Open letter to Blake Griffin
Good luck breaking the Curse of the Sacred Buffalo
"All that stuff happened in the past. That's exactly what it is: It's in the past. No one can do anything about it now. If I am with the Clippers, it's going to be all about the future. No disrespect to anybody, but I could care less what happened 20 years ago, 15 years ago."
-- Blake Griffin
Run. Just start running. Run for your life. Run like the star of a horror movie. Don't turn around. Run and keep running.
I think you should play in Greece. Or Italy. Or Spain. Or anywhere else. You should play anywhere but for the Clippers. Your agents and advisors are in denial. They don't want you to seem like an ungrateful jerk. They want you to be as marketable and likable as possible. They have talked themselves into the following scenario: "If Blake can turn the Clippers around and become a star in the No. 2 TV market in the country, only good things will happen to him."
See, this is where they are wrong. The odds are overwhelming that bad things will happen to you until you leave. And you will. The Clippers are cursed. They have been cursed for 33 consecutive years. It's a real curse, not a "Curse of the Bambino"-type hex manufactured to sell books. There has to be a legitimate reason why the Clippers franchise has been falling apart like Jon and Kate for three-plus decades, right? We've seen too much losing, too much incompetence, too much bad luck, too many freak occurrences. There has to be an answer.
I studied the Clippers' mess for three days, put everything on paper and tried to figure out a common thread. Blaming Moses Malone was too easy. Why would Moses curse the Clippers? The man could barely speak. Blaming Bill Walton ignored three seasons of misfortune that came before him. Blake, this went deeper than one person. This was karmic. This was creepy. This was like they'd been hexed. Like they had built an arena on a sacred burial ground or something.
And that's when I realized what happened. In a way, they did mess with a sacred burial ground. They messed with the Indians. And you don't mess with the Indians. Ever.
Allow me to explain.
When the NBA awarded Buffalo an expansion franchise starting in the 1970-71 season, the team named itself the "Braves" to recognize Buffalo's Native American history. That's when the trouble began, Blake. For Native Americans, there was no more important animal than the buffalo. They depended on it for survival. They wore its fur as clothes. They revered the "white buffalo" -- a rare type of buffalo, almost as though it was albino -- and considered it to be sacred. By linking the word "Buffalo" with "Braves," a commonly known term to describe Native American warriors, the team's owners were basically announcing, "We are embracing the Indians and representing them in an honorable way."
For God's sake, look at their first logo. It's an Indian headdress on top of a basketball face; instead of facial features, we see a blue buffalo. In their second season, they changed the logo to a fancy "B" with a feather sticking out of it. The message remained clear: We are embracing the Native Americans.
Starting to get worried, Blake? You should be. Everything went swimmingly for the first six seasons in Buffalo. Led by North Carolina star Bob McAdoo (who won three scoring titles and an MVP award), the Braves put themselves on the map with playoff battles against two future champs (the Celtics in '74 and '76) and a really good Bullets team in '75. Everything turned in the summer of 1976, the same summer we celebrated our country's 200th Independence Day. (Yes, a country we stole from the Native Americans. I'm going to say this was a bad omen.) Twenty days before the Bicentennial, on June 14, Buffalo owner Paul Snyder announced he was selling the Braves to a group that planned to move them to Hollywood, Fla.
Only one problem: Nobody wanted the Braves to move. The other NBA owners hated the thought of accruing extra travel costs flying down to Florida just because Snyder sold out. The town of Buffalo was furious and immediately blocked the move with a restraining order and a $10 million lawsuit. And since the league was merging with the ABA that same month, this was an additional headache the league didn't need.
The sale fell through. But not before two things happened. First, McAdoo turned off the locals by saying about a potential Florida move, "It doesn't make any difference to me, as long as I can play and get paid for it." Thanks for the support, Mac! Second, there was a karmic shift against the franchise; from that moment forward, everything started to go wrong. And why?
Because Paul Snyder messed with the Indians!!!
How many times have we seen a horror movie or a Western in which someone desecrated sacred Indian territory in some way? Does it ever turn out well for them? Ever? Hell, even the Amityville Horror house was built over a sacred burial ground. That's why I believe in this curse over the other media-manufactured ones: In this case, we have ample evidence that, no, it's not a great idea to mess with Native Americans from a karmic standpoint. And Paul Snyder did.
