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Los Angeles Clippers Origins 1970-1984

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The Los Angeles Clippers, better known as the L.A. Clippers, are an American basketball professional team. The team is based in Los Angeles along with professional  teams such as Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings associated with National Hockey League and the Los Angeles Sparks of the Women's National Basketball Association.

Los Angeles Clippers Basketball

History of the Los Angeles Clippers

In 1970, the basketball franchise was founded and known as the Buffalo Braves. The franchise played in the Atlantic Division. The Braves managed to reach the playoffs three times in the eight seasons held in Buffalo.

The Braves first head coach was Dolph Schayes, a Hall of Famer. Among the first players were Bob Kauffman and Don May. In their first year, the franchise finished with a dismal record of 22-60.

The Buffalo Braves moved from Buffalo to New York and eventually to San Diego in 1978. The team changed its name and came to be known as the San Diego Clippers.

Their final move was in 1984 when the Clippers moved to Los Angeles after six seasons in San Diego. The franchise failed to be regular in the seasons and playoffs because of its history. Clippers example was considered a perennial loser in American professional sports.

 buffalo braves nba sports cards

Season Performance Over The Years

1971- 1972 Season

The Buffalo Braves repeat their 22-60 record, but they had not put efforts into acquiring players who would make the club better. Coach Schayes was replaced one game into the season by Johnny McCarthy as the team went ahead and drafted center Elmore Smith from Kentucky State University. Another favourite recruited from the local Buffalo State College was Randy Smith.

1972-1973 & 1973-1974 Seasons

In the 1972-73 season, the team performed poorly with a 21-61 record under the new head coach Dr Jack Ramsay. On October 20, 1972 the Braves set an NBA record for the most points in a single quarter, having 58 against the Boston Celtics during their fifth game.

After drafting forward / center Bob McAdoo from North Carolina, the Braves finally made their first playoff appearance in 1974. They faced off with the Boston Celtics and unfortunately lost in six games.

During the same season, the Braves rookie Ernie DiGregorio won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, and McAdoo posted averages of 30.6 points and 15.1 rebounds.

1974-75 & 1975-76 Seasons

In the 1974-75 season, McAdoo was given the NBA Most Valuable Player Award after averaging 34.5 points, 2.12 blocks and 14.1 rebounds per game. He shot 51.2% from the field and 80.5% from the free-throw line.

1976-1977 Season

During the season in 1976-77, the Buffalo Braves were a success on the court. The team had amassed a considerable number of fans as they drew closer to the league average.

Their ratings were solid and being broadcasted as they were bringing in a consistent profit.

In 1976, the team was to be sold for $6.1 million to a hotel owner known as Irving Cowan. He was based outside of Miami, Florida. Despite the lawsuit filed by the city of Buffalo, the sale went through, and the team of Braves signed a new 15 year Memorial Auditorium lease that year in July.

Before their first game in the 1976-77 season, the Braves acquired Moses Malone, a Hall-of-Fame centre from Portland. Later, Malone was traded and sent off to Houston only after playing two, the Braves' games.

1977-1978 Season

The team performed poorly in its final two years. The attendance exceeded the threshold, making them break a lease they had signed when coming to Florida. John Brown who was now the Braves owner made a deal with Levin who owned the Celtics.

Both men traded off their teams, and Levin moved the NBA team to San Diego after becoming the Braves owner. Some of the team members were traded off as part of the transaction.

1981-1982 Season

During the season in 1981-82, the franchise experienced a change with the team being sold to Los Angeles. The group experienced poor play as Walton suffered foot injuries that caused him to miss the entire season. The team experienced a low performance of a 17-65 record.

The competition from other local sports teams such as the Padres and Changers drew attention away from the Clippers. The final two seasons in San Diego were not the best despite Walton's return. The team finished with a record of 25-57 in 1982-83 and 30-52 in 1983-84.


1984-1985 Season

The Clippers finally made their move to Los Angeles in 1984 after six seasons in San Diego.

