smaller building across the street, left me speechless on my way to the Clippers’ home opener. This is actually happening, right? My life has been a dream sequence for the past three weeks and every day I’ve been praying that nothing will wake me up from this fantasy.

It’s official, the Los Angeles Clippers are not only contending to be the best in LA, they’re also in talks of winning it all. Who would’ve known that the words “Clippers” and “NBA Finals” would be uttered in the same sentence?

Having been a loyal Clippers fan for the past 11 years,  winning like a Laker is just foreign to me. With the exception of the 2005-2006 season, I’ve grown accustomed to rooting for the Clippers throughout the regular season and then cheering for a different team once the playoffs start. Now I can wear my team’s colors until the end of June. Don’t slap me, I don’t want to wake up from this dream.

The Clippers finally have a title-contending basketball team. This is a team that not only makes big plays that are featured on the SportsCenter highlights, but also sticks to fundamentals.

The Clips have been spreading the floor on offense, running solid pick and rolls, and having their recently acquired leader, Chris Paul, clutch up in crunch time.

After 10 years as a member of a group of hapless romantics known as Clipper Nation, the wait has finally paid off.

My dedication to the Clippers started back in 2001 when my friend forced me to play NBA 2K1 with him on the Sega Dreamcast. I was not much of a basketball fan back then, but since I had never touched a Dreamcast controller in my life, I was anxious to have a taste of next-generation gaming. He told me to pick the Kings because they were one of the best teams at that time. He wanted to go easy on me. He chose the Clippers.

“The Clippers? What city do they play for?” I asked

“Los Angeles.”

“You mean LA has two basketball teams!?”

The moment we started playing, I assumed that with a crappy team my friend would miss every shot. But with a lowly team, my friend completely destroyed me with two players who really stood out to me: Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles. Richardson had one of the best shots from beyond the arc. Miles was a freakish athlete who made acrobatic dunks look easy. Although the pixelated graphics didn’t make faces out too well, I was able to tell who they were by their white headbands and wristbands. A week later I tuned in to KTLA 5 to watch my first Clippers game.

I was pumped in the second quarter when I saw my headband-donning heroes emerge from the bench and provide some excitement: shots, lobs and dunks. It didn’t matter that the Clippers were losing; seeing Miles drive the lane and kick it out to Q-Rich for a 3-pointer brought me joy. Their celebrations were incomparable, not even Kobe and Shaq could pull off the fist bump to the forehead, signifying horns.

Nuggets coach George Karl said it best when describing the Clippers.

“They’re an exciting team, their crowd kind of likes how they play, and they play with a lot of  — whatever the word is  — they love to dunk it. And they know how to dunk it.”

I love how the Clippers have always kept playing with high energy and tempo even when they had a mediocre lineup with Jason Hart starting at point guard.  Red and blue beats purple and gold in my book. I love them so much I would give blood for them (too bad free tickets aren’t offered anymore).

But the cost of loving the Clippers came with a hefty burden: dealing with their ineptness.  Remember when the Clippers signed star point guard Baron Davis, only to win 19 games? How about the series of first-round draft busts that failed to help the franchise?

Imperfections made the team difficult to love, but in the midst of it all, I could care less. I couldn’t find myself abandoning this team. They were the underdogs. The Davids of the league, overpowered by the Goliaths of the conference (the Lakers, Mavericks, Spurs and Suns) for years.  I still had hope for the franchise even when every single sports pundit and analyst said the team was “cursed.” In spite of all the team’s weaknesses and my temptation to fall into doubt, I never let go of my relentless love for the Clippers. I knew one day this team would emerge from the Lakers’ shadows.

Today is that day. And so is the next. And for the rest of my life (hopefully). Heck, in a world where the Clippers can become one of the NBA’s best teams overnight, maybe there’s even hope for UC Irvine’s men’s hoops, a team that has never experienced the madness of March.