Yes, it’s great to live in Los Angeles. The weather is perfect, and delicious food and exciting entertainment opportunities abound, And we have sports, so much sports: Clippers, Dodgers, Angels, Rams, Chargers, Sparks, Galaxy…and that other NBA team whose name is evading me right now. With the Rams Super Bowl victory last weekend, and the Dodgers recent World Series win, it’s a great time in sports here in Southern California. But it also brings a painful reminder of the big hole in the hearts of Clippers fans…when is it our turn? When is our parade?

It is not always easy to be a Clippers fan in what seems at times like a non-Clippers world. We face questions, mocking, and even laughter at the choice to root for the Clippers. But as a lifer, a season ticket holder since the first day the Clippers laced up in the Sports Arena in 1984, I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it. Clippers fans are smart, loyal, passionate, as far from the bandwagon fan as one could possibly be. We take pride in what was a conscious choice to stand behind the Clippers, and that choice bonds Clippers fans everywhere to one another.

Growing up in Southern California in a basketball-loving family, there was no option but to be a fan of the purple and gold. There is no choice there: if you like basketball in Los Angeles, you are more than likely born to that team, much like we are born here bleeding Dodger Blue. My family had season tickets to that other team – yes, I admit that at one time I was a fan. When the Clippers came to Los Angeles from San Diego, my dad bought eight seats in the second row at the Sports Arena. They were incredibly cheap at the time, and we got to see NBA teams play in a small venue with just a few thousand people in attendance. What we also got to do was meet other fans who, like us, would stick with the team through ups and downs for decades. My friend Joey, who sits behind us at the Staples Center, started going to Clippers games with his dad when he was 7 years old in 1984. Sadly Joey’s dad is no longer with us, but Joey brings his 7 year old to the games now. Clippers fans are truly a family, a family borne of loyalty and hard times and enough of the good times to keep us hoping and coming back every year.

What is unique about the Clippers fan experience, and what I truly believe makes us the most loyal and bonded fan base in the NBA, is that we have all chosen to support this team. I have heard so many reasons that people chose the Clippers — for some, it started with a favorite player like Corey Maggette or Blake Griffin. For others, it was the anti-Showtime, rooting for the underdog mentality. For some, it started out as simply a financial decision, as one could see NBA basketball for a fraction of the cost of tickets to the other LA team. But make no mistake, it is a choice.

But what keeps us coming back, season after season, is the heart that is woven so deeply into this fanbase. On a personal level, Clippers basketball has been in the fabric of my family since 1984. All the kids and grandkids have grown up at games. They have proudly donned Clippers jerseys on “sports day” at school, willingly facing the mocking of all the other kids in Lakers gear. My 94 year old dad and I go to most of the games together; he is a fixture in his aisle seat behind the visitors bench, the fans around us, many of whom we have known since the 1980s, high-five him and reminisce about teams from back in the day. My son, who was as adamant in his Clippers love as anyone could be, was laid to rest in 2013 in his favorite Blake Griffin jersey. And we are far from the only family that feels this way. The dedication is evident across the fan base.

I recently had the opportunity to sit by Lou Williams’ mom when the Atlanta Hawks visited to play the Clippers. I told her how much he meant to this fan base; she expressed that she was worried he might not get an enthusiastic reception when the traditional returning-player video was played. Needless to say, she was in tears when Sweet Lou received a resounding standing ovation from Clippers fans screaming out their love for him. I wasn’t surprised by this, but she was. I mention this, as it goes to the heart of what it means to be a Clippers fan. We are loyal, big hearted, enthusiastic, warm and not afraid to show it. Lou Williams was a big part of a change in Clippers culture, and our loyal fan base showed him the love that he deserved.

We may not win a championship this season. But I dare to say that, although my dream is to bring my dad to a Clippers parade, it doesn’t really matter in the hearts of true Clippers fans. We are here for the love, the family, the core of the experience. When we hoist that first banner and drown ourselves in confetti, it will be great. But being part of this fan-family is the true championship here. I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had as part of this family for all the banners in the world.

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