My early love for the Clippers started somewhere in the 90’s. I’ve recounted that story HERE before so, I’ll skip ahead to that moment when it was solidified.
The 2000- 2001 season. This was the “Young Guns” era for the Clippers. The season prior to this one, both the Lakers and Clippers moved into the Staples Center in downtown LA. Although the Clips only won 15 games that season, I was convinced that I was their good luck charm because I was at every one of those home wins.
Talk about the opposite ends of the spectrum, the Lakers had the best record in the league that year at the exact opposite number, 67 wins, 15 losses. We know how that ended, the Lakers first championship of the Kobe-Shaq-Phil era.
What those losses produced was some great draft picks that brought excitement to LA’s “JV team.” The Clippers are a classic case of wins not aligning with top draft picks. But that didn’t stop it from being fun.
With the third pick of the 2000 draft, the Clippers selected high school player Darius Miles from East St. Louis. That year the Clips also scored with Quentin Richardson at number 20 – he also happened to be a friend to Miles.
But the Clippers weren’t done, they sent Derek Strong to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Corey Maggette and the draft rights to Keyon Dooling. The previous season, the Clippers drafted Lamar Odom. Combine these elements, add in Elton Brand via trade later and,
Wallah, magic. Youthful energy.
It was a moment in LA where win or lose, there was an excitement around basketball and the NBA. The Lakers were on their way to the dynasty era but the Clippers had all the high-flying fun. On the social side, it was said by many that Shaq had one side of LA locked up, while Darius and Q had the other. This was pre-social media, so no receipts…
At this time, the Clippers were always following behind the Lakers too. The Lakers used to practice at SouthWest college in what used to be known as South Central. As soon as the Lakers had their own facility built, the Clippers started their practices at SouthWest. Which was an upgrade because they used to practice at a park gym in Carson. Seriously!
Some of the highlights from that era:
The Clippers featured in the teen comedy “Van Wilder”
The three bops on the head after a dunk or a “3” by DMiles and QRich became a signature that had fans of all ages and backgrounds imitating event though most had no idea what it all meant.
There were even love triangles involving a popular r&b singer, an ex-member of a girl group and one of the Clippers. The drama came to ahead when the two guys confronted the girl following a Clipper game. The girl was even rocking the players jersey in the R&B singer’s video. Forget the scandal, a Clippers jerseys was a fashion choice that wasn’t being laughed at.
But all good things come to an end. In the 2002-2003 season, it seemed as if the modest success might have gone to the head of the young guns. Apparently Elgin Baylor didn’t want to wait to see what developed.
Darius Miles was traded to Cleveland for Andre Miller, and that seemingly tore the heart out of the young guns. It also crushed a lot of fans hearts.
So as the Lakers were winding down on their era of dominance – 03 was the last Championship year of the Kobe-Shaq era, so too did the Clippers slip back into their usual position of second tier. But it was enough to convince me that the Clips had a future I could clearly visual… or I was a glutton for pain. But, I’d like to think that those years were a precursor to “Lob City” and the collective the team has now.
Random fun Facts:
- Q Rich joined the Detroit Pistons staff this season. His old Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy is starting his first as head coach with the franchise. Q will work in player development personnel. Was once engaged to the singer Brandy. He also owns a few franchises of East Coast wings and Grill in Orlando. He’s married with a daughter.
- Michael Olowokandi was dating Suzie from “Basketball Wives” during this time. The couple made headlines when Suzie waited for Michael to return from a road trip and allegedly attacked him because he was with another woman.
- Jeff McInnis was the guy NBA legend Charles Oakley smacked up at a Clippers practice in Toronto.
- Darius Miles actually married Q’s cousin Brandi who also happens to be the sister of former NFL player Carlos Emmons.