The franchise began in Western New York as the Buffalo Braves, one of three NBA expansion franchises that began play in the 1970–71 season, along with the Portland Trail Blazers and Cleveland Cavaliers. They played their home games at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, along with another Buffalo team that would begin play that year, the National Hockey League's Buffalo Sabres.
After two bad seasons, the Braves' fortunes started to change under coach Jack Ramsay and star forward/center Bob McAdoo. McAdoo led the NBA in scoring three consecutive seasons and was named the league's MVP in the 1974–75 season. The Braves qualified for the playoffs three times in a row, losing thrice to the eventual Eastern Conference champions (the Boston Celtics in 1974 and 1976, and the Washington Bullets in 1975). Despite the team's modest success in Buffalo, Braves owner Paul Snyder and the league found it impossible to schedule home games at the auditorium because the Canisius Golden Griffins men's basketball team, which had a pre-existing lease on the arena and priority on game dates over the Braves, saw the Braves as a threat to their own success and purposely scheduled all the best dates at the arena to prevent the Braves from succeeding. As a result, after a failed attempt to sell the team to an owner who intended to move it to South Florida, Snyder sold the team to Kentucky Colonels owner John Y. Brown, Jr., who decimated the team's roster, traded away all of its stars, and drove attendance down to the point where they could break their own lease on the arena. Eventually in 1978, Brown dealt with Celtics owner Irv Levin so they would trade franchise ownerships. Southern California resident Levin then decided to move the Braves to San Diego, something the league would have never allowed him to do with the Celtics.
In 1978, San Diego welcomed the relocation of the Buffalo Braves franchise because the city had lost their Rockets to Houston seven years earlier. San Diego team officials did not think Braves was a representative nickname for the club. A contest decided on Clippers because the city was known for the great sailing ships that passed through San Diego Bay. When the Clippers moved to Los Angeles in 1984, they kept their nickname.
In the team's first season in San Diego, it posted a record of 43–39 under new head coach Gene Shue, leaving them two wins shy of the final playoff spot. It would be the Clippers' last winning season for 13 years. It was also in that first season in Southern California that long-time announcer Ralph Lawler began his association with the club. World B. Free, who was acquired in the offseason from the Philadelphia 76ers, finished second overall in NBA scoring average, with 28.9 per game, while George Gervin of the San Antonio Spurs had a 29.6 average.
The 1979–80 season saw the Clippers begin to struggle despite adding center Bill Walton, a San Diego native who was two years removed from an NBA Championship with the Trail Blazers. Walton missed 68 games due to foot injuries (which he also suffered in his final years in Portland). San Diego finished 35–47 as key players missed games due to injuries. Free again finishing second in league scoring, with 30.2 PPG. Paul Silas replaced Shue the following season, and the Clippers finished 36–46, again missing the postseason. Walton missed the entire season again due to foot injuries. Free was traded to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for guard Phil Smith.
The 1981–82 season brought changes to the franchise as Irv Levin sold the team to Los Angeles-area real estate developer and attorney Donald Sterling for US$12.5 million. The Clippers' poor play in the final years in San Diego resulted in averaging only 4,500 fans a game. Sterling lobbied the NBA to relocate the team to his native Los Angeles.
In 1984, the Clippers moved north to Los Angeles, playing at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. However, the move was not approved by the NBA, which fined Sterling $250 million. He sued the league for $100 million, but dropped the suit when the league agreed to decrease the fine to $6 million. The Clippers finished their first season in Los Angeles 31–51 under head coach Jim Lynam.
The Clippers' early days in Los Angeles were marred with many seasons of hapless performances. Despite fielding a squad of talented veterans, the organization suffered systematic injuries to many of its star players. The phenomenon was dubbed the "Clipper Triangle" by some sports writers. Derek Smith suffered a knee injury during the 1985–86 season, followed by Norm Nixon (knee) and Marques Johnson (spinal cord) the following season. The team's 12–70 finish in the 1987 season was the second-worst single-season record in NBA history at that time (and is now the third-worst winning percentage in NBA history behind the 1973 Philadelphia 76ers and the 2012 Charlotte Bobcats). That same season also saw Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor join the team as the general manager and vice president of basketball operations. Nixon was plagued with another ailment, this time suffering an ailing Achilles tendon in 1987–88, while number one draft pick rookie Danny Manning injured his anterior cruciate ligament during the 1988–89 campaign.
The Clippers traded the rights to the recently drafted Danny Ferry and Reggie Williams for high-scoring shooting guard Ron Harper. Los Angeles had a 19–19 record nearly halfway into the season, prompting some to seriously consider the team as a possible playoff contender. That move, along with the 1987 NBA draft of Ken Norman, the 1988 draftings of Danny Manning and Charles Smith (Smith was acquired from Philadelphia in exchange for the draft rights to Hersey Hawkins), and the 1990 NBA draft of Loy Vaught, formed a nucleus that made the franchise a playoff contender.
