As a rule, sports coaches try not to comment on other teams. While positive comments to sometimes slip out—it’s hard to take issue with a rival praising you—negative remarks are even rarer. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, however, didn’t follow coaching convention and called out the rival Lakers.
In an interview with Marc Spears of The Undefeated, Rivers admitted that there’s one thing about the Los Angeles Lakers that “bugs” him.
Doc Rivers’ recent comments
For decades, the Clippers have lived in the Lakers’ shadow. Despite sharing a city and arena, there has been a clear power divide. While the Lakers were winning titles with players like Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal, the Clippers were mired in perpetual mediocrity.
Things are a bit different today, with the Clippers roster headlined by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The historical scoreboard, however, is still firmly tilted in the Lakers’ direction; they’ve won 16 NBA titles while the Clippers haven’t touched the Larry O’Brien Trophy once. That’s where Doc Rivers’ complaint originates.
While the Lakers have won 16 championships as an organization, five of them came before the team moved to Los Angeles. Despite that relocation, the Lakers still claim them as their own.
“It is a Lakers town. I’m good with that. I have no issues with that,” Rivers told The Undefeated. “They have how many titles that they’ve won here? You know, they claim them all, but they only won a certain amount here. I will say that. That actually bugs me a little bit.”
The history of the Lakers
As Rivers pointed out, the Lakers’ life didn’t begin in Los Angeles. The franchise got started in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with the team’s name alluding to the regions “10,000 Lakes.”
The team played in the National Basketball League (NBL) and struggled during their first season. That gave them the first overall pick in the next year’s draft; the Lakers selected George Mikan, who would develop into one of the greatest centers of all time. The team then joined the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and started winning championships.
In 1960, the Lakers once again had the first overall pick in the draft, which they used to select Jerry West. During that same summer, the team moved to Los Angeles. Wilt Chamberlin would arrive in 1968; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came to town in 1975, setting the groundwork for what would grow into the Showtime Lakers.
In total, the Lakers have won 16 championships since 1949; the first five came in Minnesota, with the remaining 11 coming in Los Angeles.
The Lakers and the Clippers today
While their historical success has made the Lakers Los Angeles’ leading team, the gap isn’t as wide as it once was.
This summer, the Clippers made a splash in free agency, landing Kawhi Leonard; the club also traded for Paul George and acquired Moe Harkless in a multi-team deal. Those acquisitions paid dividends on opening night when the Clippers knocked off LeBron James and his Lakers 112-102. While the Clippers’ introduction was drowned out by boos from fans wearing purple and gold, the home team did their talking on the floor.
At the end of the day, no one, especially Doc Rivers, is paying too much attention to where the Lakers won their championships. But his comments and the Clippers opening night performance does send a message: they’re not afraid to step out of the Lakers’ shadow anymore.