Once the Florida sale fell through, Snyder sold half his share to a buffoon named John Y. Brown, with Brown assuming full control during the 1976-77 season and swapping franchises with Celtics owner Irv Levin after the 1977-78 season. What did Levin do? He moved the Braves to San Diego and renamed them the Clippers. He might as well have just beheaded a white buffalo. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Here's a timeline of everything that has happened to the Braves/Clippers franchise since June 14, 1976.
Pay attention, Blake. Pay close attention.
Summer of 1976: Snyder fires Dr. Jack Ramsay as coach and replaces him with Tates Locke. Dr. Jack gets hired by Portland and wins the 1977 title. The Braves/Clippers won't have another decent coach for 15 years. Not a good start.
October 1976: The Braves miraculously acquire young Moses Malone from Portland for a 1978 first-round pick and the perplexing figure of $232,000. (Note: Portland didn't want to pay Malone's $300K salary and already had Bill Walton at center. What's amazing is the Blazers won the 1977 title even after giving away Moses.) Six days later, Buffalo ships Moses to Houston for No. 1 picks in '77 and '78. Why give up on Moses that soon? Locke decided he didn't like him, playing Moses six minutes total in two games because, hey, when you already have John Shumate and Tom McMillen at power forward, why see what you might have with the most ballyhooed high school recruit since Lew Alcindor? In a related story, Locke was fired 10 weeks later.
December 1976: They sell McAdoo to the Knicks for John Gianelli and cash considerations. (In the span of two months, they dealt the '74-75, '78-79, '81-82 and '82-83 MVPs for two first-rounders and cash. Not a good start, Blake.) One month later, they trade one of those No. 1s from Houston (1977: No. 18 overall) to Golden State for center George Johnson. You know, because they needed a center after trading two of the best big men of that generation.
April 1977: The Braves finish 26-56 that season, kicking off a 16-year playoff drought. Two months later, they trade the No. 3 pick in a loaded draft (Marques Johnson) for Swen Nater and the 13th pick (Tate Armstrong), which is funny because they make another terrible trade to reacquire Johnson seven years later. Only the Braves/Clippers can have the same guy haunt them twice.
September 1977: Fresh off Adrian Dantley winning Rookie of the Year with them, the Braves celebrate by trading him to Indiana for overrated scorer Billy Knight. They follow that beauty by dealing Johnson, a 1978 No. 1 (eventually No. 4 overall: Micheal Ray Richardson) and a 1979 No. 1 (eventually No. 11 overall: Cliff Robinson) for All-Star Tiny Archibald. One month later, Tiny rips his Achilles tendon and misses the whole season. This is getting weird. You have to admit.
November 1977: Buffalo trades John Shumate and a 1979 No. 1 (turns out to be No. 10 overall: Roy Hamilton) for the immortal Marvin "Bad News" Barnes. If you're scoring at home, they just turned McAdoo, Malone, Dantley, the No. 3 pick in '77 and two other No. 1 picks into Nater, Knight, Archibald, Armstrong and a guy nicknamed "Bad News."
August 1978: Levin switches franchises with Brown, moves his team to San Diego and renames it the Clippers. So much for the Buffalo Braves. As part of the deal, Archibald, Barnes, Knight and two second-round picks (one ended up being Danny Ainge) go to Boston; Kevin Kunnert, Sidney Wicks, Kermit Washington and the rights to Boston's No. 8 pick in '78 (Freeman Williams) and not Boston's No. 6 pick (Larry Bird). You don't catch those 50/50 breaks after you launch a basketball team in Buffalo, name it after brave Native American warriors and ditch everyone within eight years. You just don't.
October 1978: San Diego acquires World B. Free from Philly for a first-round pick in 1984 a pick that ends up being No. 5 overall a pick that ends up being Charles Barkley.
April 1979: Led by Free (28.8 ppg), Randy Smith (20.8 ppg) and Washington (9.8 RPG), the Clips finish with a 43-39 record and narrowly miss the playoffs. It's the last time they top 36 wins for 13 harrowing seasons. A fitting number.