Midway through the 1991–92 season, the Clippers made yet another coaching change. Larry Brown, recently fired by the San Antonio Spurs, was hired as the team's head coach in late January 1992. He replaced Mike Schuler, who had led the team to a 22–25 record before his firing. Brown finished the season with a 23–12 mark, for a 45–37 overall—the franchise's first winning season in 13 years. For the first time since moving to Los Angeles, they finished with a better record than the crosstown Los Angeles Lakers. The Clippers advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 16 years (since the franchise's Buffalo heyday), but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Utah Jazz, 3–2. Due to the late April 1992 Los Angeles riots, the Anaheim Convention Center was the site of Game 4 of the series, which the Clippers won. The team made the playoffs again in the 1992–93 season with a 41–41 record, but lost again in five games in the first round, this time to the Rockets.
Brown left to become the Indiana Pacers' head coach after the season and Bob Weiss was brought in to replace him. That 1993–94 season proved to be one of the worst in Los Angeles NBA history, with the Clippers and Lakers going a combined 60–104. In February 1994, the Clippers traded Manning to the Atlanta Hawks for Dominique Wilkins. Wilkins played 25 games for the club, averaging 29.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 37.9 minutes per game. After one year on the job, Weiss was fired, and veteran head coach Bill Fitch was brought in to guide a roster of young and inexperienced players.
From 1994 to 1999, the Clippers played several games annually (usually five to eight regular season games a season, and an annual preseason game) at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, sharing the venue with the NHL's Ducks and the Splash indoor soccer team. Clippers games regularly drew a much-higher average attendance per game at the Pond than when the team played its home games at their regular venue, the Los Angeles Sports Arena; the Anaheim games proved so popular that many Clippers players and much of the fan base, as well as the NBA, wanted to the team to stay in what was considered at the time a state-of-the-art arena. For instance, between 1994 and 1997, the Clippers drew an average of nearly 16,000 fans per game at the Pond, while in Los Angeles, they drew in the neighborhood of 9,200 per home game. Anaheim officials and the Clippers had had on-going talks about moving to Anaheim full-time years before the Pond was eventually built, as Donald Sterling was pursuing options to play elsewhere in the Los Angeles metropolitan region if there was not a replacement for the Sports Arena being built.
The Clippers, however, nearly moved to Anaheim permanently in time for the 1996–97 season, but according to a Los Angeles Times article published in June 1996, owner Donald Sterling turned down a deal that would have paid the team $95 million over 12 years. Odgen Corporation, who at the time managed the Pond, and the city of Anaheim offered the Clippers a multi-tiered deal that would have included upwards of $33 million paid to the team over the first six years of their Pond agreement, plus other monies allocated towards new locker rooms, team offices, and a practice facility. In another related Times article, Odgen and Sterling were in talks to have the management company take care of the Clippers' day-to-day operations for a $4 million a year fee. Also at the time, the Walt Disney Company, owners of the Ducks and Anaheim Angels baseball team during that period, were pursuing at least a partial ownership of the Clippers, with the key element being that its game telecasts would be part of a planned ESPN regional network for Southern California. However, as the planned ESPN West network never came to reality, all three teams had continued to maintain broadcast partnerships with Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket.
In what was supposed to be a counter-move, the Coliseum Commission, the management entity that managed the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and Coliseum, had planned to build a new 18,700-seat arena in the parking lot next to the Sports Arena that would have cost up to $94 million, that would have included 1,100 club seats, 84 luxury suites, and an on-site practice facility for the Clippers. However, those plans were scuttled once planning for Staples Center (two miles directly up the street from the Sports Arena) were taking place, and the Clippers decided to become a tenant at Staples.
In 1999, the Clippers joined the Lakers and Los Angeles Kings in the new Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles. In sharing the building with other tenants, such as the more popular Lakers, the Clippers, with relatively low success, were often overshadowed. Also, because of the terms of its leasing agreement with Staples Center, the Kings and Lakers had scheduling priority over the Clippers, with the Clippers taking whatever dates that were available, including scheduling same-day Clipper-Laker and Clipper-King doubleheaders (which continues as of 2016). However, in the years after, the Clippers' scheduling at Staples Center became gradually more favorable (especially given the popularity of the team in recent years) in their lease renewals in 2004 and 2013, with the team receiving increased profits, including more of a share of luxury suite and concession revenue. Since February 2011, the Clippers have sold out every regular season and post-season home game, behind the popularity of stars Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Chris Paul.
On the court, the Clippers continued to make frequent roster changes throughout this particular period, which only resulted with one playoff appearance under Bill Fitch. Along with Loy Vaught, a collection of young players (including Lamond Murray, Eric Piatkowski, and Lorenzen Wright), and journeyman veterans (among them Pooh Richardson, Tony Massenburg, Rodney Rogers, Darrick Martin, and Brian Williams), the Fitch-coached teams during this particular era struggled mightily although they did make the playoffs once during this time. The 1996–97 team made the playoffs with a losing record (36–46) and were swept in the first round by the eventual Western Conference Champion Utah Jazz, three games to none.
