The Los Angeles Clippers began their NBA life as the Buffalo Braves, one of three expansion entries in 1970, with a side trip to San Diego in between.
With four consecutive seasons with at least 53 victories and five seasons in a row with a winning percentage north of .600, the Los Angeles Clippers are finally out of the cellar and no longer have the worst winning percentage of the NBA’s 30 active franchises.
The Clippers are now 1,469-2255, a .394 clip that moved ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves into 29th place.
To put their historic futility into perspective, to get to a record of .500 in team history, the Clips would have to—over the next 10 seasons—go 786-34.
That’s provided there aren’t any lost games due to lockouts or any such nonsense.
Yes, the franchise born as the Buffalo Braves and later known as the San Diego Clippers really has been that bad. To wit, in 46 seasons, the run of five consecutive winning seasons that began in 2011-12 is the longest such streak in club history.
The franchise was launched in 1970, when a group headed by Buffalo businessman Paul Snyder was awarded an expansion club as part of the NBA’s largest single-season expansion ever, the addition of three teams—Buffalo along with teams in Cleveland and Portland—in 1970.
The Braves played at Buffalo Memorial Aufitorium, while also playing several “home” games at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto in an effort to expand their fan base.
Snyder sold half of the franchise the Braves to former Kentucky Colonels owner John Y. Brown in 1976, with Brown buying the remaining share of the team in 1977. In 1978, Brown traded franchises with Boston Celtics owner Irv Levin.
This allowed Levin, a Southern California businessman, to relocate the franchise to San Diego and rename it the Clippers—a move the NBA never would have allowed with the storied Celtics.
The Clippers played at the San Diego Sports Arena during its stay in the city.
Levin sold the team in 1981 to Los Angeles attorney and real estate developer Donald Sterling.
Sterling was initially fined $25 million by the NBA for moving his team to Los Angeles in 1984 to play in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena without league approval. Sterling sued the NBA, eventually dropping the litigation when the fine was reduced to $6 million.
The Clippers, after flirting for several years with a move to Anaheim, moved into the new Staples Center in 1999 along with the Los Angeles Lakers, where they continue to play.
In 2014, Sterling was banned for life by the NBA over controversial, racially charged comments that were recorded and leaked to the media. He was forced to sell the team, getting a record $2 billion for the franchise from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
In its existence, the franchise has never won a title. It hasn’t played in the NBA Finals. It’s never even reached the conference finals. Three of the franchise’s five playoff series wins have come in the last five seasons, in fact.
The team has made just 12 playoff appearances in its 46 years, once going 15 seasons (1976-77 through 1990-91) without reaching the postseason. The Clippers’ current streak of five straight playoff berths is the longest in franchise history.
The team has never won 60 games in a season, setting a record with a 57-25 record in 2013-14. But it has had nearly as many 60-loss seasons—11—as it has had playoff berths.
The low-water mark was a 12-70 record in 1986-87, but the team also has a 65-loss season (1999-2000), four 65-loss campaigns (1981-82, 1987-88, 1994-95 and 1997-98), a 63-loss season (2008-09), two 61-loss runs (1972-73 and 1988-89) and a pair of 60-loss seasons (1970-71 and 1971-72).
Yet despite all of the losing, the team has had just 13 general managers. Elgin Baylor had the job from April 1986 through October 2008. Eddie Donovan had the position from the franchise’s founding until March 1975, the only other stint of at least five years.
Donovan was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year in 1973-74 and Baylor won the award in 2005-06.
Current GM Doc Rivers has been on the job since June 2013.
Mike Dunleavy is the winningest coach in franchise history, assembling a 215-326 record from 2003-10 while going 7-5 in the playoffs. The team has had 25 coaches in all, including Gene Shue, who had two stints at the helm.
No coach in franchise history has won the NBA Coach of the Year award.
Rivers, also the current coach, has had the job since June 2013, concurrent with his run at GM and is 166-80 in the regular season and 15-18 in the playoffs.
Last season, the Clippers were 53-29 but lost in the first round of the playoffs as the lineup was devastated by injuries.
The Clippers have drafted first overall three times, all since moving to Los Angeles. They selected Danny Manning of Kansas in 1988, Michael Olowokandi of Pacific in 1998 and Blake Griffin of Oklahoma in 2009.
But the franchise has chosen second overall five times, third overall four times and fourth overall on four occasions. Oddly enough, the club has never had the No. 5 overall pick.
Befitting the franchise’s track record, 29 of the team’s draft choices have been made in the top 10.
Here are the 25 best players in the history of the Buffalo Braves and the San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers. Players had to have appeared in 150 games and averaged a minimum of 20 minutes per game for the team to qualify for this list.
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