PATTEN PENDING: CROWD FOR THE AGES
Some of you know but many of you don’t. Long before I started writing about the Clippers and working on the team’s website, I was a fan.
My basketball fandom began as a general fan of the NBA, mimicking dunk contests on a mini hoop in the basement of my parent’s home and hoping Michael Jordan would eventually breakthrough against the Pistons.
That fandom gradually migrated towards the Clippers. It was before the Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson days. I think I dove headfirst into Clipper Nation with selection of Lamar Odom in 1999. I loved Odom in college at Rhode Island and was intrigued, as was everyone else, by the potential of a 6-foot-10, left-handed power forward that had point guard skills. Odom was the reason I started coming to Clippers games regularly and I never stopped.
The reason I’m setting that up is because I want to make it clear I’ve seen some of the better, or best, Clipper crowds in the last 15 years.
I was there in 2006 during the postseason run. I was there in 2011 when the crowd was pulsing with vitriol and joy as the Clippers rumbled off an unlikely victory over LeBron James and the Miami Heat in their debut appearance in Los Angeles. I was there when Chris Paul was introduced for the first time as Clipper, when Mo Williams, Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups combined to knock down four consecutive 3-pointers in just over a minute and Blake Griffin eviscerated Kendrick Perkins later against the Oklahoma City Thunder, when the Clippers returned to the Playoffs in 2012 against the Memphis Grizzlies, and when they won their first Pacific Division title.
Through all of that, though, Game 5 Apr. 29, 2014 against the Warriors may top it all. If ever a statement was needed to be made, in the wake of uncertainty and craziness, the crowd responded. They were dressed in black, an impromptu gesture of support for the Clippers players who in turn were wearing block socks and shoes. They arrived early and stayed late. They gave an outpouring of emotion with every change of possession, every play. They were engaged, chanting encouragement towards DeAndre Jordan when the Warriors intentionally fouled him and chanting outwardly against the Warriors.
When Chris Paul made two inconsequential free throws at the end and Andre Iguodala let the ball bounce at center court, the crowd rose one final time and gave a rousing ovation to the players as they left the floor. The crowd inside Staples Center knew they were guaranteed to see them at least one more time, but their passion may carry the Clippers to Oakland for Game 6.
It was a fantastic moment. And if you don’t believe me, read to what some other, far more important people than me had to say about it:
Doc Rivers: “They were awesome, I mean that‘s as good as I‘ve ever seen them. They were unbelievable. The Mayor [Eric Garcetti] I thought really set a good tone this morning, when he spoke, saying today, it‘s about LA. I thought the city responded to that, so I thought that was very important that he said that. I thought Adam [Silver] set the tone as well for us today, and you keep learning. I think everybody—you‘d think it was just the players, but it was the fans too. Everybody was going through this. It‘s almost like everybody wanted to exhale tonight, and it was good.‖
Blake Griffin: “It was huge. We said that, right before the game in the huddle, all of this means nothing; all the great fan support that we had, everybody rallying behind us and it was amazing how the crowd was tonight [but] all that means nothing really if we come out and lose. So I thought we did a great job of locking it in and doing what we‘re supposed to do.”
Matt Barnes: “The crowd was amazing, and we just really want to give a special thanks for our fans, standing behind the players. It‘s a tough situation to be in, for us, for the fans, for the world; but, they showed their spirit tonight, and we needed every ounce of their support tonight.‖
J.J. Redick: “You hate for something like this to happen to kind of bring people together and unite, but it was cool to see our fans do that. Much respect to them for supporting us, supporting their team, supporting their players, our organization and all the amazing people that work in our organization.”