August 1979: Levin signs free-agent center Bill Walton to a lavish six-year deal, giving up Kunnert, Washington and his 1980 No. 1 pick (eventually No. 7 overall: Mike Gminski) as compensation. Was Levin worried Walton had missed 203 games over his first five seasons because of repeated stress fractures in his feet? Of course not! Walton ends up playing 14 games over the next three seasons and just 169 games in six seasons as a Clipper. That could be you, Blake. Sign with Italy for a year. I'm telling you.
September 1979: They trade a 1986 No. 1 pick to Philly for Joe "Jellybean" Bryant (Kobe's dad), which would be like the Clips trading their unprotected 2016 No. 1 to Minnesota for Ryan Gomes. (Crap, I hope I didn't just give them an idea.) Oh, and that 1986 pick? It ended up being first overall. This is your new team, Blake.
June 1980: With their first No. 1 pick in four years, the Clips draft Michael Brooks ninth overall, two spots ahead of Kiki Vandeweghe and Brooks does OK for three-plus seasons before blowing out his knee (and never plays for the Clips again). Two months later, they deal Free (fresh off a 30-ppg season) to Golden State for a washed-up Phil Smith and a 1984 No. 1 pick (eventually No. 8: Lancaster Gordon). So basically, for two years of Free, they moved backward in the '84 draft and missed out on Barkley. Well done.
Summer 1981: Donald Sterling buys the Clippers from Levin for $12.5 million, embarks on a quest to turn them into the worst franchise ever and succeeds. You'll see him at home games, Blake. He's the old guy who sits midcourt, dresses like a nightclub singer, surrounds himself with cougars, loves Koreans and enters the locker room once a year to scream at everyone. Keep your distance.
June 1982: One year after snaring Tom Chambers with the No. 8 pick, the Clips pass on Dominique Wilkins and draft Terry Cummings No. 2 overall (tough to argue with the logic at the time, since Cummings won Rookie of the Year), giving them a nice set of young forwards who appear in six combined All-Star Games and 228 combined playoff games of course, none with the Clippers. They're both gone by the summer of '84.
June 1983: The Clips deal Nater and the No. 4 pick (Byron Scott) to the Lakers for former All-Star guard Norm Nixon, who gives them three solid seasons before blowing out his knee during a summer softball game in New York's Central Park. Then he ruptures his Achilles tendon 13 months later and misses a second season. Then he loses both legs in a tragic roller disco accident in 1987. I made only one of those three things up.
Summer 1983: Cummings is diagnosed with a potentially deadly condition called heart arrhythmia. He can keep playing but has to start taking a super-strong heart medication called Cordarone. At this point, God is running out of ways to torture the Clippers and settles on just blowing out random ACLs for the next few years.
August 1983: San Diego trades Chambers to Seattle for James Donaldson and a 1984 first-rounder (eventually No. 14 overall: Michael Cage). Chambers plays another 14 seasons, makes two second-team All-NBA squads, plays in four All-Star Games, wins the MVP of the greatest All-Star Game ever (1987), scores 20,000 points and serves as the go-to-guy on three conference finalists. Cage? He goes down as having the NBA's best Jheri curls of the '80s. So, um I think they lost that trade. Unless you love Jheri curls.
Spring 1984: The Clips finish another losing season and flee for Los Angeles, opting to play at the L.A. Sports Arena so Sterling can pretend he's a Hollywood heavy hitter. Thanks for the memories, San Diego: Six years, no playoff games. If only they had the foresight in 1978 to become the "San Diego Zoo."
June 1984: Blessed with the Nos. 8 and 14 picks in the greatest draft in NBA history, the Clips whiff on No. 8 (Gordon, taken just ahead of Kevin Willis and Otis Thorpe) and pick Michael Cage at No. 14 (two picks ahead of John Stockton). Would you rather have Gordon and Cage or Willis and Stockton? I thought so. Blake, please tell me your sneakers are on. As soon as you hit the last line of the column, start running.
August 1984: They trade Cummings, Ricky Pierce (a scoring stud off the bench) and Craig Hodges to Milwaukee for Marques Johnson, Junior Bridgeman, Harvey Catchings and cash. Why? Because they thought Johnson, a former UCLA star, might help them sell tickets. Or something. Is it ever a good idea to "upgrade" from a 23-year-old forward averaging a 23-10 to a 28-year-old forward averaging a 20-6? Of course not. Unless you're the Clippers.
