The Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers have had an uncomfortable living arrangement for more than two decades. Sharing the Staples Center since it opened in 1999, the arena always felt more like the home of the Lakers. The Clippers were the loud uncle you had to take in because no one else would have him.
Even as the Clippers became a perennial playoff team after the acquisition of Chris Paul in 2011, the Lakers were still a big brother in the house. When the Lakers experienced the most prolonged downturn in franchise history from 2014–19? The Clippers were still the other guys.
According to a report, ground will be broken soon on a new arena for the Clippers in Inglewood. Yes, the Lakers and Clippers are getting closer to having homes of their own.
Donald Sterling ceded the advantage to the Lakers
When the Staples Center prepared to open in the late 1990s, former Clippers owner Donald Sterling gladly accepted being third in the pecking order among the three tenants in the building. The Lakers and NHL’s Kings could have their choices of dates and other perks. Sterling got cheaper rent and revenue from luxury boxes unavailable at the antiquated LA Sports Arena.
Sterling never seemed to mind if the Clippers lost. He cared if they made money. So, while his team made just seven playoff appearances during his ownership tenure, the team he bought for $13.5 million in 1981 sold for $2 billion when the NBA forced him out in 2014. It’s hard to argue with a 14,715 percent return on investment.
Steve Ballmer became the Clippers governor in 2014. The team’s lease at Staples Center expires after the 2023–24 season. Ballmer expects to have the Clippers in a new arena, albeit at an old location, for the 2024–25 campaign.
The Clippers are moving to Inglewood
In 2019, the Clippers unveiled plans for a new arena in Inglewood. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Inglewood is the old Forum’s location, where the Lakers played from 1967–99. In March 2020, the Clippers worked out a deal with Madison Square Garden (owner of the Forum at the time) for $400 million. That moved the project forward.
According to Arash Markazi on Substack, Inglewood mayor James T. Butts says groundbreaking on the new arena could happen as soon as this month.
“We hope to have them break ground before the end of August for the venue to be open for the first season in 2024-25. The Clippers arena will be done in time for the 2024–25 NBA season.”
Per Bloomberg, the Clippers’ new arena will be in the same area as SoFi Stadium, the new $5.5 billion home of the LA Rams and Chargers (because the city can’t seem to stop making franchises bunk together).
If nothing else, the move will ensure the Clippers don’t have to cover 17 championship banners and 18 retired numbers for every home game.
The move will make the Lakers fan base happier, too
The shotgun marriage of the Lakers and Clippers is more of a sticking point to some people than others. That doesn’t just mean fans, either. Former Lakers forward Robert Horry said earlier this year on The Big Podcast with Shaq that it’s a matter of belonging.
“You cannot have the Clippers try to put up a damn banner in Staples Center. They don’t belong in Staples. They can get up out of here with a hurry.”
Not exactly neighborly, but when examining the respective resumes of the franchises, the Lakers beat the Clippers in a first-round knockout — like a Mike Tyson-Michael Spinks knockout. The Clippers have zero championships and have never retired a number.
The Clippers will indeed try to win some banners while still at Staples Center. But it won’t be very long before they have a lovely new place to display them without all that purple-and-gold clutter in the way.
And, hey, Lakers fans won’t mind. As far as they’re concerned, they’ve been the only tenants of Staples Center all along.
Historical information courtesy of Basketball Reference.