There are other rivalries, even within the Western Conference. For instance, there is a budding skirmish between Oklahoma City and Memphis that is certainly interesting pundits. But, the thing is, one is based in Oklahoma City and the other Memphis – so it will never compare to the rivalry of two teams fighting for supremacy in one city. We have certainly witnessed some awesome Twitter storms and all-out media battles between the Clippers and Lakers that make the storylines compelling and the attraction high. So, the question is, what is that makes this rivalry the pinnacle between teams in the Western Conference and maybe even beyond.

The California Connection 

Not only do both teams call California home, but both teams also claim Los Angeles as their base. With just the common connection of the state, the Kings and the Lakers proved that a rivalry can rise to a peak when they battle in 2000. But, imagine if these teams had shared the same arena as a home court. Yes, this is the overwhelming fuel of the Lakers versus Clippers battle.

There are obviously other cases of teams sharing the same home field but these team have never played in the same conference and division. Could you imagine the fire caused in the NY Giants and KY Jets played in the same conference and division – man that would be interesting – the battle would be brutal. Not only are the Clippers and Lakers set to fight for supremacy in the Pacific Division but also for the Western Conference. But, it is more than this. Both teams will want to be known as the kings of La – something the marketing team at the Lakers is already using to its advantage.

When the two teams met in the regular season the sledging was epic, with the Lakers releasing an inflammatory video to raise the stakes. We can only imagine what it would be like if the two teams met in any postseason match-up.

The scrappy underdog

The Clippers may have arrived in LA first, in 1978, they were soon eclipsed by their more successful neighbors. The Lakers arrived in 1984 and the rivalry has been a silent battle because there was literally no competition. The Clippers form was horrible and they have only reached one playoff in their title-winning season. The Lakers might be 6 years into a losing streak, this is nothing in comparison to the Clippers record of 361 – 555. To put these stats into context – the lakers are on a run of 587 – 333 with four titles and 10 playoffs. As you can see, no competition and so no rivalry.

Yet, there is something special about following the fortunes of a scrappy underdog. Despite the fortunes of the Clippers eclipsed by the Lakers, they have been enjoying a rise in form recently that gives them hope they could challenge their home court companions. The Clippers turned over the Lakers in their first match-up this season and were only narrow losers in the second game. Therefore, both teams share the glory.

A roster of star players

Los Angeles Lakers vs. LA Clippers Dec. 8, 2010 at the Staples Center
 Michael Saechang/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Lakers have regenerated themselves again and again through the ages of the team. When one set of superstars was on the wain, another was being scouted and trained in the Lakers way of playing. Plus, with the record this team enjoyed over the years, it is not hard for them to recruit players to the purple and gold uniforms.

The change in owners has certainly made a significant difference here. The Busses have come along, after building a high-quality reputation with the Kings, and taken over from someone who was known as the worst owner in professional sports – a title Donald Sterling probably doesn’t have tattooed anywhere on his body.

The struggle for the Clippers is to offer the same package to star names. With the likes of Reggie Jackson, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard and more, they have every chance of rivalling the Lakers now – and no longer look like the poor relative. They also attract some superstars as fans, as Rihanna has been known to sit courtside to watch the Clippers – such star power will only serve to drive more devotion the Clippers way. 

Some pretty tasty tiffs!

No rivalry is worth anything without an exchange of views that are both open and relatively nasty. For any teams to battle it out on the court with a greater intensity needs a massive input of cross-fire between coaches and players alike. Any tiff if going to raise the stakes. 

The team owner for the Clippers recently released a Tweet asking that the comments flying between the teams come to a halt – using some pretty tasty language. We cannot believe for a second that any owner would want the battles off the court to stop when it can attract another 10000 fans to watch a game between the two. Indeed, what did the Busses expect when they signed Southern-Californian native Kawhi Leonard, who was expected to make his move to the Lakers. It was always going to fuel some tasty back and forth between the franchises – and long may it continue!

Just the Western Conference or the whole of the NBA?

Surely, only those on the west coast are interested in a rivalry between two LA Teams? Well, not according to Sporting News who claim that this rivalry is the best thing the NBA has to offer right now. They note that the rivalry is finally real thanks to that signing of Kawhi Leonard and the real possibility that the Clippers and Lakers could meet in the playoffs. In the past, the teams have only ever reached the playoffs in the same season 6 times. However, now both teams have hit form at the same time the battle for the postseason will be epic.