April 1985: A rare feel-good Clips story: Waiver-wire pickup Derek Smith blossoms as a scorer (22 ppg, 54 percent FG) and legitimate building block. Hold this thought.
May 1985: In the first-ever NBA lottery, the Knicks snare the No. 1 pick (Patrick Ewing) and the Clippers finish third, settling on Benoit Benjamin (described at the time as another Joe Barry Carroll, one of those "Is that a compliment or an insult?" comparisons) over Xavier McDaniel (No. 4), Chris Mullin (No. 7) and Detlef Schrempf (No. 8). Benjamin goes on to utter one of the most famous NBA quotes ever uttered when he consoled a sobbing teammate after a Clippers loss by telling him, "Hey, you've gotta learn to be more casual." Needless to say, he's gone within five years.
Summer 1985: The Clips send Walton to Boston for Cedric Maxwell and a No. 1 pick in 1986. Walton is named Sixth Man of the Year and improbably plays 96 of 100 games for one of the greatest teams ever. He plays 60 percent as many games for the '86 Celtics as he did for the Clippers in six full seasons. You can't make this stuff up.
November 1985: Eleven games into the '85-86 season, Smith blows out his knee in about 370 different places. He's never the same. The following summer, they deal him to Sacramento (with Bridgeman and Franklin Edwards) for Larry Drew, Mike Woodson and a No. 1 pick in 1988. That means from January 1977 to August 1986, the Clippers traded EIGHT different players either during or after a season they averaged 18-plus points per game: McAdoo, Dantley, Knight, Smith, Free, Chambers, Cummings and Smith.
January 1986: The Clips acquire Darnell Valentine for Boston's No. 1 pick in 1986 (eventually, No. 24: Arvydas Sabonis), a mistake since Mark Price went 25th, Dennis Rodman 27th, Nate McMillan 30th and Kevin Duckworth 33rd. And don't forget, they would have had the No. 1 pick had they not traded it for a backup forward nicknamed Jellybean.
November 1986: While chasing a loose ball against Indiana, Marques Johnson accidentally rams head-first into Benjamin's midsection and ruptures a disk in his neck. He never plays again. In less than a year, the Clips suffered career-ending or -altering injuries to their three best players -- Smith, Nixon and Johnson -- and if that wasn't enough, Elgin Baylor took over as the team's GM in April and another team owned the Clips' No. 1 overall pick in June. That was the NBA equivalent of a bad bender. Like the kind Nic Cage went on in "Leaving Las Vegas."
(Note: How do you regroup after that? You sign a guy who was pleaded guilty to assaulting a female!!!! In this case, Quintin Dailey, who was such a bad guy that he once missed a game and appeared in the box score like this: "DNP: Evil." OK, I made that up.)
June 1987: The good news: Elgin acquires two extra first-rounders thanks to savvy trading (sending away Cedric Maxwell and Kurt Nimphius). The bad news: Elgin makes the picks. He takes Reggie Williams No. 4 one spot ahead of Scottie Pippen (and ahead of Kevin Johnson, Horace Grant and Reggie Miller). He takes Joe Wolf at No. 13 and Kenny Norman at No. 19, missing Mark Jackson (18) and Reggie Lewis (22). In a draft laden with All-Stars, Elgin emerges with three guys who make a combined zero All-Star appearances. Elgin Baylor everybody!
January 1988: The Clips sign Michael Phelps to a 10-day contract. Only the Clips could sign the other Michael Phelps.
June 1988: After finally winning a lottery, the Clips happily take college star/sure thing Danny Manning with the first pick. The curse is over!!!!!! Then they trade Michael Cage and the No. 6 pick (Hersey Hawkins) for the No. 3 pick (Pittsburgh forward Charles Smith) and the rights to Gary Grant. If you're scoring at home, the Braves/Clippers have now taken seven forwards in the top nine picks since 1976: Dantley (6), Brooks (9), Chambers (8), Cummings (2), Williams (4), Manning (1) and Smith (3).
December 1988: Twenty-six games into his rookie season, Manning blows out an ACL. He's never the same. I'm telling you, Blake: Finish this column, then run. Just head north. Don't stop until you hit the Canadian border.
