Back in 1999, one of my favourite bands, Rage Against The Machine release an album entitled “The Battle Of Los Angeles.” The album, which debuted at No. 1 on the billboard charts that summer, was a statement on how different the City Of Angels was perceived by outsiders compared to the citizens living in Los Angeles. As guitarist Tom Morello noted.
“Most people see Los Angeles as Hollywood or Oscar night. They see the glitz and glamour of the city. Meanwhile there is a different story going on in Los Angeles. If you look deeper there are stories of despair, heartbreak and shattered dreams. But also stories of hope. That’s the Los Angeles we want people to see.”
To most NBA fans, the two Los Angeles teams represent both parts of the city very well. The Lakers are the glitz and glamour of LA. Back in the 1980s it was Showtime, led by Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and James Worthy. In the 2000s, it was the Lake Show led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. The Lakers were incredibly successful winning 17 NBA titles, the most recent in 2010.
On the other side there is the Clippers. While sharing the same home arena, (The Staples Centre) with the Lakers since 1999, (ironic isn’t it) the Clippers have been for the most part the laughingstock of the NBA. With the exception of 2006, in which the Clippers made it to the second round of the playoffs, the Clippers have always been the poorer cousin to the Lakers. The Clippers represented despair, heartbreak and shattered dreams. The franchise has been noted more for first round flops than superstars. “Luminaries” such as Danny Ferry, Bo Kimble, Terry Dehere, Michael Olowokandi, and Darius Miles dotted the Clippers history. To top it off owner Donald Sterling was named the worst owner in professional sports in Sports Illustrated a few years back.
However, there is now hope for Clipper fans. Young talent has started to emerge. Power forward Blake Griffin is one of the brightest stars in the NBA. Point guard Chris Paul is considered in the top 3 at his position. Paul and Griffin have formed a dynamic one-two punch which is akin to John Stockton and Karl Malone in Utah back in the 1990s. Coach Vinny Del Negro is a young but very bright coach who will work his players hard, but is also a good teacher.
Meanwhile the Lakers are slipping. Yes they still have Kobe but the supporting cast is either aging or lacking. Pau Gasol has looked like he’s lost a step, Derek Fisher can’t play forever, and the artist formerly known as Ron Artest (now known as Metta World Peace) is a loose cannon who could spontaneously combust at any moment.
These two teams have met twice the season with each team winning once. After the second meeting in which the Lakers won, Bryant told Yahoo Sports:
“We’ve got five championships… Rivals come from the playoffs.”
While Kobe may be right, there is a distinct possibility that these two LA teams could very well meet in the playoffs this year. And if they did meet, it could very well be the start of the next great rivalry. And the NBA would be overjoyed with that!