Four members of the 1996–97 squad are now deceased. Malik Sealy died in a car accident in 2000, Kevin Duckworth died of heart disease in 2008, Lorenzen Wright went missing and was murdered in 2010, and Dwayne Schintzius died from cancer complications in 2012. Two other players from the Fitch era suffered tragic circumstances of their own; Brian Williams (who played for the Clippers during the 1995–96 season, and later became known as Bison Dele) was believed to have been murdered by his brother while the two were vacationing in 2002 while in the South Pacific, and Rodney Rogers became paralyzed after a dirt bike crash in 2008 in his native North Carolina.
In December, Vaught, the team's leading scorer for the past three seasons, had season-ending back surgery. Without Vaught, the Clippers finished 17–65, the third-worst record in the league. Fitch was fired after the 1997–98 season (and later sued the team to recover the remaining money on his contract), and was replaced by one of his proteges, former Celtics and Bucks coach Chris Ford. Meanwhile, Vaught's career as a Clipper was effectively finished, as he left as a free agent after that season, and signed with the Detroit Pistons; at the time of his departure, he was the franchise's all-time rebounds leader with 4,471 (a number that was later surpassed by Elton Brand, with 4,710).
The Clippers won the first overall pick in the 1998 Draft Lottery and selected center Michael Olowokandi from University of the Pacific. The team had a 0–17 start and finished with a 9–41 record in the shortened 1998–99 season. They were led by second-year forward Maurice Taylor, who averaged 16.8 points per game.
It was in their first season at Staples Center that the Clippers drafted Lamar Odom. They hired former All-Star (and Los Angeles native) Dennis Johnson as an assistant coach, as well as Hall of Fame former Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to help tutor second-year center Michael Olowokandi. Johnson remained an assistant coach until the middle of the 2002–03 season, when he took over as head coach. Abdul-Jabbar remained only one season.
During the 1999 offseason, Rodney Rogers signed with the Phoenix Suns. The Clippers also sent Lamond Murray to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Derek Anderson and Johnny Newman. However, Newman was traded to the New Jersey Nets for Eric Murdock a month later without ever playing a game for the Clippers. The team finished with the worst record in the league (15–67) in the 1999–2000 season, while the Lakers had the best record that year (67–15).
The 2000–01 season brought changes. Derek Strong was sent to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Corey Maggette and the draft rights to Keyon Dooling. The Clippers' two draft picks that year were childhood friends from Illinois: high schooler Darius Miles (3rd overall pick) and Quentin Richardson, (18th overall pick). The team became popular among fans with its high-flying style of basketball and the Clippers did improve a bit with a 31–51 record, leading the NBA in bench-scoring with 37 points per game.
To improve upon the previous season, the Clippers acquired high-scoring and rebounding power forward Elton Brand from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for the draft rights to Tyson Chandler. Brand earned a spot on the 2002 NBA Western Conference All-Star team as an injury replacement for Shaquille O'Neal of the Lakers. The Clippers contended for most of the season, but won only 3 of the last 12 games and finished 39–43, five games out of the playoffs.
The 2002 off-season brought changes, as Miles was traded to the Cavaliers for Andre Miller, who led the NBA in assists in 2001–02 with 11 per game. With a good point guard in Miller, Lamar Odom at small forward, one of the league's best power forwards, Brand, the center Olowokandi, and a good supporting cast off the bench, the Clippers could actually make a run for the playoffs. However, with poor team chemistry and injuries (the Clippers lost 293 man-games to injury), they finished with a disappointing 27–55 record. Head coach Alvin Gentry was replaced by Dennis Johnson midway through the 2002–03 season.
In the 2003–04 season, the Clippers lost many of their core players to free agency (Miller, Odom, Olowokandi, and forward Eric Piatkowski—one of the longest-tenured players in Clippers history), while opting to retain Brand and Maggette with long-term contracts. They, along with Richardson, made up one of the NBA best high-scoring trios, with a combined 58 points per game. With new head coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr., they finished 28–54, due to inexperience and injuries.
The 2004–05 season saw the Clippers, although also missed the playoffs, finished with a better record than the Lakers for the first time since 1993. Bobby Simmons won the 2004–05 NBA Most Improved Player award after averaging 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. As a result, Simmons signed a 5-year, $47 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. To counter Simmons' defection, the Clippers announced they would sign Cuttino Mobley to a contract similar in years (5) but less money ($42 million) to what Simmons received. Mobley was the first significant free agent signing from outside the organization since Bill Walton in the late 1970s.
More deals were made. The Clippers traded Marko Jarić (in a sign and trade transaction) and Lionel Chalmers to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Sam Cassell and a lottery-protected 1st round pick in the 2006 NBA draft. In relation to the lottery-protected pick, in order for the Clippers to acquire the pick, the Timberwolves would have to make the playoffs, or Minnesota would retain the pick.
During the summer of 2005, the Clippers announced they would build a practice facility (the first NBA practice facility within the four corners of the City of Los Angeles) in the Playa Vista development. Several current players on the Clippers' lineup live in the planned community.
