Things are changing for L.A.’s second-most-popular NBA franchise. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have arrived. A new arena in Inglewood—the Clippers’ own—has been proposed. Ticket sales for 2019 have already doubled from last season. Doc Rivers called it a good day for the Clippers’ brand. And it was. Just not, you know, for its literal brand, the Clippers, because last week, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer announced he’s open to replacing the team’s logo, colors, and even its nickname.
Pour one out for clippers everywhere, unless, as I suspect, you don’t know what a clipper is. For four decades, Clippers has been an unfortunate nickname, one that—with some cocktail of wins, revenue, and dopamine—may finally bite the dust.
It can’t be overstated how positive this would be for the franchise and its fans. A real nickname after years of having one of the worst! Pity the clippers industry if you must. But know that (a) Big Clipper never cared about you, and that (b) you still don’t know what a clipper is. The “Clippers” were named in 1978, when the franchise moved from Buffalo to San Diego, to represent the sailing ships in the bay; a “clipper” is a merchant sailing ship. (Ironic that the one franchise to associate itself with ships has never even been to the Finals.) The team moved to L.A. in 1984, and kept the name.
This is the time to lean into a new identity. SI Now suggested the L.A. Stars or the L.A. Mood. Though if the Clips ever want to be no. 1 in this town, they’d have to take it a step further, becoming the L.A. Big Mood. In The Ringer’s Slack, copy chief Craig Gaines advocated for the L.A. Burbank Airports, as it represents something every L.A. resident loves. (I feel obligated to add that Craig also said he really hopes this idea “takes off.”)
There is a real opportunity to lean into the identity of the city. Here are eight Los Angeles–centric ideas, from an L.A. native and an L.A. transplant.
The Los Angeles Beaches
O’Shaughnessy: Being geographically correct is one way—perhaps the only way—to supplant the Lakers. Winning a title or three would be a start, but becoming the Beaches would forever be a reminder that there’s only one body of water near this city. It’d be a feel-good moment for Minnesotans, too, whose stolen nickname has gone on to represent a historically acclaimed franchise with no topographical accuracy. “Purify yourself in this,” billboards would read. Seems like the kind of thing that would help in trade talks. Cons: Kind of sounds like the L.A. Bitches.
The Los Angeles Stars
Paolo Uggetti: We can all agree that this one makes the most sense, right? Hollywood Stars. Walk of Fame Stars. Superstars. In fact, there’s already a precedent for this. In the late ’60s, the ABA’s Anaheim Amigos (incredible name) moved to Los Angeles and changed their name to the Los Angeles Stars. The combination was short-lived, as the team relocated to Utah soon after arriving in L.A., and the league eventually merged with the NBA, but it brought us a beautiful aesthetic. The Clippers even wore Stars throwbacks in 2012:
Show me one person in this world who says he doesn’t love powder blue and I will show you a liar. These colors are beautiful, and the name is fitting. Yes, the Clippers want to be the hard-nosed, lunch-pail team in Los Angeles, but news flash: They have not one, but two stars in tow now. The Clips are by definition a superstar team. Plus, there’s always a way to make a name like this inclusive. Sure, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are your true stars, but what if … what if everyone can be a star? You know that’s something Steve Ballmer would relish yelling to a room full of season-ticket holders.
The Los Angeles Gettys
O’Shaughnessy: I’m a thinker, not a doer. So it’s not my responsibility to account for, or even to consider, the naming-rights nightmare that the L.A. Gettys would be. (Or the grammatical conundrum it presents: Gettys, or Getties?) Imagine what a flex it’d be to call yourself a work of art. No, many works of art. Both the Getty Museum and the Getty Villa are can’t-miss L.A. attractions. They feature some of the greatest works in the world, while also having comprehensive collections cycle in and out. Solid top talent, a deep bench, and good rotations: Your 2019-20 Clippers. Maybe the team could even partner with the Getty to put pieces in the new arena. NBA fans appreciate the fine arts; have you seen Mike Scott’s tattoos? Plus, it’s not like we can call them the L.A. Broads.
(“Broad,” as in Broad Museum, is technically pronounced “brode.” I have a feeling that wouldn’t matter to opposing fan bases.)
The Los Angeles Waves; the California Coasts
Uggetti: Much like beaches, these track geographically (and don’t sound like “bitches”). When you think of L.A., you think of the waves, the coast, surfing, etc. There’s no real shape or figure to any of these things so it also allows for a bit of creative freedom. Heck, maybe you even start doing the wave at a game and that becomes your thing (don’t actually do that). Pepperdine University’s teams are the Waves, and while the Pepperdine campus is basically a beachfront locale and its colors (blue and orange) play well with the backdrop, the Waves mascot is an abominable figure called Willie the Wave, whose “wave” is more like a messy mullet.
