Sorry Lakers: Chris Paul and the Clippers Now OCCUPY Los Angeles

The morning buzz in sports is about the greatest point guard of our generation, Chris Paul, joining the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s a dizzying thought, but the Clippers, the much-mocked baby brother to the mighty Lakers in LA, now have the city's better basketball team. This is a day for Frank Stallone, for Billy Carter, for Roger Clinton.... the day that your little bro with the runny nose and the toilet paper stuck to his shoe, inherited the earth.

 

Paul is a 26-year-old future hall of famer who might end his career as the greatest point guard to walk the earth. He now joins a team with reigning rookie of the year Blake Griffin, terrific young center DeAndre Jordan and former finals MVP Chauncey Billups. They are young; they are loaded; they are primed for a sprint of a 66 game season where youth will reign supreme. The Lakers, in sharp contrast, are old, creaky, and bitter that their own trade for Paul was voided by the league earlier this week.

 

I recommend going here and here if you want more analysis of the trade itself. I’m more interested in the cultural shift at play. Not unlike seeing Newt Gingrich at the head of the Republican primaries, having the Clippers rule Los Angeles hoops is like living an alternative universe. To put it in LA terms, it's like one of the Jackass movies winning the Oscar for best documentary.

 

The Lakers have been to 32 NBA Finals and won 16 championships. The Clippers have the most 60-loss seasons in NBA history. The Lakers are the team of Magic, Kareem, Shaq, Kobe, with the ubiquitous Jack Nicholson in the front row. The Clippers are the team most known for their geriatric, feral, furtive owner Donald Sterling, who favors unbuttoned shirts, gold chains, and been accused of bringing “escorts” to ogle at his players changing in the locker room. In recent years, Sterling has had to fend off racial discrimination suits from both former Clipper employees and tenants living in his archipelago of slums.

 

As comedian Nick Bakay once wrote, "the Lakers' luxury box is prawns, caviar and opera glasses while the Clippers stock Zantac, barf bags, some good books, and cyanide." They share an arena, the Staples Center, that has over the last decade resembled a coke-fueled celebrity yacht party for Lakers games and a dour, family reunion no one attends for the Clips.

 

These aren’t two NBA teams. They are the two Americas.

 

But in a 2011 where we’ve seen global revolutions from the Middle East to the Mid-West overturn accepted truths in thought and deed, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate way for the SportsWorld to end its year. The Lakers have always been the ultimate team of the 1%. The Clippers are the also-rans/the afterthoughts are bottom-dwelling 99ers of the first order. One trade and this sacrosanct truth has been turned on its head. To see an exhilarating symbol of the change 2011 has brought and 2012 will bring, you can do worse than remembering the names Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and the soon-to-be almighty Clippers.

9 Reader Comments | Add a comment

I'm confused here

I don't get the message that this is the 99% in the basketball world taking on the 1% at all. In fact, it seems quite the opposite. The NBA has just rewarded a franchise with perhaps the most reactionary and disgusting human being for an owner in all of professional sports. And given the track record of most owners, the fact that Donald Sterling can put pretty much any owner to shame says something. As you even admitted, the team pretty much prioritizes making money over losing, which is likely the reason for so many losing seasons. As you mentioned, he is also a notorious bigot and slumlord. There is a reason nobody can get behind this team.

Give them even a half decent owner, and there would be more than enough non-Laker fans within the city itself to more than sustain strong loyalty and sellout crowds for a second LA team. Yet, the Clipper are the exact opposite. They act more like the 1% such as big banks that charge extra fees for everything, intentionally make their consumers and people under them suffer to increase their profit and look down on the very people that sustain them. Sounds like the Clippers bear a far greater resemblance to the 1% that gain undeserved wealth off of the suffering of others. If Chris Paul truly wanted to go play for this man when he had so many options open, it sadly says a lot about him as a human being and raises an even greater question mark about the willingness of many NBA players to be "jocks for justice" (I doubt someone like Etan Thomas would choose Donald Sterling as a finalist for his employer).

P.S. While the Lakers certainly wouldn't escape the 1% (remember Anschutz does own a portion of the team) the fact is that they have hired two assistant coaches that worked their way up the hard way from the D-League (Darvin Ham and Quin Snyder) and even own a D-League team. Now if their players from that team (the D-Fenders) came in to replace injured stars and they won big with them playing a major role, that would truly be a story about the 99%.

I'm confused here

I don't get the message that this is the 99% in the basketball world taking on the 1% at all. In fact, it seems quite the opposite. The NBA has just rewarded a franchise with perhaps the most reactionary and disgusting human being for an owner in all of professional sports. And given the track record of most owners, the fact that Donald Sterling can put pretty much any owner to shame says something. As you even admitted, the team pretty much prioritizes making money over losing, which is likely the reason for so many losing seasons. As you mentioned, he is also a notorious bigot and slumlord. There is a reason nobody can get behind this team.

Give them even a half decent owner, and there would be more than enough non-Laker fans within the city itself to more than sustain strong loyalty and sellout crowds for a second LA team. Yet, the Clipper are the exact opposite. They act more like the 1% such as big banks that charge extra fees for everything, intentionally make their consumers and people under them suffer to increase their profit and look down on the very people that sustain them. Sounds like the Clippers bear a far greater resemblance to the 1% that gain undeserved wealth off of the suffering of others. If Chris Paul truly wanted to go play for this man when he had so many options open, it sadly says a lot about him as a human being and raises an even greater question mark about the willingness of many NBA players to be "jocks for justice" (I doubt someone like Etan Thomas would choose Donald Sterling as a finalist for his employer).