The 2005–06 season was a turning point for the team's image; marked by several wins over top teams. Brand was chosen for the All-Star Game and articles have been written in sports magazines giving recognition to the much improved team. Just before the trade deadline, the Clippers traded Chris Wilcox to the Seattle SuperSonics for Vladimir Radmanović. They had lacked consistent outside shooting, which is what they looked for in the trade.
While the Clippers had a few stretches of poor play they were able to maintain a solid record, including posting several winning streaks. They achieved their first winning record in 14 seasons and clinched their first playoff spot since 1997. They also finished with a better record than the Lakers for the second straight year.
By finishing sixth in the Western Conference, with a record of 47–35 (their highest finish since the team left Buffalo), they benefited from the current NBA playoff format of regular season records taking precedence over winning the division, and secured home court advantage over the Denver Nuggets instead of traveling to Denver for four games as a No. 6 seed would usually be expected to do.
On April 22, 2006, the Clippers won their first NBA playoff game in 13 years. Two days later, they won their second playoff game, going 2–0 against an opponent for the first time in franchise history. They lost Game 3, but won Game 4. On Monday, May 1, 2006, they won Game 5 in Los Angeles and their first playoff series since they moved from Buffalo.
The team faced the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semi-finals. After losing a close Game 1, they won Game 2, 122–97. The series shifted to Staples Center for Game 3, but the Suns won, 94–91. In Game 4, Elton Brand posted 30 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists as the Clippers evened the series. In Game 5, Suns guard/forward Raja Bell made a key 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left in the first overtime to send the game into a second overtime. However, Phoenix won in double-overtime, 125–118.
They bounced back with a series-saving 118–106 Game 6 win. Second-year defensive specialist Quinton Ross had a timely offensive game, scoring a then career-high 18 points. Brand had 30 points (his scoring average in this particular series), 12 rebounds, and five blocks. Corey Maggette came off the bench to score 25 points, with 7–8 shooting from the field, and 9–9 from the free throw line. Kaman and Cassell each scored 15 points. The Clippers lost the seventh game 127–107. General Manager (and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member) Elgin Baylor won the NBA Executive of the Year award for leading the Clippers to the playoffs.
The 2006 off-season started as the team drafted Paul Davis in the second round of the 2006 NBA draft, as the 34th overall pick. The pick was acquired by the Clippers by way of a 2004 trade for Melvin Ely. The team also drafted Guillermo Diaz as the 52nd overall pick. While Davis signed with the team, Diaz decided to play overseas. However, the team still holds his draft rights.
Meanwhile, in free agency they signed Tim Thomas away from divisional Phoenix, in a four-year, $24 million deal. That was to counter the defection of Vladimir Radmanović to the Lakers in a similar deal, except Radmanovic signed for an extra year, but both players would make the same amount of money annually, which would be $6 million.
Also Sam Cassell (widely credited as the biggest reason for the Clippers' recent success) signed a two-year, $13 million deal. Cassell stated that once he retired he would like to join the Clippers' coaching staff under Mike Dunleavy, Sr. Also the team signed veteran Aaron Williams to an undisclosed deal.
In September, the Clippers announced a radio broadcast deal with KSPN-AM, the local ESPN Radio-operated outlet. The team did not perform to expectations, compared to the previous season. A lot of this had been attributed to lack of team chemistry and injuries to several key players, including Cassell, Thomas, Livingston, and Kaman. Players such as Luke Jackson, Alvin Williams, and Doug Christie were signed to 10-day contracts to help solidify the team's bench.
Adding to the disappointment of the 2006–07 season, Shaun Livingston suffered a dislocated left knee in which he tore every ligament in his knee. This was one of the most devastating injuries that season that left him a player that would never be the same. The extent of the injury was so severe, local news outlets such as KCBS-TV/KCAL-TV and KNBC-TV elected not to air the clip of the injury. According to the team's lead physician, Dr. Tony Daly, Livingston's prognosis for him to return to basketball activity was eight months (which was around the first week of the upcoming season) to a full calendar year. The Clippers, expected by many to make the playoffs after their surprise appearance the season before, finished the season 40–42, 2 games behind the 8th-seed. The Lakers finished with a better record for the first time since the 2003–04 NBA season. The Clippers received the 14th draft pick from the NBA lottery. They selected Al Thornton and Jared Jordan.
The 2007–08 season started off on a negative note, with Brand on the disabled list because of a ruptured left Achilles tendon, and Livingston still out. Brand missed most of the season, and they struggled to stay competitive. Chris Kaman took advantage of a depleted roster by averaging 15.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game, but was limited to playing 56 games due to various injuries. The Clippers ended the season 23–59.
Several players departed for the 2008–09 season, including Brand and Maggette, and they acquired ten players. Brand's had stated that he loved playing for Los Angeles and wanted to stay, but negotiations for a new contract fell apart and he accepted a deal from the Philadelphia 76ers. Baron Davis, a Los Angeles native and formerly of the Golden State Warriors, signed a five-year contract with the Clippers, worth an estimated $65 million.
