With the Clippers beating the Lakers 127-116 on Tuesday night, the Clippers have officially clinched a winning record in the Crypto.com Arena series. The record now stands 51-47 with the Clippers up and only 1 more game to be played before the Clippers make the move to their new home in Inglewood. However, with the decades-long Clippers vs. Lakers rivalry in the former Staples Center coming to an end, let’s take a moment to look back at how we arrived at this 51-47 record.
Lakers vs Clippers Rivalry History
The Lakers have been a star-studded, championship-winning franchise since the very beginning. After forming from the smoldering ashes of the defunct Detroit Gems in 1947, the then-Minneapolis Lakers immediately won the NBL championship in their very first year of existence. Following that season, they joined the league that would become the NBA, winning 5 championships in their first 6 seasons, led by the NBA’s first superstar, George Mikan. Following a brief economic turmoil brought on by Mikan’s retirement, they booked a ticket to glamorous LA, officially becoming the LA Lakers you know and most likely dislike. They built themselves a massive, iconic arena in Inglewood, the Fabulous Forum.
In contrast, the Clippers began life as the relatively unheralded Buffalo Braves where they were immediately unsuccessful. After 7 not-great seasons, the Braves were forced out of Buffalo due to some backroom politics involving who owned the city’s main arena. Following that, the Braves attempted to mimic the Lakers’ move west. They changed the team name to the Clippers and moved to sunny San Diego. Unfortunately, the newly-christened Clippers were immediately unsuccessful there as well, relocating once again to LA after 7 more not-great seasons. They found a home in the ancient LA Memorial Sports Arena. Once again, the Clippers flopped after some very poor play brought on by cheapskate owner Donald Sterling.
In the late 1990s, the Lakers began to grow tired of the Forum. It was old and somewhat small. More importantly(for them), it had very few luxury boxes and lacked many other luxury amenities common in newer arenas. They began to covet a newer arena in a more central area of LA. Partnering with the LA Kings hockey team, they began building the Staples Center. Late in the project, the Clippers agreed to help finance part of it in exchange for being allowed to play there. Thus began the only inter-arena rivalry in the NBA of the Clippers vs. Lakers.
As soon as the Staples Center was built, the Lakers got off to a hot start. They won a championship in their very first year there. Meanwhile, the Clippers were in the midst of their 8th straight losing season. Ultimately, they went 39-43 in their debut season at Staples. This difference in success was reflected in the head-to-head record. In the first 13 years of the Clippers vs. Lakers inter-arena rivalry, the Lakers held a 39-20 record against the Clippers with most of their losses coming when their stars were resting. Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and all the other Laker stars showed out, depressing the Clipper faithful immensely. It was bad enough that the Clippers used to advertise the Lakers stars instead of their own when they played against them.
Following the well-deserved ouster of Donald Sterling, the once-hapless Clippers began to look startlingly competent. They won their division for the first team in franchise history and made the playoffs six years in a row. Meanwhile, the Lakers ultimately were floundering following the decline and subsequent retirement of Kobe Bryant. The new head-to-head record reflected this role reversal as the Clippers have gone 31-8 vs. the Lakers in the last 10 years. Clippers stars like Blake Griffin, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Paul George, and most recently, James Harden, all took their turn beating the Lakers during that timeframe. The Clippers finally went over .500 in the all-time head-to-head record against the Lakers during the 2022-2023 season. Now, the record stands at 51-47 in favor of the Clippers with one game left to play between the two teams(barring an unlikely playoff matchup).
Following the 2023-2024 season, the Clippers will be leaving the Crypto.com Arena and heading to their new, ultramodern home in Inglewood, the Intuit Dome. The Clippers vs. Lakers rivalry will almost certainly not end there. There will still be the fight for LA’s favor. However, the unique quality of being the NBA’s one and only inter-arena rivalry will be gone. Perhaps the rivalry will be toned down in intensity. Though, judging by Lakers fans on Twitter, the intensity of the rivalry isn’t going anywhere. Thus ends this edition of Tales from the Crypt.