Los Angeles is still painted purple and gold.
Steve Ballmer’s personality and passion are undeniable, but his presence courtside will not immediately have any impact on Los Angeles’ allegiance to the Lakers. Eighty-one points and 18 years of Kobe Bryant have cemented another generation of Lakers’ fans.
However, Bryant’s retirement in two years may present the perfect opportunity for the Clippers to step in and create competition. What if the Clippers win the NBA title the same year No. 24 waves goodbye?
As presently constructed, the Clippers probably have a two-year window at a title. Bryant’s contract and likely his career, are up in two years.
Until Bryant’s name is removed from his locker, there is no competition. On the court, the Clippers may have had the Lakers’ number in recent meetings, but off the court, Southern California sweats in Sunday whites with “Bryant” printed on the back, throwback t-shirts that read “3-peat,” and black Hollywood Nights jerseys with “Swaggy P” printed on the back.
When the Los Angeles Lakers were at the top of the standings, getting a seat at Staples Center involved being extremely well connected, handing over a heavy bag of money or being an A-list star. When they hit rock bottom, though, it was difficult to find people consistently watching on television, let alone shelling out big bucks to bear witness to a bad brand of basketball — in this case, “bad” does not mean good. It was painful to watch a team getting blown out and embarrassed on a regular basis, and well, people stopped watching.
The Lakers’ television ratings dipped to an average of 2.15 for the 2013-14 NBA season, which amounted to about 122,000 households. That was less than half as many households as the previous season, but in Los Angeles, the Lakers were still well ahead of the Clippers. The Clippers, who finished with more than twice as many wins as the Lakers, ended their season reaching only about 72,000 households on average.
Even through the frustration and anger of losing for a season, though, Los Angeles remained a Lakers’ town. For non-math wizards, the Lakers reached nearly 70 percent more households than the Clippers during the 2013-14 season — a season in which the Lakers set the mark for the worst season in team history (since moving to Los Angeles) with only 27 wins and 55 losses.
Even with the Lakers at their worst, losing every night and starting players that came straight out of the NBA D-League and the Clippers at their best, running away with the division and being one of the favorites to win the title, the Lakers still drove interest in Los Angeles.
New Lakers coach Byron Scott, at his introductory press conference, challenged the notion that Los Angeles had gone to the Clippers. Scott pointed to the 16 championship banners hanging at Staples Center compared to, well, none for the Clippers. Apparently, he could just as well have pointed to the television sets.
For all those claims of bandwagon fandom, the Clippers actually dropped in television ratings from 2012-13 to 2013-14, and the Clippers were popular picks to win the title in 2013-14. Ultimately, Los Angeles jumped off the Lakers’ bandwagon for a season and rather than hop onto the Clippers’ horse and buggy, the bulk of Los Angeles took a gap year from the NBA.
So, why didn’t Los Angeles go to the Clippers?
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