In a span of just two seasons, the city of Los Angeles has become the undeniable center of the NBA universe. Both the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers have emerged as serious championship contenders, and the city has more concentrated star power than any city before it ever has.
The Center of the NBA Universe is Los Angeles Once Again
The Shift of Power
In an unprecedented offseason, the entire power structure of the NBA shifted. With over 40 percent of players becoming free agents, a re-shuffling seemed inevitable. But no one foresaw just how monumental the 2019 offseason would be.
The first domino to fall was LeBron James a summer ago. When he inked a four-year max deal with the Lakers, the whole NBA world stopped. A new era was starting, but no one knew where the league was going.
Fast-forward to July 5th, 2019 and perhaps the final puzzle piece fell into place. Kawhi Leonard signed with the Clippers on a four-year max deal and brought MVP candidate Paul George along with him. In-between those two world-shaking announcements, the Lakers also acquired Anthony Davis via a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. Now, Los Angeles has four of the biggest names in the current NBA.
EDIT: Leonard officially signed a two-year max deal with a third-year player option worth $103 million.
The History of Los Angeles Basketball
For the majority of NBA history, the Lakers and Boston Celtics took turns dominating the league. The two organizations have combined to win 33 of 73 total championships. The Lakers notched 16 of those 33 titles in 31 appearances. Though five of those titles came when the team was located in Minnesota, 11 came home to Los Angeles.
Since moving to the West Coast, the Lakers only missed the playoffs four times since 1960. Now, the Lakers have gone an unprecedented six seasons without a playoff berth. For a team with five championships in the 2000’s, that level of mediocrity is absolutely unacceptable. Now, they’ve jumped into title contention talks, though they still have some work to do. The duo of James and Davis could very well be the best in basketball, but winning a championship takes more than just two superstars. However, the future of the Lakers franchise is finally looking up for the first time since Kobe Bryant occupied the locker room at Staples Center.
As for the Clippers, they have never tasted even a drop of success. Since 1970, the Clippers have only made the playoffs 14 times, and have never gotten past the second round. They came close in 2015, but blew a 3-1 lead to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals. In fact, in 2017 the Clippers became the first team in NBA history to blow a playoff series lead in five-consecutive years. A season ago, the Clippers beat the odds just to make the playoffs, and put up a fight against the Golden State Warriors in the first round, pushing the series to six games. Now, that rough-and-tough squad has added two superstars to their cast. This could be the brightest the future has ever looked for the “other” Los Angeles team.
For the first time ever, the city of Los Angeles will have two of the most hyped teams in the NBA simultaneously. The Staples Center crowd can show up any given night and watch at least two NBA superstars go up against the unlucky competition.
When the Lakers had Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the most popular team in the NBA was nicknamed the “Showtime” Lakers. They were one of the hottest tickets ever, stealing the attention of NBA fans and celebrities alike. They truly started the modern NBA.
Now, the city has something similar, yet completely different.
This is the start of a new power structure in the NBA. Not only does Los Angeles have the newest version of “Showtime”, but they’ve also got perhaps an even hotter ticket in the new Clippers. The impending “Battle of Los Angeles” between the two squads could very well be the most anticipated regular season rivalry in recent memory, and a playoff series between the two would shatter viewership records.
After nearly a decade of coming up short, the city of Los Angeles has seized power in both the present and future of the National Basketball Associaition.
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