COMMENTARY | There is a great scene in the movie Bewitched starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell. Kidman’s character, Isabel Bigelow, is secretly a witch who has been casting spells to manipulate Ferrell’s character, Jack Wyatt. Isabel’s conscience has finally caught up to her, and she feels compelled to confess her dirty little secret. To make matters worse, Isabel has been falling in love with Jack, and she fears that her confession will scare him away. While slow dancing at a party, she finally works up the nerve to let it out. She stops dancing for a second and says, “Guess what? I’m a witch!” Instead of being dismayed by the news, Jack smiles and replies, “Guess what? I’m a Clipper fan!”
We all remember the team’s losing tradition enough to let out a chuckle, but that joke is only funny now because it is outdated. It is a reminder that being associated in any way with the Los Angeles Clippers was something you only admitted to other Clipper fans just like a group of alcoholics in an alcoholics anonymous meeting. It was a dirty little secret that was painful to admit, but that all changed when Blake Griffin showed up.
After losing in the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2005-2006 season, the Clippers failed to make the postseason for the next four years. Injuries can account for most of the team’s problems, but the ominous Clipper curse is what eventually took all the credit. Elton Brand, who was supposed to be their franchise player, eventually decided the curse of the franchise was too much to bear, and abandoned the team for the Philadelphia 76ers. The team would struggle yet again (well chronicled in this ), but ended up with a consolation prize in the first pick in the draft.
Clipper fans have had their hopes teased numerous times with players that have come through who were supposed to turn the franchise around, but for either injuries or lack of work ethic could not pull off the arduous task. Every year the Clippers have looked to the draft to find the player that would be the chosen one to be the symbol of the franchise and lead them to the Promised Land. The Lakers found theirs with Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant, and the Chicago Bulls found theirs in Michael Jordan. Clipper fans hope that the Clippers finally got it right with Blake Griffin.
After getting hurt during the final preseason game of his rookie year, many sports pundits along with some Clipper fans were about to chalk up another win for the all too familiar Clipper curse (well chronicled in this ). Any other rookie would have been discouraged, and would have given up, but something was different with this one. He had the extremely contagious determination and work ethic to trump the entire Clipper history. He would come back in the next season in spectacular fashion making his mark on the game and on YouTube by posterizing players and turning their last names into verbs (ala Mozgov). He made heads turn, and made the Clippers fun to watch. He proved that it is possible to transcend the curse, and made other players give the Clippers an actual thought when deciding where they would be willing to play. A few players, most notably Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, have flirted with the idea of coming to the Clippers, but chose other teams instead. Then finally the most significant player to ever give the Clippers a chance came in the wake of a vetoed trade. Easily mentioned in the top five players in the world, and the best point guard in the game, Chris Paul.
Most people will say that Chris Paul is the first domino that fell in the Clippers favor, and they are not entirely wrong. Paul has a tenacity and competitiveness that rivals that of only Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, two of basketball’s greatest players. He commands a tremendous deal of defensive attention, which elevates the game of the players around him. He is not only the best point guard in the game, but he is also a magnet of talent, and he has brought that magnetism to the Clipper brand. The basketball history books will point to Paul as the start of the turnaround, but the most important piece to the puzzle will be overlooked. It all started with the one who coined the name “Lob City,” the magnet for the magnet Blake Griffin.
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