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Determining the true face of the Los Angeles Clippers

...or why Kawhi Leonard will never be the most revered player in franchise history

NBA: JUN 30 Western Conference Final - Suns at Clippers Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I hope you all are having as much fun determining the single most important individual for each franchise as I am digging through the histories of these teams.

I’m not going to lie, this one is tough. Overall, the Clippers are a hard franchise to put a finger on.

The Los Angeles Clippers started out as the Buffalo Braves in 1970 and kicked off a mostly unsuccessful squad sans the three years that Jack Ramsay served as head coach and Bob McAdoo led the team to the Conference Finals.

The San Diego Clippers never saw a playoff berth.

The Los Angeles Clippers set up camp in 1985 and continued their inability to get past the final days of the season until a couple of first round exits in 1992 and 1993.

From 1994-2011, they only made the playoffs two more times. Compared to the Showtime counterparts, the Clippers were a laughable team.

Since 2011-2012 season, they have only missed the playoffs once. What was the major difference?

Chris Paul.

Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

After the season CP3 had with the Phoenix Suns and the discussions about his ability to improve any team (we’re talking about you OKC), the relevance of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers cannot be denied.

Sure, Paul wasn’t alone. The trio of he, DeAndre Jordan, and Blake Griffin (with J. J. Reddick and Jamal Crawford) coached by Doc Rivers teased with a deep Finals run each year without being able to fulfill their desired goal. And when Paul left, the Clippers missed the postseason...again.

The team blew up (in part to problems with the owners racially charged comments) and started a new era with high-level defectors Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The duo was able to entice many strong players to join in hopes of a title run.

The last two seasons those attempts have been thwarted leading to a head coach change. Tyronn Lue’s “I can handle taking a backseat to a superstar” coaching style fit the dynamics of where the Clippers were after blaming Doc Rivers for the 2020 end of the season. Unfortunately, Kawhi Leonard suffered season-ending injury. Lue’s adjustments left an impression that he was a more adept coach than first meets the eye, and althoug Paul George made a great run leading the team, in the end, he alone was not enough to push past the Suns into the Finals.

Historically, the Clippers have never retired a jersey and their Hall of Fame list is a veritable who’s who of other teams. There is no player who has made his career about the Clippers.

Bill Walton spent six years with the Clippers, longer than he did on the Trail Blazers or Celtics. But he won a title both of Portland and Boston.

Perhaps a coach could be argued as the face, but again, other than Rivers, none have seen much success.

Chris Paul makes the best argument from a player’s perspective. But considering he’s looked like a better leader since he left, it’s difficult to sign off on that.

It almost makes sense that the face of the Clippers continues to be the fans themselves, as memorialized by Sports Illustrated in 2000.

A Los Angeles Clippers basketball fan wears a bag Photo credit should read Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images

Who better to represent a franchise with no titles, no retired jerseys, no lifelong players, and (currently) no leadership of merit.

Weigh in, Pounders.

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