Even as an avid Clipper-hater, I must admit that the Los Angeles Clippers are good. Like, really good. They're probably the fourth or fifth best team in the NBA. Which is something to be more than proud of in today's league. Steve Ballmer's club are contenders. Containing some of the league's most elite, and unique, talent coached by (whom some believe to be) one of the premier coaches in basketball, the Clippers are at the precipice of an NBA Finals. Just as they were last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. And the year before that. And the year before that.
The Clippers are a great team, but their success has been underwhelming, as has Chris Paul's. Paul (well known for being estranged twin of Cliff Paul) has never made the Conference Finals in his career. He is statistically, based off career WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player), the greatest player of all time to never make the Conference Finals. Edging out players like Dominique Wilkins and Tracy McGrady* for the "honor". Let me put this in perspective for those who may not understand and may need comparisons: this is roughly the equivalent of Dan Marino never winning a Super Bowl. Paul is probably between fifth and tenth best point guard of all time, just as Dan Marino is in all-time quarterback rankings. The only thing holding them back from being higher is their lack of playoff success. Same goes with their teams' legacies. When talking about 80's and 90's NFL, the Dolphins won't enter the conversation very early at all. Clippers could face a similar fate if they never put together a playoff run.
The Clippers can be likened to Rickie Fowler, or better, Andy Murray. All three are all-time great forces in their sport, but unfortunate to have put it all together at the same time as other greats. Murray has the misfortune of competing around the same time Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and [Steve] Novak Djokovic have been stalking the tennis court. Similarly, today in the PGA we are seeing a special, and fun, talent fail to have major success. Rickie Fowler has had the luck to have been hitting his prime at the exact same time as Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and Jason Day. Not to mention playing with the intimidating presence of players like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Bubba Watson his entire career. Fowler and Murray face the miserable luck of being compared to the greats they play against. However both are accepted and loved for being the unique talent and person that they are. Whereas the Clippers are now seen being scrutinized, and often criticized for their distinct methods. Although early in their tenure together the Clip Show, with coach Vinny Del Negro, were dubbed the fun and easily watchable "Lob City", much has changed. The club is now simply examined through the perspective lens of being a contender, and nothing else. Both locally, and nationally.
That is part of the reason why the Clippers might have been dealt the worst hand of the three. On top of the fact that early on they were blessed to have been competing with LeBron's Heat, the young Oklahoma City Thunder, the 'Grit and Grind' Grizzlies, a competitive and enigmatic couple of Nuggets clubs, the Kobe-Pau Lakers, and (of course) the Spurs. And now: Lebron's Cavs, an experienced OKC squad, the Harden-Howard Rockets, The Golden State Warriors, and the Spurs. Still. And that, for the most part, is just the Western Conference teams. This generation's NBA as a whole is as competitive as any professional American sport association can get. Not to mention the unforeseeable factors that can hold any club back. The Clippers are facing these obstacles right now. (Read the link above)
Unless "The Truth"/"Mr. I Called Game"/"The King in the North" continues his spell of propelling teams to improbable playoff success (which he will not) this particular Clippers core, and Chris Paul, will likely make a singular Finals appearance. Or less. A couple Conference Finals appearances. Or less. And continually be competitive for the better part of a decade. The way it is said makes it sound like such a failure. And sure, every professional club is "championship or bust". But how can a fanbase, and the media, realistically expect so much out of a franchise? And how can an entire team's, or player's, legacy be based on these successes? Especially given the circumstances. Clippers employees in the front office, the coach's office, and on the court are all under unwarranted pressure. In no other profession is there the pressure for a talent to not only succeed, but succeed at the greatest level and accomplish the greatest achievements in their field.
Even in the easily comparable entertainment business of acting there is not near as much pressure. The conversation of Leonardo DiCaprio winning the Oscar award for Best Actor is consistently surrounded by the sentiment of it not being any big deal if he win or not. Because ultimately it does not matter whether he wins or not, what matters is the product of great entertainment we get from him each year. Basketball players are essentially entertainers as well, so how can the attitudes in relation to success be so divergent? Even as an avid Clipper-hater, I must admit that the Los Angeles Clippers are good. Like, really good. Good enough that they should be treated a lot more like Leonardo DiCaprio, a little more like Andy Murray and Rickie Fowler, and a lot less like Dan Marino.
*Tracy McGrady made the 2013 NBA Finals as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, but played 0 minutes for them all season.