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NBA - Crosstown Rivalry?

By Mason Williams
Sunday, December 16th, 2001

For the past few NBA seasons, sportswriters, fans, and local sports anchors have tried to play up the rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers. It seems logical that there would be crosstown competition, but upon deeper inspection, is there a rivalry at all?

The Lakers have lapped the NBA competition since the 1999-2000 season. The Lakers core: Shaq, Kobe, Derrick Fisher, Robert Horry, and Rick Fox have been together for a few seasons and have gelled into a cohesive unit. With the exception of the two most dominant players in the league, the Lakers are not a terribly exciting team to watch. However, they are a force to behold. The Lakers have stumbled out of the gate and still manage to have a 17-3 record.

Each offseason at the Clipper compound, there is a large scale propaganda movement that declares the Clippers to be "a much improved team," "the most exciting young team," and "the new power in town." Of course, these statements are first made in early April when the Clippers season ends and the postseason begins. This year, the Clippers are living up to their billing better than they have in the past. Still, at 12-11, the Clippers are focused on whom they'll be battling for the eighth playoff position in the Western Conference.

The Clippers core unit has typically changed each season, which makes it difficult to establish a winning tradition. The current Clipper ensemble has remained intact for almost two seasons and the addition of Elton Brand has given the organization its first legitimate superstar since Ron Harper left the Cavaliers to join the Clippers in the early 1990s. Moving in a positive direction is a strong sign for the future, but rivalries aren't based on future speculation. Rivalries are defined in the here and now.

Here and now, the Lakers are still light years ahead of the Clippers. The teams have played twice this year and each meeting has been hyped to the level of a heavyweight bout. Los Angeles fans and media have neglected to mention that only one of the contestants is a heavyweight. The other is a legitimate junior-middleweight. But honestly, as exciting a fighter Sugar Shane Mosley is, would he really pose a threat to Lennox Lewis? No.

The Clippers will one day be a legit force to be reckoned with if they remain together. Until that point is within sight, let's keep the "rivalry" in perspective. The Lakers routinely stomp the Clippers in games that are exciting for the first three quarters.

If excitement made rivalries, the Lakers/Clippers edition would be tower over the Packers/Bears and the Dodgers/Giants versions. However, competition makes rivalries, so we'll have to wait. Until then, let the Lakers judge themselves against the league as a whole and let the Clippers keep their minds focused on their rivalries with the Nuggets, Trailblazers, Warriors, and Sonics. Those are the teams the Clippers must push aside before they can even contemplate tackling the Lakers in a crosstown rivalry.

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