The Los Angeles Clippers franchise has a legitimate shot to win its first NBA championship during the 2019-20 season, if it continues. Having a good team and a chance to win is unfortunately not something the franchise or its fans have been able to get used to on a consistent basis. That is, until the last decade began and so started the best years of the team’s history.
Looking back, the Clippers have had so many heartbreaking moments for fans, players, and the organization, but here are the most heartbreaking moments in history.
6. 8-second violation/losing to Suns in 2006
It took the Clippers 22 seasons to win a playoff series after moving to Los Angeles. That series win came on May 1, 2006, when they defeated the Denver Nuggets in Game 5 of the first round. Up next for the Clippers was the “Seven Seconds Or Less” Phoenix Suns led by Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni’s uptempo system.
In Game 5 with the hard-fought series tied 2-2, the Clippers went into Phoenix and gave themselves a great shot to take a 3-2 lead into Game 6 back in Los Angeles.
Shaun Livingston pulled down a rebound with 38 seconds left and the game tied at 101 apiece. Mike Dunleavy and the Clippers used their final timeout to draw up a play, but had to inbound from the backcourt since Livingston took two dribbles and then called the timeout.
In bringing the ball upcourt after the timeout, Sam Cassell lost track of the shot clock as he was smiling at his defender Raja Bell. Then came a whistle and an eight-second violation. The Suns got the ball back, but Nash missed a top-of-the-key 3-pointer. The Clippers regained possession with nine seconds left and . The game went to double-overtime where the Suns came out on top.
The Clippers would win Game 6 at home but fall in Game 7 on the road. LA had its chances to win the game, but in an era with fewer possessions, the turnover could’ve changed a lot in favor of the Clippers.
5. Lob City Breakup
The Clippers franchise didn’t have a history of winning at all prior to the 2010s. Prior to the start of the decade, the Clippers averaged 29 wins a season over their 40 years of existence, a .354 winning percentage.
Adjusting their record for the 2019-20 season, where they were on pace for a 57-win season, the Clippers averaged just over 49 wins per season from 2011 to 2020, a .600 winning percentage.
That’s what Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, JJ Redick, Doc Rivers, and a handful of great role players did during the past 10 years. Sure, it never resulted in a championship due to some unfortunate circumstances such as injury or just pure bad luck (I’m looking at you, Corey Brewer and Josh Smith), but the Clippers entered almost every season from 2012 to 2017 as a championship contender.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. After falling to the Utah Jazz in the 2017 NBA Playoffs:
– Chris Paul requested a trade to the Houston Rockets in the 2017 offseason.
– Blake Griffin signed a five-year deal with the Clippers, was traded seven months later in January 2018.
– DeAndre Jordan was not re-signed in 2018 offseason.
– JJ Redick was not re-signed in 2017 offseason.
– Jamal Crawford was part of a three-team trade for Danilo Gallinari in 2017 offseason.
The Clippers were able to jump-start the rebuild (they called it more of a retooling) thanks to the hauls they got in the Chris Paul and Blake Griffin trades.
Landing Kawhi Leonard in free agency helped with that, but they might not land Leonard without a gritty showing during the 2018-19 season.
4. Elton Brand Spurns Clippers, joins Sixers
In the 2007-08 season, Elton Brand played only eight games for the Clippers after suffering a torn Achilles and Baron Davis had the second-best season of his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors. With both entering free agency, the plan was to join forces in Los Angeles to try and take the Clippers to the next level.
Many reports claimed that Brand’s recruiting worked, convincing the two-time All-Star Davis to come home to Los Angeles and play alongside Brand. Brand reportedly verbally agreed to re-sign with the Clippers if they could land Davis.
After Davis signed with the Clippers, Brand suddenly changed course, electing to sign a a five-year, $80 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The move left the Clippers with only one “star,” albeit an aging one in Davis. Things got dire from there when Davis didn’t turn out to be the player the Clippers needed him to be. Davis became less efficient, turned the ball over more, and, quite frankly, wasn’t good anymore. He did have his moments, hitting a couple of game-winners for the Clippers, but that was the most excitement the signing brought:
To make matters even worse, the Clippers (for some reason I can’t explain) added an UNPROTECTED 2011 first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in order to trade Baron Davis and his three remaining seasons.
