LA Clippers: Exploring the possibility of a championship with an asterisk

LA Clippers Larry O'Brien Trophy (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
LA Clippers Larry O'Brien Trophy (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

The LA Clippers have the potential to win the franchise’s first NBA Championship this season. What would it mean if the club’s first title comes with a dreaded asterisk?

With NBA practice facilities opening back up, and the league setting a timeframe for making a decision on a return to action, things are looking positive that the season will eventually resume. The LA Clippers will be glad when it does as the team is certainly one of the favorites to bring home the title at the end of the 2019-20 season.

There’s no plan yet in place on what play will look like when it does resume, but any potential results will surely have the record books marked with an asterisk. Whether the league decides to let teams play out the rest of an 82-game season after an extended break, jump right into the playoffs, or conduct some sort of play-in style tournament, future NBA historians will need to know the special circumstances surrounding this season.

Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal recently told USA today that he thinks the NBA should decide to scrap the rest of the season to avoid a champion being strapped with the dreaded asterisk. O’Neal seemed equally concerned with the health and well-being of players and fans, as well as the legacy and respect of any team that wins the title in a new-look playoff system, saying:

"“To try and come back now and do a rush playoffs as a player? Any team that wins this year, there’s an asterisk. They’re not going to get the respect. What if a team that’s not really in the mix of things all of a sudden wins with a new playoff format? Nobody is going to respect that. So, scrap it. Worry about the safety of the fans and the people. Come back next year.”"

Numerous NBA personalities and members of the media such as Marc Cuban and Stephen A. Smith have come out to disagree with the four-time NBA champion. Larry Nance Jr. of the Cleveland Cavaliers has come out to say that it is important the league does crown a champion this season.

"“We’re not in position to win a championship this year, but if I was — if I was Giannis [Antetokounmpo], if I was LeBron [James], if I was Kawhi [Leonard] — If I was on one of those championship-caliber teams, I’d be pretty upset about it. Because it’s very rare in this league that a chance like this comes along, and that’s taken a valuable year off someone’s career.”"

The LA Clippers know exactly how rare a chance at the title can be. A championship this year would be the first in the history of the franchise, which dates back to their start as the Buffalo Braves in 1970. Would an asterisk in the record books be a major taint on the team’s first title?

To put it simply: no.

There’s not a season in all of professional sports that goes perfectly to plan. Each and every year some circumstances arise that effect the overall outcome and ultimate results of the season. Whether that is a major injury to an MVP player on a number one seeded team, or the suspension of a star player in the NBA Finals, or the best basketball player in the world choosing to play baseball for a year, no season is a perfect simulation where all things go exactly as they “should”. That’s what makes sports exciting. The favorites don’t always win. Underdogs can triumph in the face of adversity. The heartbreak makes the highs even higher.

It’s also not a case where the asterisk would come out of scandal. This isn’t a situation where a team is cheating, or referees are caught up in gambling trouble. Every team is going through the same issues, every franchise has been hit equally by the circumstances.

The situation this year is closer to the lockout-shortened, 50-game 1998-99 season which ended in the San Antonio Spurs winning the franchise’s first ever title. Nobody delegitimizes the greatness of the Spurs dynasty, or the legacy of David Robinson and Tim Duncan because it all began in a shortened season. Some players in the league (cough-Shawn Kemp-cough) may have famously returned after the lockout out-of-shape, but every player knew the situation and had the same opportunity to prepare and train.

Members of the LA Clippers have talked a lot during the shutdown of how they’re staying prepared and their eagerness to return to action to compete for a championship they believe to be well within their grasp. They may soon have the opportunity to back up their words with action.

Next. LA Clippers: Kawhi Leonard and other NBA stars ready to resume. dark

The stop-and-start nature of the 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic is something the league has not seen before, and they may have to make decisions that change the way the playoffs are held. It’s certainly not ideal, and drastic changes could lead to major upsets, as the usual seven-game series format typically leads to the best team winning. An underdog could steal a game in a one-and-done tournament, or even sneak a few wins to get by in a shortened series. It will certainly make for an exciting and unique stretch-run for a season to go down in the record books, even if it is with an asterisk.