April 1989: The Clips finish their 10th straight losing season of the decade. The wins by season: 35, 36, 17, 25, 30, 31, 32, 12, 17, 21.
June 1989: The Clippers take Duke star Danny Ferry with the No. 2 overall pick. It's stupid for four reasons. First, he's Danny Ferry. Second, the last thing they needed was another forward. Third, they passed up Michigan's Glen Rice, who looked fantastic in the NCAA tournament and would have given them some much-needed outside shooting. And fourth, Ferry was already on record as saying to them, "Please, for the love of God, don't take me." In fact, if you ever watch the '89 draft on NBA-TV, look out for the Danny Ferry "I'm so screwed. I hope my dad can get me out of this" face after he gets picked. He looks like a passenger on Tom Hanks' FedEx plane in "Cast Away." One of those rare sports moments when you know right away, "This won't end well."
October 1989: With Ferry threatening to play in Italy, the Clippers are forced to deal him and Williams to Cleveland for Ron Harper and No. 1 picks in 1990 and 1992. Hey, anytime you can turn the No. 2 and No. 4 overall picks into Ron Harper and two non-lottery picks, you have to do it. Why didn't they take Glen Rice again?
December 1989: Averaging 23.0 points through 28 games with the Clips, Harper blows out his ACL. We're now up to five blown ACLs, two blown Achilles, one ruptured disc, one potentially deadly heart arrhythmia and multiple Walton foot fractures in a 12-year span since Paul Snyder ticked off the Native American spirits. I'm just saying.
June 1990: Picking eighth and 13th in one of the worst drafts ever, the Clips end up with -- you guessed it! -- two more forwards (Bo Kimble and Loy Vaught). I am convinced to this day that becoming a Clipper was the only thing that kept Kimble from winning multiple scoring titles. I swear. I really believe that. I'd take a lie detector and everything.
February 1991: Elgin turns Benjamin into Olden Polynice and two future late-first-rounders that amount to nothing. Four months later, he deals his first-rounder (No. 9: Stacey Augmon) and two second-rounders to Atlanta for a suddenly depressed Doc Rivers. Had he kept the pick, he could have just taken future All-Star Terrell Brandon. Then again
February 1992: Sterling finally opens his wallet and lures Larry Brown with a $5 million deal. Brown jumpstarts the team to the happiest two-month stretch in Clipper history -- a nucleus of Manning, Harper, Rivers, Smith and Polynice mesh and magically win TWO WHOLE PLAYOFF GAMES!!!! -- culminating in a tight Game 5 loss at Utah (sometimes shown on ESPN Classic!!!), and Brown telling Sports Illustrated, "I see myself here as long as I'm doing the job, and I would like that to be a long time." He's gone within 12 months.
Spring 1992: With the team finally winning, season-ticket holder Billy Crystal becomes known nationally as the team's first celebrity fan; their Jack Nicholson, for lack of a better description. Even Crystal can't survive the Clipper curse: His next four major movie releases following that '92 playoff run are "Mr. Saturday Night," "City Slickers 2," "Forget Paris" and "My Giant."
Summer 1992: The Clips send two former lottery picks (Smith and Kimble) plus Rivers and Polynice packing in a three-team deal that nets them Stanley Roberts, William Bedford, Don McLean, Mark Jackson and a second-round pick. I know, I can't figure it out either. They also spend the No. 16 pick on Randy Woods. I know, I can't remember him either. They wrap things up by flipping Bedford and McLean to Washington for the immortal John "Hot Plate" Williams. They don't have another winning season for 14 years. This I can figure out.
(Note: Kudos to the Clips for using their playoff appearance as a launching pad to acquire Roberts and Hot Plate, two of the five fattest NBA players of my lifetime along with Thomas Hamilton, Robert Traylor and Oliver Miller. The Clippers didn't discriminate with bad moves -- they went for fat guys, druggies, criminals, guys who didn't care, you name it.)
