Las Vegas needs a basketball team. Plain and simple. Being one of the top sports cities in America (think gambling), none of the major sports leagues have even experimented with the idea. There has been some chirp in the past of bringing a team to Vegas, but with the recent news of the Sacramento Kings moving to Anaheim, it appears another NBA franchise will bypass Sin City for a town better known for bike rallies and Monster-Truck shows than basketball. Yeah, I’m sure you are just as mad as I am that a city like Anaheim will one up Vegas, but who says Vegas needs to give up? They don’t and that’s where the Clippers come in. In a situation where both need each other, we might have a potential perfect fit. Since moving to LA, it’s been 27 seasons of pretty much nothing for the Clips. Up until this year the Clippers have remained virtually non-existent in a city that usually embraces their sports franchises. Being from LA, I grew up really not caring about the Clippers. Like everyone else who owns a television or has the internet, I’m a Lakers fan. Being a Lakers fan, you would think I would hate the Clippers. Like most big-city rivalries, I should hate the Clippers similar to how the Cubs hate the White Sox or the Mets hate the Yankees. But how can I hate a team that gives the Lakers four easy wins each year? I can’t. And that’s just part of the reason why the Clippers need to bolt. Besides their ability to be swept constantly, they are insignificant in LA. The Lakers have defined the flashy culture of LA since the days of the 1980s LakeShow. The Clippers have defined horrible TV ratings. In LA they don’t matter, but in a different city, like Vegas, they might. Here’s what the Clippers are looking at on a day to day basis in their current situation…
We start with their home floor, which, as we know, they share with the Lakers. The Staples Center, which sports a roof-top color of Laker purple, might be the most alarming reason to why the Clippers need to start packing their bags. From a stadium standpoint, the LAPD would have a tough time finding evidence of a Clippers home game. Before you walk in, fans are greeted by bronze statues of athletes who have left their mark on the city. None of which replicate a Clipper. Aside from the three statues representing the Lakers franchise, the Staples Center garners a Wayne Gretzky statue and an Oscar De La Hoya statue. The Golden Boy statue is particularly ammusing to me because De La Hoya’s only fight in Staples was a title-defense loss to Shane Mosley. All his piece of metal tells me is that for the 27 years spent in LA, the Clippers have been unable to produce a player more worthwhile of a statue than a boxer whose best career win was a lopsided loss to Manny Pacquiao. For good measure that punking sent De La Hoya into the promoter’s role for good. Then again, the jury is still out on Blake Griffin, but like the Clippers, he too should bolt sooner than later.
It’s more of the same once you’re inside. From the north entrance, there’s a gift store on your left that looks one-part swap meet and one-part Lakers victory parade. People who call LA fans soft or fair-weathered clearly have not been in that gift store because it’s an absolute riot. If LA fans brought the same passion they brought to the gift store with them to their seats, I’m convinced we could rewrite the books on our reputation. From the tip to the final buzzer, the store is jammed with eight-year-olds trying to buy the newest Kobe 24 jersey. I don’t know what’s more startling, the fact that Kobe is still THAT popular or that parents still allow Kobe jerseys in their homes. Wasn’t he on trial for something a few years back? “Yeah, but that was number 8 Kobe, number 24 would never do that”. I’m sure parents who respond with that justification, also feel the Tiger Woods video game would be a great stocking-stuffer or that Mike Tyson finally turned the corner with the addition of his facial tat. Like the gift store, the club level also does an exceptional job of hiding any trace of blue and red. As you circle the level, pictures of the Showtime Lakers are hung across all the walls. Famous musicians and acts also contribute as decorations on the walls, with Staples being a haven for entertainment. Judging by those featured in the pictures, the action shots on the club level give me reason to believe the Lakers share a home floor with the Bon Jovi or the Rolling Stones rather than the Clippers. I’m not sure if Staples Center administrators are hiding pictures of the Clippers or they just feel Mick Jagr has a better fade-away than Elton Brand.
The part where the game starts is where we really see the contrast between the Clippers and Lakers. With a modest two-thirds of the stadium full, tip-off takes place with about 6,000 wide open seats. The seats, which are usually purple, require black seat covers during Clippers games to remind everyone that the Lakers are on a roadtrip and we are stuck with the Clippers. From the one Clippers game I was able to experience, it kind of feels like you’re at a concert watching the opening act, waiting for your favorite band. The only difference is at a Clippers game the main event is usually on the other side of the country. In the rafters, fans and players are able to see over a dozen yellow championship banners showing off the Lakers dominance in the NBA. There is even a few purple ones for the WNBA’s Sparks…I feel like I don’t need to elaborate on this. Along with the players, celebrities litter the floor at Staples. Stars like Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, and of course Jack (with hoagie in hand) are no strangers to Lakers games. Clippers fans include D-listers such as Weird Al, Flava Flav and – wait for it – Frankie Muniz. Talk about needing a fresh start. For the sake of the Clips, at least when these guys show up the Clippers aren’t the only wash-ups looking for new work. Muniz, who apparently considers himself a life-long Clippers fan, has been absent from TV longer than the Clippers have been from the playoffs. Sounds like a match made in heaven.
It’s clear the Clippers could use a fresh start and a fresh identity. It’s unfortunate, though, that neither are going to happen anytime soon. The best solution would be to move the team to Las Vegas. A new city with new fans has proven to bring life back into struggling franchises. Make everybody happy for once, Mr. Sterling. For an owner who has done less than the team he puts on the floor, the least Donald Sterling could do is move the team to a city that everyone loves, especially players in the NBA (i.e. 2007 All-Star weekend). Turn the team into the Vegas Blackjacks and slap the #21 jersey on Griffin. Now we got the ball rolling. Build an arena in the MGM and all of a sudden you got, not only sellouts, but sellouts full of rowdy alcholics and gambling addicts (maybe we should move an NFL team there) that will pose the strongest home-court advantage in the NBA. I’m pretty sure Frankie Muniz is still 17 so he won’t be able to follow you to Sin City, but you needed new fans anyway, right?
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Written by Mick Moody