The same arena, a drama-filled, celebrity-packed city and years of online feuding — the LA Clippers-Los Angeles Lakers rivalry always had the ingredients to be great. But it never really lived up to what it could have been.
Well, until now.
On the walls of Crypto.com Arena hang 17 purple and gold championship banners, while the Clippers still await their first. The Clippers, however, did see some success — courtesy of the 'Lob City' era quickly followed by the Kawhi Leonard-Paul George era. They might have had a little too much fun when facing the Lakers, beating them in 10 consecutive matchups coming into the 2023-24 season.
Then the Lakers bounced back, coming out on top in the first two games of the current season.
After years of seesawing between the two California teams, there finally seems to be balance, a kind of buoyant enthusiasm, that pervades the arena when both teams play.
"Back when I played for the Lakers, it wasn't too much of a rivalry," Clippers' Head Coach Tyronn Lue said. "It was just one-sided most of the time with the Lakers ... the Clippers organization has done a great job of continuing to get better ... it's a rivalry now."
The Lakers ended their ten-game losing steak against the Clippers on Nov. 1. After trailing for the entire first half, the Lakers jumped out to a 39-24 third quarter to eventually beat the Clippers in overtime.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis looked unstoppable, combining for 62 points. And so did the Clippers' then-big three: Leonard had 38, George 35 and Russell Westbrook found his way to 24 points.
The Clippers took down the Lakers on Tuesday in yet another thriller between the two rivals
The winning energy carried on to the second matchup for the Lakers; the home team squeezed out a narrow 106-103 win. James and Davis, once again, put the team on their backs, combining for 47 points. Both these games, played in Crypto,com Arena, were technically Lakers home games and housed a large crowd of purple and gold-donning diehards.
But in their most recent matchup — this time, a Clippers home game — the Clippers came out as the aggressors. Behind the driving wheel was Westbrook, the most-blamed scapegoat of the Lakers' struggles in his time with the team.
It was clear the rivalry meant something more for Westbrook. The former Laker relentlessly attacked the rim, collected six rebounds and two steals and even cashed in on a three-pointer sans a shoe on his right foot. The crowd, half-Laker and half-Clipper fans, erupted at the scene.
"It's just going to keep building up over time, especially when you got great players on both teams." Leonard said of the rivalry following the win.
As it stands, the Lakers have a handful of banners, new and old, to continue pointing to. But the Clippers can also feel good about where they stand in the rankings and their 31-8 record against the Lakers in the past decade.
And luckily for both Clippers and Lakers fans, there are plenty more overtime nail-biters, superstar showdowns and (hopefully) shoeless triples on the way.