After a disappointing 2007–08 season, the Clippers obtained the 7th pick in the 2008 NBA draft, and selected Eric Gordon. They also selected DeAndre Jordan (35th overall pick). Mike Taylor (55th overall pick), was acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for a future second-round pick.
Also in July, they acquired Marcus Camby from the Denver Nuggets in return for a $10 million trade exception and the choice to exchange second round picks with the Clippers in 2010. On July 23, the Clippers also acquired guard Jason Hart from the Utah Jazz in exchange for guard Brevin Knight. On July 28, they signed Ricky Davis to a one-year deal, with a player option for a second year. They continued an active offseason, signing former Clipper Brian Skinner in July, and traded for Steve Novak in August for future second-round pick considerations, in a deal similar to the Camby trade.
In August, the team signed Jason Williams to a one-year deal. The Clippers re-signed Paul Davis. They signed three Davises (Baron, Ricky, and Paul) in their "rebuilding offseason" in which they obtained key players such as Baron Davis, Marcus Camby, Ricky Davis, and Williams. However, just prior to the start of training camp, in September, Williams announced his retirement.
In October, according to reports from various sources including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, and the team's own web site (Clippers.com), Elgin Baylor ended his 22-year reign as Vice President and General Manager of basketball operations. It was one of the longest tenures in professional sports history. The Clippers indicated that Baylor had retired from his post, and as a result, head coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr. assumed the role of General Manager, while director of player personnel Neil Olshey was promoted to assistant general manager.
In many of those reports, including a related article in the October 8 edition of the Times, it was also indicated that Baylor had either been fired, resigned, or retired, depending on the source. According to similar reports, Baylor had been offered a different position in the organization, with the same salary, but with little to no decision-making power; Baylor refused. In fact, when pressed about his status with the franchise, Baylor had been advised by his attorneys not to say anything, indicating that the team and Baylor are in negotiations to work out a settlement agreement based on his departure. According to the above-mentioned article, Baylor had been working without a formal contract since the early 1990s.
On November 21, 2008, the Clippers and New York Knicks completed a trade, in which Los Angeles sent Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley to New York, in exchange for Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins. With the trade of Mobley, only one member of their 2005–06 playoff team remained on the roster, Chris Kaman. In December, Mobley announced his retirement due to a heart condition known as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy discovered during his physical; although he never played a game for the Knicks, they completed the trade anyway for salary cap reasons.
On January 6, 2009, the Clippers waived Fred Jones and Paul Davis to open a roster spot for a center from Senegal Cheikh Samb (the Clippers have since re-signed Jones). The Clippers ended the 2008–09 season 14th in the Western Conference with a record of 19–63.
In May 2009, the Clippers won the first overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft and selected Blake Griffin. To clear a spot in the lineup for him, they traded Zach Randolph to Memphis for Quentin Richardson. Richardson was then traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Sebastian Telfair, Craig Smith, and Mark Madsen.
Griffin immediately impressed in training camp and preseason. On October 23, he broke his kneecap during the Clippers' final exhibition game against the New Orleans Hornets, following a dunk. Initially, the Clippers' stated that he only had a sore left knee, which would make him questionable for the season opener the following night, before they revealed the break. The injury sidelined Griffin for the entire season.
On February 4, 2010, head coach Mike Dunleavy resigned, and Kim Hughes was named interim coach. Dunleavy retained his front-office title and duties for just over a month, but on March 10 he was fired as General Manager, being replaced by Neil Olshey. Dunleavy received the news of his dismissal from the internet, as well as friends and reporters calling his cell phone. The Los Angeles Times reported that Dunleavy had filed for arbitration and that the Clippers had cut off his salary, even though his guaranteed contract did not end until after the 2010–2011 season. Although the Clippers saw minor improvement, finishing with ten more wins at 29–53, Hughes was fired as head coach at the end of the season.
In July, former Chicago Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro was hired as the next head coach. In August, the team introduced new uniform designs at a photo shoot, at the team's practice facility. Griffin and DeAndre Jordan modeled the new uniforms, which were re-designed for the first time since the 2000–01 season. The Clippers' primary and secondary logos, which are modifications of the previous ones, were introduced to the public weeks earlier, on the night of the 2010 NBA draft.
With Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, an improved DeAndre Jordan, a re-energized Baron Davis, and the debut of No. 1 pick Blake Griffin, the Clippers had high hopes for the season. However, they started slowly, losing ten of the first 11 games with Davis and Kaman out with injuries. However, the Clippers showed strength when three of their first four wins came from the top teams in the Western Conference. Griffin got off to a strong start, drawing increased media attention in Clippers games and boosting ratings of local broadcasts of Clippers games. Griffin was chosen as a Western Conference Reserve in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game, a rare honor for a rookie, the first chosen by the coaches for the game since Tim Duncan in 1997. He also won the NBA Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. As the trade deadline approached, the Clippers sent Baron Davis along with their 2011 first round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. The first pick they gave turned out to be first overall, Kyrie Irving.
