I remember Danny Manning.
I remember Bo Kimble.
Ron Harper, for that matter.
I don’t remember them just as basketball players — more specifically, basketball players that have played for the Los Angeles Clippers — but as balloons of hope that they’re arrival would bring about wonderful victories for my beloved squad.
And every time something happened.
Injuries. A trade. Disappointing production. Whatever the fuck it was. Something always happened that made the dreams of Clippers fans go flat. Year after year. Team after team. Player after player.
So your support wavers. It’s only natural. Most Clippers fans are also Lakers fans.
Mind you, not your diehard Clippers fan. Those noble heroes don’t bow towards the purple and gold ever.
But there’s a lot of us in this city who like the Lakers but also want to see the red and blue succeed and win a championship. Shit, win anything!
And since the Lakers have plenty of championships and wins, I want to see the Clippers get there more than I want to see the Lakers win another. It’s like a parent who has one achieving kid and one super underachieving, it’s not hard to imagine wanting the underachieving kid to have their moment, even if it comes at the others expense.
And so the Clippers met the Lakers tonight in an important match-up that could determine who wins the Pacific division, definitely decides the best of three season series, and grants the proverbial ‘city bragging rights’.
The Lakers dominated for most of the game. Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant couldn’t miss. The Clippers could. It felt like old times.
Then at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth the Clippers went on an thrilling run that cut the lead from 15 to… well, they took the lead at 103-102. They were on a six-game win streak. They had the momentum. Everything looked to be falling in our favor. Nick Young hit a huge three. Chris Paul was navigating through the lane and finding his shots. The Clippers were playing like men. I was on the edge of the couch, throbbing with excitement, believing I was watching the greatest Clippers victory ever.
The win would pull us to within a half game of the Lakers for the third playoff seed and the division lead. We needed this.
And then it slipped through our fingers.
A missed shot. A turnover. A foul.
That sort of thing.
And, of course, Kobe Bryant.
He hit the big shot, like he always does, cool and collective.
And it hurt. They call if a dagger for a reason. Because it pretty much sealed the deal. Left foot on the three-point line, the right a few feet in front. Splash!
Then he ran down the court with his arms spread out like he was an airplane swooping through the sky. And the crowd hooped and hollered, although it was a Clippers “home game.”
That’s when I realized why everybody who is not a Lakers fan hates Kobe Bryant and tries to downplay his greatness. He single-handedly crushed our hopes, our elation. It was painful. I love it when I’m rooting for them, but when it happens to your team, you despise the man.
The black mamba steals your hard-ons.
Normally I shout and cheer when he hits the game winning shot and high-five everybody around me, spilling nachos and beer most likely. This time I just sat on the couch and pouted, seething with resentment.
Good for the Lakers, I guess. Kobe Bryant is having another MVP season but won’t get the MVP award. They’re looking stronger and stronger going into the playoffs. Andrew Bynum is having his best year ever. And as much everybody loves Fisher, it’s nice to have some speed in Ramon Sessions.
I won’t lie, I’m going to cheer for the purple and gold if they outlast the Clippers in the playoffs. Call me a fair weather fan, but that’s my prerogative and my way for thirty years. We’re lucky in L.A., we have the number one franchise in the league and the perennial underdogs, whatever storyline you prefer you have your pick.
And when it’s head to head, I pick the Clippers.
So tonight felt like a concussion to the head. It seemed like the they were going to pull it off. They were hitting key shots, ghosts of yesteryear looked exorcised from Staples, but then they committed some costly mistakes and the game was lost.
Red and blue bruises all over.
There’s a sadomasochism involved with being a member of the Clipper Nation. Tonight’s game was the full assault. Leathers. Whips. Chains. Ball gag.
It’s tough to be a Clippers fan. You have to like it rough.