2. Bill Walton (1979-1985)
Since we’re going back to 1979 when the Clippers were in San Diego and neckbeards were still in style, let’s play a game created in that very same year: Trivial Pursuit.
How many games did Bill Walton play for the San Diego Clippers in his first three seasons with the team?
If you guessed 14, congratulations! You’ve won a 50th-anniversary box set of Lincoln Logs. But enough playtime, because Bill Walton’s 14 total games in three years is kind of sad.
Walton was hailed as the Clippers’ savior, returning to his hometown of San Diego as the new franchise cornerstone. And he hung around for six seasons, playing in 169 of a possible 492 games. This was an era before modern conceptions of free agency really existed, so Walton—a league MVP and recent backbone of an NBA champion—returning to his hometown was special.
But his tenure was long and wholly unsuccessful. Walton himself was crushed by his failure, saying recently that he still blames himself.
“It’s my greatest failure as a professional in my entire life,” Walton said to ESPN in 2016. “I could not get the job done in my hometown. It is a stain and stigma on my soul that is indelible. I’ll never be able to wash that off, and I carry it with me forever.”
That’s pretty awful to hear, as Walton was a great player on a lot of great teams. After he left the Clippers with his head held low, he became the sixth man of the century on one of the greatest teams ever, the 1986 Boston Celtics.
Walton’s Clippers tenure is like if LeBron James had failed to bring a championship back to Cleveland and then the team moved to St. Louis. I’m sure Walton thinks the 1985 move from his hometown to Los Angeles had something to do with his failure on the court, so I hope he can forgive himself one day.