Summer 1993: After the Clips (40-42) get bounced from the playoffs in Round 1 and Brown resigns as coach, Manning (facing his sixth coach in six seasons) rejects L.A.'s five-year, $27.5 million contract extension. Elgin trades his All-Star forward to Miami for Glen Rice and Willie Burton; Sterling blocks the deal, hoping to re-sign Manning, who finally signs a one-year, $3.5 million tender so he can flee the following summer. Clippers basketball ... it's fantastic! I love this game!
1993-95: The Clips draft Terry Dehere at No. 13 in '93 and Lamond Murray (over Brian Grant and Eddie Jones) at No. 7 in '94; they deal Manning to Atlanta for Dominique Wilkins in a rarely seen "both guys are leaving as free agents" trade (and both do, anyway); they lose Harper to Chicago as a free agent; they turn Jackson into Pooh Richardson and Malik Sealy; they keep losing games; and they keep finishing in the lottery. Lather, rinse, repeat. The good news: No blown ACLs in nearly five years.
June 1995: Picking second in the loaded '95 draft, the Clips draft Antonio McDyess ahead of Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and (gulp) Kevin Garnett, then trade Dice's rights, Elmore Spencer and Woods to Denver for Rodney Rogers, Brian Williams and the No. 15 pick (Brent Barry) or as I like to call it, "The Chef's Poop Salad." Nobody could turn a dollar into three quarters better than Elgin. Then again, had they rolled the dice with KG, he'd probably be missing appendages right now.
June 1996: Coming off their fourth straight losing season, the Clips somehow end up with the seventh pick in a six-player draft, taking Memphis forward Lorenzen Wright and Kobe Bryant goes six spots later as the Bryant family continues to haunt the Clips. You know what's fascinating? Kobe is a Hebrew name meaning "supplanter." As in, "You shouldn't have pissed off the Native Americans by supplanting the Buffalo Braves."
By the way, the updated tally on forwards taken in the top nine since 1976 by the Clips: Dantley (6), Brooks (9), Chambers (8), Cummings (2), Williams (4), Manning (1), Smith (3), Ferry (2), Kimble (8), Augmon (9, traded), Murray (7), McDyess (7, traded), Wright (7). Thirteen forwards picked in the top nine in a 20-year stretch. Wow. Again, you're a forward, Blake.
Summer 1997: Another losing season, another forward taken with a first-round pick (Maurice Taylor at No. 14). Elgin spruces things up by swapping Roberts straight up for Stojko Vrankovic and renouncing Dwayne Schintzius' rights five days later. (Put it this way: if you were a crappy center from the '80s or '90s and you DIDN'T play with the Clips, you should be taking this personally.) Meanwhile, Elgin waives Dehere and allows the two best character guys on his team (Malik Sealy and Bo Outlaw) to sign elsewhere, then hands a completely inexplicable five-year, $8.5 million deal to a comically bad center named Keith Closs Jr. (waived within three years). You can feel it coming. The Clips are making a run at the No. 1 overall pick, baby!
November 1997: They lose their leading scorer and rebounder from the previous year (Vaught) to season-ending back surgery. Doctors fuse his fourth and fifth vertebrae back together. He's never the same. The No. 1 pick is in their sights.
February 1998: Headed for another 60-loss season, Elgin swings for the fences and moves Brent Barry to Washington for a No. 1 pick in 1998 (eventually No. 22: Brian Skinner) and Ike Austin. Why? Because he hadn't acquired a semi-talented center with a weight problem in nearly four years, that's why. Come on, No. 1 pick! We're due, baby!
May 1998: The Clips finally win another lottery. One month later, Elgin passes up sure things Mike Bibby, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter and Raef LaFrentz (as well as Dirk Nowitzki and Antawn Jamison) to select the one, the only, Mr. Michael Olowakandi. Trust me, this was absolutely idiotic at the time. The Kandi Man was already 23 and starred at something called "University of the Pacific." Everyone hated this pick. Everyone. But asking Elgin to resist a troubled center with potential is like asking Ryan Reynolds to turn down a crappy script. You just can't do it.
April 1999: The Clippers finish the lockout season with a sterling 9-41 mark, capping off another horrific decade featuring the following win totals by season: 30, 31, 45, 41, 27, 17, 29, 36, 17, nine. Somehow that nine-win season doesn't translate into lottery magic: They earn the fourth spot and settle on -- you guessed it -- another forward! This time, it's Lamar Odom.