The Clippers got back Mo Williams and Jamario Moon.
That pick ended up being the first overall pick. It turned into Kyrie Irving.
3. Shaun Livingston’s devastating injury
With the fourth pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Clippers selected Shaun Livingston from Peoria Central High School in Peoria, Illinois.
For a franchise that saw fewer than 40 wins the last 11 seasons, including a nine-win season in 1998-99, Livingston provided hope for the future. The 6-foot-7, 189-pound point guard coming straight out of high school showed promise early on in his career.
By this third year, Livingston was starting to hit his stride and split starting lineup duties with Sam Cassell. That is, until he suffered an absolutely devastating knee injury against the Charlotte Bobcats on Feb. 26, 2007.
Livingston was diagnosed with a dislocated left kneecap and a full tear of three of the four ligaments in the knee.
It’s a freak injury that, to this day, I have not watched more than the one time I did watching it live. It was a heartbreaking moment for the franchise, but obviously also for a 21-year-old who had such a bright career ahead of him.
Livingston was able to overcome the injury, return to play for multiple franchises, and finish his career a three-time NBA champion. He never had the opportunity to live up to his full potential, though.
Former Clippers guard Cuttino Mobley, who was Livingston’s vet on the team, told ClutchPoints last year that he believes Livingston would’ve been one of the best point guards ever if he stayed healthy.
“Shaun Livingston was injured, and you really couldn’t see his full capability. Shaun Livingston was super special.
“If he wasn’t hurt then his body would’ve developed faster. Shaun Livingston would’ve been one of the best point guards ever. Ever. He was really good.”
Another “what could’ve been” moment from Clippers history.
2. Donald Sterling Scandal
Not sure if the Donald Sterling scandal is as heartbreaking as it is embarrassing, sad, disgusting, and whatever other word you can find to rightfully describe it.
Everyone knew that Sterling was a piece of sh*t. He had a number of racist and discriminatory claims against him over the years. This blew up once his explosive comments about Magic Johnson and African Americans came to light thanks to the audio tape. He was heard berating then-mistress V. Stiviano for taking photos with African Americans and posting them to social media.
Here are some of the biggest quotes:
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that and not to bring them to my games.”
“Don’t put him [Magic Johnson] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.”
The timing of this tape and these comments couldn’t be worse. The Clippers were in the middle of a playoff series with the Golden State Warriors. On numerous accounts, head coach Doc Rivers details what it was like enduring that period of time and how close both teams were to boycotting Game 4 in Oakland.
You can hear the full comments here.
Within just a few days, newly appointed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced a lifetime ban issued to Sterling and that the Clippers would immediately be up for sale.
1. Blowing 3-1 lead to Rockets in 2015 after losing near 3-2 lead to Thunder in 2014
I could honestly make a top-five list on the Clippers’ playoff collapses from the last decade. There are just that many, unfortunately.
In Game 5 of a series that was tied 2-2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Clippers held a 104-97 lead with 49 seconds left. They lost that game thanks to some awful mistakes and clutch shotmaking from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Had the Clippers won, they would’ve led 3-2 heading to LA for Game 6. Instead, the life was taken out of them after Game 5 and they dropped Game 6.
If it couldn’t get any worse …
The Clippers defeated the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs. The series went a full seven games and ended on an off-balance floater from Paul, who was nursing an injured hamstring from the first half. The Clippers winning that series felt like they took down a Western Conference juggernaut and the biggest threat was out of the way.
A week and a half later, the Clippers built a 3-1 lead over the Houston Rockets heading back to H-Town for Game 5. Houston forced a trip back to LA for Game 6. The Clippers built up a 19-point lead with 14 minutes to play and a 13-point lead entering the fourth quarter. The feeling was they all but had it in the palm of their hands.
Needless to say, a 40-15 fourth quarter for the Rockets was not how the Clippers envisioned that final period going. It was enough to suck the life out of the Staples Center and the Clippers. Corey Brewer scored 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. Josh Smith scored 14 of his 19 in the quarter:
If you were in the arena, after the third quarter, you were sure the Clippers were headed for their first-ever conference finals appearance in franchise history. Instead, they dropped Game 6, and there was no hope heading back to Houston for Game 7.