Once the Clippers arrived in Los Angeles, the team made significant moves, trading players such as Terry Cummings, Rickey Pierce, and Craig Hodges to Milwaukee's NBA team. In exchange, the group received Marques Johnson, Junior Bridgeman, and Harvey Catchings who were all past their prime.

The Clippers played their first game in Los Angeles Sports Arena on November 1 and beat the New York Knicks by two points. Through their first six seasons in L.A., the Clippers played a total of 500 basketball games.

In December, the team began losing with a 6-game losing streak. By the following year in March, they were out of the playoff race holding a record of 22-39. The then coach Jim Lyman was fired, and the franchise brought Don Chaney to replace him.

Under Coach Chaney, the team still performed poorly, finishing in 5th place with a dreadful record of 31-51. 

1985 – 94 Seasons

The early performances of the Clippers were seasons of poor performance. Despite having a squad of good veterans who were talented players, the franchise suffered recurring injuries to many star players.

Derek Smith, one of the players, suffered a knee injury during the 1985-86 season. The next player to suffer a knee injury was Norm Nixon and Marques Johnson, who had a spinal cord injury the following season.

The team's second-worst performance was in the 1987 season where they finished with 12-70 points. During the same season, Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor joined the team not as a player but as a general manager and basketball operations vice president.

 Norm Nixon suffered yet again with an Achilles tendon during the 1987-88 season. Rookie Danny Manning had injured his anterior cruciate ligament in the 1988-89 campaign.

At the start of 1989-90 season, the Clippers traded Danny Ferry and Reggie Williams for the high –scoring shooting guard Ron Harper. The team had a 19-19 record almost halfway into the season. Some considered the franchise as a possible playoff contender.

The Clippers made another coaching change during the middle of the 1991-92 season. Former Spurs coach Larry Brown was hired as the new coach. Brown managed to lead the team finishing the season with a 23-12 mark with an overall record of 45-37.

It was the franchise's first winning season in thirteen years under Coach Brown. Later he left the Clippers and joined the Indiana Pacers. Bob Weiss was now the new coach for the Clippers. The 1993-94 proved to be the worst for the team with a 27-55 record,causing them to miss the playoffs once again.

Team Colours

The Braves first season in 1970-71, the team wore blue, red and gold. In the second season during 1971-72, the group changed colours matching the Baltimore Orioles. The colour scheme included white, orange and black. They used the same team colours for one more season in 1972-73.

Starting the season in 1973-74, the team again changed their colours to a new Columbia blue and white scheme. The uniforms had black accents that outlined the lettering and striping on jerseys and shorts.

The Braves carried on with the same colour scheme until the team moved to California.


Notable Awards

Awards for NBA Rookie of the year

  • Bob McAdoo - 1973
  • Ernie DiGregorio - 1974
  • Adrian Dantley - 1977
  • Terry Cummings - 1982

 terry cummings sports illustrated cover

Bill Walton and the Clippers

Walton was signed with the San Diego Clippers in 1979 after missing the previous season with a foot injury. 

It happened after the Clippers had relocated to San Diego in 1978. Born and raised in San Diego, Walton's homecoming was meant to push the franchise in its second season on the West Coast. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Bill Walton appeared in only 14 games during his first season with the clippers. He missed the following two seasons following multiple surgeries on his foot that prohibited him from playing.

bill walton los angeles clippers

In the 1982-83 season, Walton returned and played 88 games over the following two seasons: the Clippers' last games played in San Diego. After the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1984, Bill Walton played in only one season for the team and was traded to the Boston Celtics.

Overall, Walton played for the Clippers for a total of five seasons between the years of 1979 and 1984. While in San Diego, the team never made it to the playoffs. 

In 1985-86, he finished his career in Boston and won an NBA title naming him the Sixth Man of the Year.

Up until today, Walton believes that the Clippers would have never left San Diego if he had stayed healthy.