(Note: In back-to-back years, they rebuilt the team around the Kandi Man and a guy addicted to candy. And you're not gonna believe this, but it didn't work out well.)
Fall 1999: The Staples Center opens and quickly turns the Clippers into a second-class tenant in their own building. The Lakers are given every choice home date (including Friday and Sunday nights), while the Clips get hand-me-down dates like Monday nights, New Year's Eve, the Monday of Martin Luther King Weekend, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Sunday afternoon games during football season. As if it didn't suck enough to be a Clippers season-ticket holder.
April 2000: Sports Illustrated puts three Clippers fans with bags on their head on the cover with the headline, "THE WORST FRANCHISE IN SPORTS HISTORY."
2000-2002: You're probably old enough to remember what happens here: More losing; another lottery forward (Darius Miles at No. 3); three shockingly savvy trades (the No. 2 overall pick in '01 for Elton Brand, Lorenzen Wright for two future No. 1s, then a future No. 1 for Corey Maggette); one traumatic draft whiff (Chris Wilcox at No. 8, ahead of Amare Stoudemire and Caron Butler) and four other misses (Melvin Ely at No. 12, a future No. 1 for Sean Rooks, and $37 million on extensions for Murray and Eric Piatkowski). During all of this, people briefly become excited about the Suddenly Young And Hip Clippers. Even me. Does it last? Of course not.
Summer 2002: The Clips break up Q and D-Miles -- whose partnership doubled as the only happy thing to happen to the team in 10 years -- by sending Miles to Cleveland for Andre Miller. Poor Andre hates being a Clipper so much that when we approach him that season to appear in a taped "Jimmy Kimmel Live" piece about his teammates' cars, Miller hisses, "Man, I ain't doing s--- for the Clippers!" and walks away. That's your new team, Blake.
2003-04: Despite finishing 27-55, the Clips get the sixth pick in a five-player draft in 2003: LeBron, Darko, Melo, Bosh and Wade. They end up with Chris Kaman. Oh, and Odom bolts for free agency to Miami. Great. The following year, they miss out on Dwight Howard, trade down from No. 2 to No. 4 (passing up Emeka Okafor) and select promising high school point guard Shaun Livingston. In other news, Mike Dunleavy becomes the new head coach and Bill Simmons buys season tickets. They end up fighting to the death after Simmons charges the court during a 57-point loss to the Lakers in December 2009, acting on behalf of all the beaten-down people who are sitting helplessly around him. But we're getting ahead of themselves.
July 2004: Brand signs an $82 million offer sheet with Miami. Sterling matches. Notice a recurring theme here, Blake? People trying to flee as soon as they can?
July 2004: Kobe teases the Clips into thinking they might sign him, prompting them to dump two valuable role players (Ely and Eddie House) for second-round picks to clear cap space. At the 11th hour, Kobe changes his mind and re-signs with the Lakers. The Supplanter strikes again. Hey, it's not like he won the title five years later. Um
THE UGLY TOTALS
Final number of rookie forwards drafted in the top nine or higher by the Clips since 1976: Dantley (6), Brooks (9), Chambers (8), Cummings (2), Williams (4), Manning (1), Smith (3), Ferry (2), Kimble (8), Augmon (9, traded), Murray (7), McDyess (7, traded), Wright (7), Odom (4), Miles (2), Chandler (2, traded), Wilcox (8), Griffin (1).
Draft picks the Clips could have made had they just drafted Player B instead of Player A since 1976: Vandeweghe; Wilkins; Willis; Stockton; either McDaniel or Mullin; Price; Pippen, Jackson and Lewis; Rice; Brandon; either Grant or Jones; one of Wallace, Stackhouse or Garnett; Kobe; one of Pierce, Carter or Bibby; Okafor; either Stoudemire or Butler; and Granger.
Players the Clips stupidly gave away or lost without getting anything substantial back: Moses, McAdoo, Dantley, Cummings, Chambers, Manning, Odom, Miller, Brand.
June 2005: The Clips pass on Danny Granger (inexplicably dropping out of the top 10) at No. 12 because Dunleavy made a deal with the one, the only, Yaroslav Korolev (!!!!!!!), a Russian teenager who gets bounced from the NBA in three years because he lacks a single identifiable basketball skill. On the bright side, Elgin spins his first good trade in years, sending frustrating point guard Marko Jaric to Minnesota for Sam Cassell and a future No. 1 pick.
