No professional sports team likes the idea of being viewed as a little brother. Unfortunately, since the Clippers relocated to Los Angeles, they have been in a pretty big shadow of the Los Angeles Lakers.
It is understandable for a team with 16 championships to overshadow a franchise without even one NBA Finals appearance, but that has not always been the case. In fact, in the first half of the 2000s, most notably before and after the Lakers’ title run, the flashiest team in the city was the Clippers. How did they pull that off? A slew of youngsters, some not even old enough to drink, were making waves as the upstart to the establishment winning titles.
Prior to the 2001-2002 season, the Los Angeles Clippers traded for Elton Brand. This move gave them one of the most exciting young nucleuses in basketball, as he was joining Corey Maggette, Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson, and Lamar Odom. The Lakers are winning championships with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, but this was the cool, young, and hip team grabbing the younger generation. For a franchise looking to make the rest of the league take notice, this was a beautiful opportunity.
Every player brought something different to the table, as the Clippers looked to do more than make headlines. They wanted to compete, and they did that for the first time in decades.
When the Chicago Bulls traded Elton Brand to the Los Angeles Clippers, the franchise believed that they had their centerpiece. He was a dominant force for the Chicago Bulls in his first two seasons in the NBA, and the Clippers needed the go-to guy to throw the ball to in the post.
Brand played like a number one player for the Clippers from the beginning. He only had one season where he took over the scoring load, but he was a consistent 20 points and 10 rebounds type of guy almost every single night. Injuries started to catch up to him after a few years, but he was a major reason why the Clippers became relevant once again.
The left-hander from New York City was viewed by many as a guy who had no flaws. He was a 6’10” forward who could point guard if he needed to. Another top-five pick on the team, he hit the ground running with the Clippers in his very first season. There were times in which he would run the offense, and there were also times in which he would be looked at as a scorer.
Brand and Odom might have had more hype, but Corey Maggette was the glue to the Los Angeles Clippers team of that era. He was the one guy who ended up sticking around for the majority of his prime, and he was able to have quite a bit of success. He was capable of playing multiple positions, and that allowed him to stay on the floor when going up against nearly every team.
What happened to Corey Maggette?
It is hard for younger players to swallow their pride and fill in where needed, but Maggette was fine coming off the bench if that made the most sense. His ability to give many different players a breather and play multiple positions added to roster flexibility. Today he runs a children’s basketball league and has taken over responsibilities for the community to fill the void when Kobe Bryant tragically left this world. We’re all thankful and lucky to have such an amazing human being like Corey Maggette still.
The excitement surrounding Darius Miles when he came out of high school in the 2000 NBA Draft certainly had Clippers fans excited. He had all the potential in the world, but it was never truly developed with the Clippers. He would have some highlights here and there, but he was mostly a guy at the bench still learning the game of basketball at the highest level. That is expected for a guy who only played two seasons of the Clippers, and was with the Cleveland Cavaliers by the time he was 21 years old.
Used mostly as a bench player for the Los Angeles Clippers, Richardson was able to provide some scoring punch when he caught fire. He was perhaps the most unheralded of the younger players that helped make up the exciting core, but he became a fan-favorite with his ability to get on a roll.
Shooting was always a major part of the game, as he shot 35% from three-point land during his four seasons with the team. In his final season with the Clippers, he was able to average over 17 points per contest.
An exciting time for the franchise
There are no championship banners for the Los Angeles Clippers during this era, but they were still exciting in the eyes of many. They just missed out on the playoffs in the 2001–2002 season, and there was finally the breakthrough they needed in 2005-2006. The younger core started to mature by then, which led to a 45-win season. Only Brand and Maggette were still around for the playoff appearance, but it showed just how exciting that collection of talent was during that time.
For a franchise with no NBA titles and very few bright spots overall, fans still remember these guys decades later. Not all of them panned out, but the Clippers turned into a team that had just as much attention from casual fans as the Lakers for the first time.