Give me Chuck the Condor over this. Speaking of the Condor, I like alliteration as much as the next person, so I also think something like California Coasts would work. I don’t know how likely the Clippers are to adopt the state name, like the California Angels once did, but you could do a whole lot worse than becoming the “California Coasts” with a condor as your mascot.
The Los Angeles 101s
O’Shaughnessy: Many teams have nicknames based on how city residents spend most of their time. Miami: in the heat. Phoenix: in the sun. Orlando: seeing magic. Oklahoma City: avoiding Thunder. Toronto: fighting raptors. The people of Los Angeles spend 94.3 percent of their time on U.S. Route 101, a.k.a. Highway 101, a.k.a. the 101, a.k.a. the path that runs north to south through Hollywood to downtown with traffic speeds so slow that it feels like the pavement itself is sedated. You realize, selecting your 18th podcast, that rush hour is every hour. Memphis had Grit and Grind; L.A. has the 101.
If you’re thinking that this sounds miserable, you’re right! But isn’t the point of a nickname to inspire terror? To intimidate? To be so fierce a force that the thought of fighting its literal being—the Bulls, for example—reduces one to tears? Folks, I have cried on the 101. [Author’s note: I’m also open to the Los Angeles Traffic.]
The Los Angeles Bears
Uggetti: I’ve never seen a bear out here, but they tell me we have them. Maybe I should get out more. Anyway! The California flag features the state grizzly bear, but Grizzlies is already taken by Memphis (and the California grizzly is extinct), so Los Angeles Bears does the job. We have the Bears in football but not in basketball, and here it actually makes geographical sense (California has many black bears). The color scheme may have to change, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
The Los Angeles Groves
Uggetti: OK, so it turns out that the “gold” in the Los Angeles city flag is supposed to represent orange groves. Oranges are one of California’s three major crops (I don’t mean to sound like an agricultural expert here, I learned this today). So, that’s the nature part. But if you’re from Los Angeles, you know of The Grove. Think of it as a casual and free downtown Disneyland for adults where you’ll sometimes see a famous person and pay a lot of money for parking unless you know how to game the validation system (no comment).
The Clippers want to be L.A.? Well, the Grove is peak L.A. in that it hits on all the city’s stereotypes. It’s designed to give off old Europe architecture vibes so you feel fancy even if you are just scarfing down an overpriced cupcake while sitting near a fountain. It has a farmers market, but also a ton of upscale stores that are almost always empty, a movie theater, and a place where you can get pressed beet juice as well as vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free soft-serve frozen yogurt. I mean, they even pump in fake snow in the winter, for crying out loud.
The Los Angeles Hollywoodlanders
O’Shaughnessy: In 1923, before the Hollywood sign became an iconic symbol for the city, it read “Hollywoodland.” At the time, it was a real estate advertisement. The city council voted in 1949 that the sign had become too iconic to demolish entirely, though “land” was removed. Transforming into the Hollywoodlanders solves two problems for the Clippers, both Lakers-related. It gives them proprietorship over Los Angeles, squeezing two city-related names in one. Hollywoodlanders, like Knickerbockers, also sounds old-timey; a long and storied history is one thing Ballmer can’t buy. Problematic, of course, is the fact that neither Staples nor the proposed new arena in Inglewood are in Hollywood. But that hasn’t stopped countless other sports franchises: The New York Giants and Jets play in New Jersey, after all.
The Los Angeles Missions
Uggetti: In California, schools teach you about missions around fourth grade. You read about missions, you visit a mission, and as a project, you have to make a 3D model out of a mission of your choosing. I was a rebel and made a presidio instead, but the point is: missions are a big part of California’s history, and there were 21 missions built in California, some of them still standing. Historical background aside, you’re telling me a sports team wouldn’t want to have its nickname also double as its most overused cliché? I mean, the motivational messages, slogans, and Twitter hashtags all write themselves: #OnAMission will be plastered everywhere from online to the banners covering the Lakers banners inside the Staples Center. And when the team goes on a four-game losing streak, and Kawhi is sick of getting the same questions, he’ll just matter-of-factly disarm everyone by dropping a pun-laden remark: “Our mission is to win the Larry O’B.”
Honorable Mention: The Los Angeles Breeze
Uggetti: Here’s my pitch: If Miami can name its team after a temperature and just be the Heat, why can’t a West Coast team just be the Breeze?