P.S. While the Lakers certainly wouldn't escape the 1% (remember Anschutz does own a portion of the team) the fact is that they have hired two assistant coaches that worked their way up the hard way from the D-League (Darvin Ham and Quin Snyder) and even own a D-League team. Now if their players from that team (the D-Fenders) came in to replace injured stars and they won big with them playing a major role, that would truly be a story about the 99%.

I'm confused here

I don't get the message that this is the 99% in the basketball world taking on the 1% at all. In fact, it seems quite the opposite. The NBA has just rewarded a franchise with perhaps the most reactionary and disgusting human being for an owner in all of professional sports. And given the track record of most owners, the fact that Donald Sterling can put pretty much any owner to shame says something. As you even admitted, the team pretty much prioritizes making money over losing, which is likely the reason for so many losing seasons. As you mentioned, he is also a notorious bigot and slumlord. There is a reason nobody can get behind this team.

Give them even a half decent owner, and there would be more than enough non-Laker fans within the city itself to more than sustain strong loyalty and sellout crowds for a second LA team. Yet, the Clipper are the exact opposite. They act more like the 1% such as big banks that charge extra fees for everything, intentionally make their consumers and people under them suffer to increase their profit and look down on the very people that sustain them. Sounds like the Clippers bear a far greater resemblance to the 1% that gain undeserved wealth off of the suffering of others. If Chris Paul truly wanted to go play for this man when he had so many options open, it sadly says a lot about him as a human being and raises an even greater question mark about the willingness of many NBA players to be "jocks for justice" (I doubt someone like Etan Thomas would choose Donald Sterling as a finalist for his employer).

P.S. While the Lakers certainly wouldn't escape the 1% (remember Anschutz does own a portion of the team) the fact is that they have hired two assistant coaches that worked their way up the hard way from the D-League (Darvin Ham and Quin Snyder) and even own a D-League team. Now if their players from that team (the D-Fenders) came in to replace injured stars and they won big with them playing a major role, that would truly be a story about the 99%.

Sorry and a 99% story closer to home for the Clippers

Sorry that the above message was posted 3 times. It should have only been posted once.

A story that might resonate far more with the 99% might be is Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chauncey Billups took a stance similar to Curt Flood. He refused to report to the Phillies because of the racism of some of their fans and the poor condition of their stadium among other things. Unlike D-League players and marginal players who have little leverage in where they go or play, these players clearly have a choice. They could stand up and say that, in solidarity with the people who live in the slums of Donald Sterling and those who have suffered abuse under him as employees, that they would refuse as a group to suit up for the Clippers. They could say that either Donald Sterling would have to change the way he does business, step down as the owner of the team or they would have to all be traded away. That would be a powerful message and stance that would show solidarity with the 99% and resonate with them.

To Danial

I can guarentee that nobody on that teams gives a damn about Daniel Sterlings business dealings outside of basketball. Your hope that millionaire athletes are in solidarity with the 99% of the population is wasted. They'll give to charity, say the right words but you'll never see them address Congress for tax increases on the wealthy. They're just interested in making their money while they can.

These Clippers are going to be like the Tampa Bay Bucs under Dungy and Gruden. Or the Brewers the last two years. Even horrible franchises get their day once and a while. But just remember they don't play the game on paper. That being said it'll be fun to watch.

More Double Talk

This 99% talk is comparable to the "plantation" jive that ill-informed scribes try to hoist on the public. When they are called on it they try to palm it off as a metaphor. Yea and George W. is a gallant warrior.

If the users of such language want to create sympathy for the jocks this is not the way to do it. Unless, of course, they actually believe it, then they've got bigger problems.

To your points

I didn't say they would. It was a hypothetical. In fact, it is quite clear in this case (and probably many others) that you are right Jason. In fact, I pointed out earlier that this shows how suspect it is to expect that the overwhelming majority of NBA players have true solidarity with the 99%. It was said more out of a frustration knowing that it won't happen. Sadly, I think the phrase "everyone has a price" basically applies in this case.

Swing and a miss, dave

Sorry dude, but equating the chokablok clippers to the ongoing quest for global [environmental and financial] justice is a stretch. And i live in cencal, we get the clips on fsn so they're my team by geography for lack of a lakers bias and the lineups you mention in your article, so i'm cool with your perspective and all that. There's definitely a youth revolution going on in sports (see: Sebastian Vettel, Tebow, Kolohe Andino, [insert athlete under 25 here]) but I feel the cultural shifts are not an effect of the freedom of youth in the modern era, but are rather part of a process we are all experiencing, progressive or conservative [or whatever, insert political labels here], young and old, from the penthouses of cloistered corporate Manhattan to the people of the vast plains and mountains of far east asia. The Information Age of the post-conventional we are living in has been taking getting used to, economically, personally, ethically, in our schedules, minds, relationships, everything. So naturally a progression of sport is inevitable as it seems to be the primary focus of human behavior when we're not bent on survival (from quilting (yes damn it i said it) to the big leagues... hobbies, you know). "The Lakers have always been the ultimate team of the 1%. The Clippers are the also-rans/the afterthoughts are bottom-dwelling 99ers of the first order." Oh my goodness, must be diplomatic about this. How about instead of trying to keep capitalizing on popular vocabulary we try to take a step back and see what's really happening, why we're talking about these things, and why all these damn kids are getting so good at this stuff?

agree

The Clippers, who were improving even before Paul's arrival, should be fun to watch. And for a Lakers "hater" like me, watching their decline will be equally fun.

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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