In December 2011, the Clippers signed Caron Butler to a $24 million deal and claimed veteran point guard Chauncey Billups three days later. On December 14, 2011, they traded Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota's 2012 first-round pick acquired in 2005 for New Orleans Hornets' four-time all-star Chris Paul. Paul had previously almost been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, but NBA commissioner David Stern had vetoed the trade. Paul and Griffin were selected as starters for the Western Conference team in the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, the first time in franchise history the team had two All-Star starters in the same year.
The team gained the nickname "Lob City" due to a comment made by Griffin during the Clippers Media Day when the announcement of Chris Paul's trade reached the team. Griffin, after being told the news by close friend DeAndre Jordan, declared, "Yeah! It's going to be lob city!"
In February 2012, the Clippers signed Kenyon Martin. An 11-year NBA veteran and former NBA All-Star (2004), Martin joined the Clippers after signing with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association the previous summer. On February 6, 2012, during a game against the Orlando Magic, Billups tore his Achilles tendon and missed the remainder of the season. In March 2012, Nick Young joined the Clippers as part of a three-team trade with the Washington Wizards and the Denver Nuggets. He became the eighth player to debut in the 2011–2012 season.
After a stretch that saw the Clippers lose 12 of 19 games after Billups's season-ending injury, with rumors of Vinny Del Negro's career as head coach of the Clippers possibly coming to an abrupt end, Los Angeles went on a tear. The Clippers won 12 of their next 14 games, including road wins over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and the Western-Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder, clinching their fifth playoff berth since their 1976 conference semi-finals loss to the Boston Celtics (the last time they made the playoffs as the Buffalo Braves) before a dominating home win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on April 16, 2012. It was their third win in four regular season games against the Thunder. Chris Paul's push for the NBA Most Valuable Player Award was at its peak. The 2011–2012 NBA season was the first time the Clippers were in the playoffs since 2005–2006.
In their first playoff game, the Clippers rallied from a 27-point deficit against the Grizzlies to win 99–98 in one of the biggest rallies in playoff history. They led the series 3–1, then lost two straight, before coming back to win Game 7 in Memphis 82–72, becoming the 6th NBA road team to win Game 7 after leading series 3–1, and prevail to the second round. The Clippers relied on their bench during that game, and they came through, scoring all but two of their points in the fourth quarter. In the second round of the playoffs, the team was swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
On June 4, 2012, GM Neil Olshey reached an agreement to become General Manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. Olshey was replaced as Clippers GM by Gary Sacks. On draft night of 2012, the team re-acquired forward Lamar Odom from the Dallas Mavericks as part of a four-team deal that also sent Mo Williams and Furkan Aldemir, their 2012 draftee, to the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets respectively.
On July 11, 2012, the Clippers sent Reggie Evans to the Brooklyn Nets for the right to swap second-round draft picks with the Nets in the 2016 NBA draft. On the same day, the Clippers signed free agent Jamal Crawford, formerly of the Portland Trail Blazers. Two days later, the Clippers re-signed Billups to a one-year deal.
On July 17, 2012, the Clippers agreed to a deal with Grant Hill and then Ryan Hollins two days later. On July 27, 2012, the Clippers signed ex-Heat center Ronny Turiaf. To cap off their off-season moves, they traded away draft rights for Hawks' shooting guard Willie Green. On September 14, 2012, the Clippers signed Matt Barnes to a one-year deal. On November 29, 2012, public address (PA) announcer David Courtney died in a hospital in Los Angeles for reasons not yet revealed. He was replaced by former Clippers and current Los Angeles Dodgers PA announcer Eric Smith.
On December 15, 2012, with a 111–85 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, the Clippers recorded their record ninth consecutive win, breaking their previous franchise record (in Los Angeles) of eight wins set in the 1991–92 season. On December 21, 2012, with a 97–85 win over the Sacramento Kings, they notched their twelfth consecutive victory, breaking their previous 11-game streak as the Buffalo Braves in the 1974–75 season. On December 30, 2012, the Clippers recorded their 17th straight win against the Utah Jazz, beating them 107–96. The win also made the Clippers the third team in NBA history to record an undefeated month ending the month of December 16–0. Their streak ended when they lost to the Denver Nuggets on January 2, 2013. They ended the streak with a franchise record of 17 wins.
On January 9, 2013, with a 99–93 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, the Clippers recorded another franchise record with their 13th straight home victory On January 12, 2013, the Clippers 13 game home win streak came to an end with a 104–101 loss to the Orlando Magic.
A 126–101 victory over the Phoenix Suns saw the Clippers reach the 50-win mark for the first time in franchise history, breaking their previous mark of 49 from 1975–76 when they were in Buffalo. On April 7, 2013, with a 109–95 victory over the Lakers, they swept the LA season series and clinched the first division title in franchise history. They would finish the season with a 56–26 record. The Clippers entered the 2013 NBA Playoffs as the 4th seed to once again face the 5th seeded Memphis Grizzlies. The Clippers would go up 2–0 early in the series after a buzzer beater by Chris Paul in game 2. After being up 2–0 in the series, the Clippers would lose 4 games in a row to be eliminated the first round.