Within a year, Brand and Cassell are leading the Clippers to 47 wins and a playoff berth; the Clippers whup Denver to win their first playoff series in 31 years; and they end up blowing the Phoenix series in Round 2 thanks to Dunleavy (just Google "Raja Bell" and "Daniel Ewing"). Unfortunately, this little taste of success woke up the Native American spirits.
2006-09: Another unexpected wave of bad luck: Even as the '06-07 team is imploding around Dunleavy, the Clips incredibly extend him for another four years they take another forward with a top-15 pick (Al Thornton in '07) Brand blows out his Achilles and misses the first five months of the 2007-08 season Livingston blows out every major ligament in his knee that same season (killing his career with the Clippers) Baron Davis signs with the Clips as a free agent in 2009 to play with Brand, then Brand backstabs him by signing for $84 million with Philly the Clips panic and trade for $27 million-a-year worth of Marcus Camby and Zach Randolph to replace him Davis gets turned off quickly and starts sticking 41-cent stamps on games Elgin is finally fired and nails Sterling with a racial discrimination suit really, the only good thing that happens is a promising rookie season from Eric Gordon (the No. 7 pick in '08). Just by mentioning this, I feel like I'm going to cause one of Gordon's retinas to shatter or something.
May 2009: The Clippers land the No. 1 pick in the lottery for the third time in 26 years. And guess what, Blake? That night, I received a handful of snarky e-mails from readers pretending to be one of your anguished ACLs. It's true.
Here's how the past decade ended in terms of wins for the Clippers (by season): 15, 31, 39, 27, 28, 37, 47, 40, 23, 19.
Our final tally of post-1976 injuries to marquee Clippers players: five career-altering knee injuries (Livingston, Manning, Harper, Smith, Nixon), one career-ending ruptured disc (Johnson), one career-altering back surgery (Vaught), three season-ending torn Achilles (Brand, Archibald, Nixon), one heart arrithymia (Cummings) and multiple foot stress fractures (Walton). Every one of those guys was a top-three player on the team or headed that way.
Total number of post-1976 All-Star appearances by a Clipper or Brave: Seven.
Number of winning Clipper/Brave seasons since 1976: Two.
Number of post-1976 seasons with 30 wins or less: 19.
Number of post-1976 division titles: Zero.
Number of post-1976 last-place finishes: 15.
Number of retired numbers by the Braves/Clippers: Zero.
Overall record since 1976: 944-1730 (.353 winning percentage).
Number of curses that, as far as I can tell, are still going: One.
So that's your new team, Blake Griffin. You have 33 straight years of bad luck working against you. You're entering a world of "Tonight Show" putdowns and half-empty buildings. You're playing for the worst possible owner and the worst possible coach for the Lakers' ugly stepbrother in Los Angeles. You're dealing with a dwindling fan base that's almost supernaturally depressed at this point. You will be the 18th forward they drafted with a top-nine draft pick since 1976. None of them lasted longer than six seasons on the Clippers. Not one.
Since 1976, the Clippers have drafted only one player who made an All-Star team as a Clipper: Danny Manning in 1993 and 1994. Think about that for a second. It's impossible. It's absolutely true. They made 38 first-round picks since 1980; you will be No. 39. They earned a top-10 pick 23 times since the '76 draft; of those 23 times, 12 were in the top four and three were No. 1 overall. They failed to turn the first 21 chances into a Hall of Famer, borderline Hall of Famer or perennial All-Star. The 22nd chance was Gordon; the 23rd chance is you. The odds are against both of you.
Again, I would start running right now. But if you choose to stay, I have an idea: Trek into the desert like Jim Morrison did in "The Doors," bring Gordon with you, drop some acid and try to connect with a Native American shaman. Or you could fly to Buffalo with Baron and Gordon, find some sacred ground and make some atonements. Maybe you could even bring a white buffalo with you. Just make sure you do something. This is bigger than you. And us.
Good luck breaking the Curse of the Sacred Buffalo.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos, favorite links and more, check out the revamped Sports Guy's World.
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