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Relocated NBA Teams: The San Diego Clippers

The San Diego Clippers were a basketball team that played on the NBA fro 1978 to 1984. Today the franchise exists as the Los Angeles Clippers. The team was based at the San Diego Sports Arena. The franchise had existed since 1970 when it was formed as the Buffalo Braves, one of three expansion teams for the 1970/71 season. The team became the San Diego Clippers in 1978 following relocation to the San Diego. The nickname Clippers was picked though a fans’ contest and referred to the sailing heritage of the city of San Diego.

The Clippers had a miserable time on the court during their time in San Diego. They failed to make the payoffs even once in six seasons and only posted a winning season during their first season. Led by World B. Free who scored 28.9 points per game, the Clippers only missed the 1978/79 playoffs by two games. Hoping to make amends the following season, they brought in the legendary Bill Walton from the Portland Trailblazers. The transfer however did not have the desired impact as Walton suffered through perpetual injuries that severely limited his game time. Free continued his great form scoring 30.2 ppg but the Clippers could only manage a 35-47 record. In the 1981/82 season, the Clippers, again unable to use Bill Walton had a 17-65 record that also featured an embarrassing 19 game losing streak. Two further last place finishes ended their stay in San Diego as the team set off for Los Angeles at the end of the 1983/84 season.

Real estate mogul Donald sterling purchased the team from then owner Adam Levin. Donald Sterling is most memorable for his infamous racial rant to his girlfriend, reprimanding her for associating with black players. There was widespread boycott of the Clippers franchise by fans and sponsors and players threatened to boycott games. The widely publicized incident which happened in 2014 led to the NBA banning him from all basketball activities and forced him to sell the team, then known as the Los Angeles Clippers. Sterling had courted controversy from the off. Despite promising to invest money in the team upon acquiring it, his miserly tendencies were soon evident. Towards the end of the 1980/81 season, with the team languishing in last position, he publicly encouraged them to finish last so they could pick up Ralph Sampson in the upcoming draft. The NBA however found his actions to be against the integrity of the NBA and fined him $10,000.

Why were the San Diego Clippers Relocated?

Donald Sterling’s acquisition of the team in 1981 immediately led to speculation that the Clippers would relocate to another city. Sterling, an LA resident however assured San Diego residents that he was dedicated to retaining the team in San Diego. He revealed his substantial net worth to San Diegans and promised to spend as much money as was required to acquire top talent for the Clippers. This increased optimism among San Diego residents. However, he reneged on his promise almost immediately, refusing to bring in a much needed experienced forward for the 1981-82 season. That season the team had a 17-65 record, the worst in franchise history. This did not help in terms of fan attendance which had declined by more than 40 percent since their first season in San Diego. Any optimism that sterling had planted in San Diego hearts was uprooted when he unsuccessfully tried to move the team to Los Angeles before the 1982/83 season and the NBA uncovered documents proving his intentions to cut back on transfer spending. On the playing court, matters did not look up for the Clippers as they continued to play mediocre basketball. Following the 1983/84 season, Sterling announced in a press conference that his much coveted relocation of the Clippers to Los Angeles would be happening. This time, the NBA could not come to the rescue of disgruntled fans and the city was soon set to loose its second NBA franchise, the first of which was the San Diego Rockets who had moved to Houston a few years before. The NBA fined Sterling 25 million dollars for moving the team without approval but Sterling responded with a $100 million countersuit which saw the fine reduced to just $6 million. NBA basketball is yet to return to San Diego and the prospects of such an occurrence remain slim.

San Diego Clippers most Notable Players

Bill Walton C 1979/80-1983/84

Randy Smith SF 1978/79, 1982/83

Brian Taylor G 1978-1982

Swen Nater C 1978-1983

Jerome Whitehead C/ PF 1978-1980, 1980-1984

Michael Brooks PF 1980-1984

Terry Cummings PF 1982-1984

Tom Chambers C/PF 1981-1983

Joe Bryant PF 1979-1982

Freeman Williams SF/SG 1978-1982

Al Wood SG/SF 1981-1983

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