SAN DIEGO — As NBA fans around the country – and in Canada – celebrate the first shots of the 2019 season, we’re taking a look back at when San Diego boasted its own basketball franchise. The now Los Angeles Clippers once called San Diego "home" after relocating from Buffalo in 1978 and being re-branded with a name that honored the sailboats that grace local waters.
The San Diego Clippers' time in San Diego was short-lived thanks to the now infamous Donald Sterling who was banned from the NBA in 2014 amidst controversy over a recording of him making racist comments. In 1984, Sterling also made waves in the league by moving our NBA team to Los Angeles without NBA approval and eventually paying a $6-million fine as a result.
From the News 8 archives, here’s a look back at some of the good and not-so-good times with our then San Diego Clippers.
These snippets from September 1978 capture the San Diego Clippers players practicing for their big debut in America’s Finest City. Perhaps a bad omen, the Clippers played their inaugural game on Friday the 13th in Oct. 1978 losing 114-128 to the Phoenix Suns.
Following the announcement that the San Diego Clippers would become the Los Angeles Clippers, News 8 checked in with folks at the San Diego Sports Arena to get reactions to the news. Reporter Hal Clement also featured a look back at other San Diego professional basketball teams including the Rockets (who now reside in Houston), the Conquistadors - also known as The Qs - and the Sails who lasted a whopping three games.
As the Clippers prepared to start their tenure in Los Angeles – which continues to this day – News 8’s Jim Laslavic made a trip to LA to get fan and player reaction. San Diego native Bill Walton who had come to the San Diego Clippers in 1979 is seen towering with a head of red curls in the clip. Walton told our reporter that San Diego was still home, but called the move to LA “a good opportunity” and said he expected the team to go far.
Amidst the frustration over the San Diego Clippers move north, News 8’s Larry Himmel brought some levity to the situation. This musical homage to “Big Dumb” Donald Sterling came complete with backup singers and jabs at Sterling’s courtside wine-drinking. Himmel summed it up with the song’s closing: “He took his team and split before dawn. We’ll miss basketball, but we’re glad you’re gone.”
We know there are still a few die-hard Clippers fans in America's Finest City and we're all waiting to see what former San Diego State University star Kawhi Leonard does for the team. "The Claw" made his debut with the LA Clippers Tuesday night with a win over that other Los Angeles team. Last year, he lead the Toronto Raptors to an NBA Finals win in 2019 - and was named Finals MVP.
Good luck to our former home team!