It all began because our son, Ryan, borrowed a sports-themed Sesame Street DVD from the public library.
Abby Cadabby was teaching viewers the word “champion,” and she used her magic wand to “poof” Blake Griffin beside her. He thought he’d been summoned since he was a slam dunk champion. Instead he was going to participate in a chicken-calling contest – which he won.
And that’s how our son, and our family, became a Los Angeles Clippers fan.
For many, the Clippers weren’t the easiest team to like. They haven’t won any championships. Yet. They’ve had their difficulties and scandals (I’m not going to name their former owner). They’ve had to live under the shadow of a more popular Los Angeles team and have always been regarded as the “underdogs,” and “the other L.A. team.”
But not in our house. Blake brought basketball, Clippers basketball, to our family. We began referring to the players by a series of initials: BG (Blake Griffin), CP3 (Chris Paul), DJ (DeAndre Jordan), and JJ (J. J. Redick). My son was intrigued that a daddy was coaching his son (coach Doc Rivers, son Austin Rivers – now playing on the Rockets). Ryan even wondered if his daddy could be his coach when he grew up and played for the Clippers.
Not one of those players is on our current team. We’ve had to learn the hard way that it’s not very easy for players to have a Dirk Nowitzki-like career. That just because someone has a contract doesn’t mean they will stay on the team. That trades are as much a part of the game as the shoes.
Yet we love our current team even more than we did our “initials” team.
This year’s roster includes guys who can most likely go shopping at their local Target without being recognized and asked for autographs. These are guys who are professional basketball players. It’s their job. And some of them smile while they play, like they haven’t stopped marveling at the fact that they’re getting paid (a lot of money) to run back and forth in shorts and try to put the ball through the hoop.
These are guys who didn’t get much play time before finding their way to Doc Rivers and becoming a regular part of the starting line-up (Landry Shamet). These are guys who are praised for their off-the-bench prowess (Lou Williams), their spirt (Montrezl Harrell), and their grit (Patrick Beverley). This is the team without a “superstar” – a team made up of players who all contribute to the overall team win. Because that’s what basketball is – a team sport. No one player can do it all.
And then there are the extended members of the Clippers organization; the people you see on the sidelines. The people who make you feel like you, as a fan, are a part of something special.
Actor Billy Crystal – Harry Burns to me (When Harry Met Sally) and Mike Wazowski to my son (Monsters, Inc.). A longtime season ticket holder. A fan and supporter through the highs and the lows.
Owner Steve Ballmer, who sits courtside (even during away games), wearing his red and blue shirts. Clapping and shouting, kicking his feet and turning red with the same excitement my son has shown on Christmas morning.
The Voice of the Clippers, Ralph Lawler, who is retiring after a forty-year career. 40 years of reporting, of optimism, of professionalism and all with a team that didn’t always win a whole lot.
Before the 2018-2019 season began, the Clippers were counted out. We were a rag-tag team of no-name players apparently. Then the trades were made in February, and with the loss of players such as Tobias Harris, our Playoff chances were lost too. Or so they said.
Except every time our Clippers are told they can’t do something, or they won’t do something, they do it anyway. And that’s why as a mom, I love that my son is watching the Clippers. This season especially.
Ryan is 11. He stands in front of the mirror and sees strength, intelligence, and good looks. He’ll tell you he’s going to be an astronaut, a professional basketball player, a singer, a doctor. He believes it’s all possible because no one has told him otherwise.
But someday they will. Someday someone will count him out, because that’s life. And that’s when he has to channel our Clippers.
Our Clippers aren’t in possession of a Championship title yet. But they gave the defending champs a great run.
And to this organization, this mom would like to thank you for being role models for my son and for demonstrating what it takes to be a champion.