On May 21, 2013, the team declined to renew Vinny Del Negro's contract as head coach. On June 24, 2013, the NBA approved a trade of Doc Rivers, from the Boston Celtics to the Los Angeles Clippers for an unprotected 2015 NBA first round draft pick.
A day later, on June 25, 2013, Glenn "Doc" Rivers, a former Clippers player best known for his nine-year tenure as the head coach of the Boston Celtics, was announced as Del Negro's replacement. As compensation for Boston allowing Rivers to leave his contract with the Celtics and join the Clippers, Los Angeles traded two future first-round draft picks, in addition to an anti-trade clause preventing the Clippers and Celtics from engaging in further transactions amongst each other, including the exchanging of players, for the duration of the 2013–14 season.
On July 3, 2013, the Clippers traded Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler to the Phoenix Suns for Jared Dudley and J.J Redick (from the Bucks). The Clippers and Suns also sent two 2nd round draft picks to the Milwaukee Bucks. On July 7, 2013, the team resigned Matt Barnes, Chris Paul and Ryan Hollins. Paul's deal was for 5 years, worth around $105.3 million. The team also signed Darren Collison to fill the back-up point guard role, replacing the departed Eric Bledsoe and free agent Chauncey Billups, who signed with the Detroit Pistons. On August 28, 2013, the Clippers signed free agent power forward Antawn Jamison to a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum, appeared only 22 games and eventually traded to Atlanta Hawks on February 20, 2014 in exchange for the draft rights to Cenk Akyol. On December 19, 2013, the Clippers signed free agent small forward Stephen Jackson appeared only nine games with the team, and eventually waived on January 7, 2014.
On January 16, 2014, the Clippers signed free agent small forward Hedo Türkoğlu for the remainder of 2013–2014 season. On February 24, 2014, the Clippers signed free agent power forward Glen Davis. On February 28, 2014, the Clippers signed free agent small forward Danny Granger. On March 6, 2014, the Clippers defeated their crosstown rival the Los Angeles Lakers by 48 points 142–94, the most lopsided victory ever for the Clippers' franchise and the most one-sided loss in Lakers history. On April 15, 2014, the Clippers broke the franchise record of wins with 57. In the playoffs, they defeated the Warriors in seven games before falling to the Thunder in six games in the second round.
On April 25, 2014, entertainment news website TMZ released a taped conversation in which team owner Donald Sterling – who had a history of accusations of racist behavior against African Americans and Latinos dating back to the 1990s – reprimanded V. Stiviano (born Maria Vanessa Perez and of African American and Mexican heritage, who had reportedly been dating Sterling while he was estranged from wife Rochelle Stein) after posting an Instagram photo featuring her, former Los Angeles Lakers point guard Magic Johnson and another woman. Sterling stated that it bothered him that she had "broadcast that [she is] associating with black people", and that he did not want Stiviano to bring them to the team's games. The remarks in the tape caused public backlash (including condemnations from many current and former NBA players such as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant); several sponsors also severed ties with the team, among them Kia Motors (for whom Blake Griffin serves as its television spokesperson), State Farm Insurance and Virgin America. Threats of boycotts against the Clippers were also considered, with the team itself briefly contemplating one of the April 27 playoff game against the Golden State Warriors (the fourth game in the team's first round playoff series) – players opted to protest Sterling's remarks by wearing their shirts inside-out, obscuring team logos.
On April 29, 2014, the NBA issued Sterling a lifetime ban from the organization after a league investigation into the recording confirmed that he was the one conversing with Stiviano. The league also issued a $2.5 million fine against Sterling (the highest allowable by the NBA) and barred him from attending games or practices involving any NBA team; being present in any Clippers office or facility; and from participating in any team business, player personnel decisions or league activity. NBA commissioner Adam Silver stated in a press conference regarding the decision that he will try to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, which would require the consent of ¾ of the league's 29 other team owners. Silver later announced that the NBA would appoint a CEO to run the team. Before the ban was handed down, Sterling said in a phone conversation with Fox News contributor Jim Gray that he had no plans to sell the team.
On May 9, 2014, the NBA named former Citigroup chairman and former Time Warner chairman and CEO Richard Parsons the interim CEO of the team.
On May 27, 2014, Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, agreed to purchase the team for $2 billion – 4 times the expected purchase-evaluated price. To buy the team, Ballmer reportedly beat out other candidates including Oprah Winfrey, Floyd Mayweather, Magic Johnson, and a group of crowdfunders. Although Ballmer lives in the Seattle area and had been part of an ownership group that had unsuccessfully attempted to move the Sacramento Kings to that city, he has indicated that he has no intention of moving the Clippers. On August 12, 2014, Ballmer officially took control of the team following an order by a California court that confirmed the sale from Shelly Sterling to Ballmer. As part of the deal Shelly Sterling gets the titles of "Owner Emeritus" and "Clippers' Number 1 Fan", as well as ten tickets in sections 101 or 111 for all Clippers games, two courtside tickets for all games in Los Angeles, six parking spots in Lot C for each game, 12 VIP passes that include access to the Lexus Club, Arena Club, or Chairman's Lounge and Media room or equivalent, for each Staples games, three championship rings following any Clippers title, and will run a yet to be named charitable foundation. The deal also included a stipulation that Steve Ballmer would keep the Clippers in Los Angeles, implying that they would not be relocated. On November 6, 2014, the team hired its first major female executive as former Auto Club Speedway president Gillian Zucker was hired as the Clippers' president of business operations. Currently, Zucker is one of two women that serves in an executive capacity in any of the four major professional sports leagues; the other is Jeanie Buss, president and part-owner of the crosstown Lakers.
