Name a team that comes to mind when “Los Angeles Sports” is mentioned? Dodgers? Lakers? USC? UCLA? Heck, even L.A.F.C. now. Where do the Clippers fall into this equation?
Always considered an afterthought in this highly saturated sports market, the Los Angeles Clippers continue to fall down the totem poll of L.A. sports franchises. For reference here is a list of the greater Los Angeles “Big 5” sports teams as well as colleges:
I very well should throw the Mexican National Soccer team in the mix as well as they constantly draw huge numbers at the Rose Bowl.
So why is it that Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is so adamant to keep the team planted in Staples Center (possibly until the Inglewood site is competed) as the 16 Lakers championship banners continue to stare down at them? When last pressed on this question in 2017, Ballmer had some harsh words to those who suggested the team pack up and head up the coast to the Pacific Northwest…A locale where a void for another NBA team exists:
“LA Clippers! Stop this, ‘We should move them.’ I’m not moving them,” he laughed. “I love Seattle. Seattle is wonderful. But the Clippers are an LA team.”
The billionaire had spent nearly 15 years of his life in the greater Seattle area as CEO of Microsoft and could make a homecoming return while bringing along a shiny new toy to the city with him. It’s very charismatic of Ballmer to want to have the team succeed in the nations 2nd biggest sports media market. However, why be an afterthought in that market when you could be the prime choice in the nations 12th biggest market (Seattle) for the majority of the NBA season? Seattle has been yearning for a team now for well over a decade and most likely would accept them the minute they decide to make the move.
There’s still another kicker to this equation that should make the move at least out of the current market a no-brainer: TV Ratings. Since the beginning of the 2012-2013 NBA season the Lakers have had abysmal seasons. From 2013 to 2018 their average finish in the conference has been 12.5 out of 16 teams. In comparison the Clippers have finished at an average of 4.5. For the past 6 seasons, the Clippers have continuously finished ahead of the Lakers yet for not even one did they outrank them in regional and/or national TV ratings. One would think this fact alone would cause enough concerns to Ballmer and the organization to make some drastic changes. Having originally moved from San Diego in 1984 due to poor attendance numbers (averaging 4,500 fans their last season in San Diego) those same issues are coming to the forefront once again. Already having lower TV ratings than the Lakers, coupled with the 2017 offseason departure of Chris Paul and the mid-season trade of Blake Griffin, the 2018 Clippers in-game attendance took hits as well and they averaged 10% less fans per game than the Lakers.
There is no true cross-town rivalry feel when a Lakers-Clippers game is played. Moving up North will bring this out naturally between Oregon (Portland Trailblazers) and Washington. It’s time for the Clippers to find their base in a different location possibly with the resurrection of a team name along with it…DID SOMEONE SAY SUPERSONICS!?!?!?