Fans of any team can usually point to a moment in time — a play, a game, a season, an era — that defines their passion. For me, it was growing up watching the early 90′s Clippers.
The best player on those teams was Ron Harper. Harper went on to win five championships as a role player with the Bulls and Lakers, and to many that’s how he’s best known.
But those who saw him in his time with the Clippers remember him as a different type of player. And, according to comments he made in a recent interview with Slam’s Russ Bengtson, he remembers that time…well, differently than one might have come to expect.
SLAM: I guess being a Laker from ’99-on was a long ways from being a Clipper in ’89.
Ron Harper: That’s for sure. It’s definitely a long way, but I tell folks any time, if I’m goin’ into the Hall of Fame, I’m goin’ in as a Los Angeles Clipper.
SLAM: Really? I thought associating L.A. with where you got hurt…
RH: That’s OK. That’s part of the game. But they gave me a chance to prove to people that I could carry a whole team. I carried a team that wasn’t shit. [Laughs] A team that had Charles Smith, Ken Norman, Benoit Benjamin, Gary Grant and half a year with Danny Manning, and we could do work with any team in the League. I’m not tradin’ my red, white and blue for nobody. I love the Chicago Bulls, I love Phil, but my Los Angeles days? I love the Clippers.
To get a little bit personal for a moment, this is pretty amazing to hear. Clipper fans that have been around since Harper’s days are accustomed to hearing former (and sometimes even current) players say negative things about their time with the organization at the first opportunity they get. Sometimes you might hear a guy bite his tongue and give “no comment,” but it’s nearly unheard of to see such explicit positivity.
Because of Ron Harper, I’ve been hooked ever since I can remember. It wouldn’t matter if the Clippers ever landed Elton Brand or Sam Cassell or Blake Griffin or Chris Paul — I would be on their side. Win or lose against Denver in 2006 or Memphis last year, like Ron, I’m not tradin’ my red, white and blue for nobody.
This isn’t about Donald Sterling or a losing record or a losing history. This is about a phenomenal basketball player who took pride in his team and his teammates, and with no obligation to, he went out of his way to let us know about it.
Nevermind that he won’t, actually, be voted into the Hall of Fame — despite the career 16 points per game and handful of rings. Until only very recently, it’s been cool to bash the Clippers. But for quite a while now, I’ve managed to find it cool to root for them. And as someone who has resisted all of the above reasons to bail out, it feels pretty damn good to hear that my favorite Clipper of all time feels the same way.