The Clippers first regular season under Ballmer's ownership ended with a 56–26 record and the #3 Western Conference seed going into the 2015 NBA Playoffs. They met with the defending the NBA Champions San Antonio Spurs. The series went a full 7 games, and with 1 second left, Chris Paul hit the clutch game-winning shot to advance Los Angeles into the Western Conference Semi-Finals. In the next series, they matched up against the #2 seeded Houston Rockets. The Clippers would build a 3–1 series lead that included 25 and 33-point wins in games 3 and 4, respectively. However, Houston would rally and win the final 3 games to prevent Los Angeles from making their first ever appearance in the Conference Finals, including a 40–15 run in the 4th quarter in game 6 to force a game 7 after being down by 13 points in the 3rd quarter.
On June 15, 2015, the Clippers acquired Lance Stephenson from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes. In the 2015 NBA draft, the Clippers acquired Branden Dawson from the New Orleans Pelicans for $600,000. After a decisive last moratorium day, DeAndre Jordan resigned with the Clippers to a 4-year, $87.7 million deal with a player option for the fourth year on July 9, 2015, after previously agreeing to a 4-year, $80 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks. Additionally, the Clippers signed small forward Wesley Johnson from the Los Angeles Lakers on the same day. On July 10, 2015, the Clippers signed veteran forward Paul Pierce to a 3-year, $10 million deal with a player option. On July 12, the Clippers resigned coach Doc Rivers' son, Austin Rivers to a two-year, $6.4 million deal.Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (1970–1978)
Maple Leaf Gardens (1971–1975) (occasional games)
San Diego Sports Arena (1978–1984)
Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (1984–1999)
Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim (1994–1999) (occasional games)
Staples Center (1999–present)
On June 18, 2015, the Los Angeles Clippers unveiled its new brand identity. The club's primary logo features a basketball in the shape of a compass, with the club's "LAC" monogram situated in the middle. Below that is the club's wordmark logo in black, with the two curved lines below the wordmark symbolizing the horizon of the ocean, which the club says it alludes to its nautical roots. The team also unveiled its new home and away uniforms, which kept the design template from the previous uniforms. The home white uniform features the club's wordmark logo in black across the front. The away red uniform features the club's "LAC" monogram across the right breast, with the player's jersey number across the left breast.
The Clippers introduced an alternate black uniform intended to celebrate downtown Los Angeles on November 6, 2015. The uniform keeps the design template from the previous uniform, and features the club's primary logo without the wordmark.
The Clippers hold the draft rights to the following unsigned draft picks who have been playing outside the NBA. A drafted player, either an international draftee or a college draftee who is not signed by the team that drafted him, is allowed to sign with any non-NBA teams. In this case, the team retains the player's draft rights in the NBA until one year after the player's contract with the non-NBA team ends. This list includes draft rights that were acquired from trades with other teams.
Notes:1 Started playing for the team when they were known as San Diego Clippers.
2 Played for the team when they were known as Buffalo Braves.
3 Inducted as player.
4 Coached the team when they were known as Buffalo Braves.
5 Inducted posthumously.
McAdoo and Randy Smith (G, 1972–1979, 1983–1984) are also members of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.
Bold denotes still active with team. Italic denotes still active but not with team.
Regular Season (as of the end of the 2015–16 season)
NBA All-Star selectionsBob Kauffman – 1971, 1972, 1973
Bob McAdoo – 1974, 1975, 1976
Randy Smith – 1976, 1978
Lloyd Free – 1980
Norm Nixon – 1985
Marques Johnson – 1986
Danny Manning – 1993, 1994
Elton Brand – 2002, 2006
Chris Kaman – 2010
Blake Griffin – 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Chris Paul – 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
DeAndre Jordan – 2017
NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable PlayerRandy Smith – 1978
Chris Paul – 2013
Ralph Lawler (television and radio play-by-play)
Michael Smith (television and radio commentary)
Brian Sieman (radio play-by-play, TV play-by-play fill-in)
Don MacLean (pregame and postgame analyst for telecasts on Prime Ticket and Fox Sports West)
Isaac Lowenkron (pregame and postgame host for the KLAC/Clippers Radio Network)
Cable television: Prime Ticket (selected games air on Fox Sports West)
Radio: KLAC (570 AM); KWKW (1330 AM; Spanish); Any Clippers game which conflicts with a Los Angeles Dodgers game on KLAC will be heard instead on KEIB (1150 AM)