California has a lot of big and high-profile cities that it’s bizarre why two NBA teams call Los Angeles home. So, just out of curiosity, have you ever wondered why does Los Angeles have two NBA teams? Let’s get right into it and see why there are two NBA basketball teams in Los Angeles.
How Many NBA Teams are in Los Angeles?
There are two NBA teams in Los Angeles– the Lakers and the Clippers. In California alone, there are four NBA teams. Aside from the two Los Angeles teams, the Golden State Warriors (San Francisco) and Sacramento Kings.
Many people wondered why the league allowed the Lakers and Clippers to co-exist in one city. Well, Los Angeles is the most populous city in the state, with almost four million people. That makes the basketball market big enough for both of them, although, admittedly, it’s kind of weird and peculiar.
Most NBA cities have a population of less than 1 million. For example, the Warriors’ home city of San Francisco has a population of over 800,000, Milwaukee has less than 600,000, and Atlanta at around 400,000. Given these statistics, the city of Los Angeles can theoretically handle two NBA teams.
Why Does Los Angeles Have Two NBA Teams?
Let’s consider the brief history of both Los Angeles teams starting with the Lakers.
While the Lakers (along with its rivals, the Boston Celtics) are almost synonymous with the NBA, Los Angeles did not have a professional basketball team until 1960. That’s when the Minneapolis Lakers owner Bob Short decided to relocate the Lakers from the East to the West Coast.
You see, the NBA was not as popular as it was back then, and the Lakers struggled to make money because of poor attendance. Around that time, the Dodgers packed their team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and were met with success. Short, hoping for a favorable outcome, emulated the move and relocated his team to Los Angeles. From there, the Los Angeles Lakers became one of the NBA’s most decorated teams and sought-after destination for most players.
Now, on the other hand, what about the Clippers?
The Clippers were actually based in Buffalo when it was founded in 1970. It was called the Buffalo Braves then. The Braves moved to San Diego and became the Clippers starting in 1978. They have always been the league’s cellar dwellers until that time.
The Clippers’ relocation from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984 was mainly due to then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Sterling grew up in Los Angeles and bought the struggling franchise for $13 million in 1981. The transfer was not without controversy. The NBA did not actually approve the relocation, but Sterling pursued it because his friend Al Davis successfully moved the Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles even without the NFL’s approval.
Therefore, since 1984, the NBA basketball teams in Los Angeles have become two.
Yes, as of now, they do. Staples Center is not a private property of the Los Angeles Lakers, making it easier for both ballclubs to share the same arena. However, that presents a scheduling challenge for the NBA.
For one, the NBA schedule is constructed so that the Lakers and Clippers do not have home games on the same day. Because this scenario is not always plausible, there will always be days when both Los Angeles teams host home games. To do this, it’s up to the Staples Center employees to make it happen. The games must be scheduled hours apart to make room for remodeling of some sort for the next game.
It’s also worthy to note that the Clippers played some home games at the Anaheim Pond from 1994 to 1999. The Lakers were also playing at the old Forum before moving full-time at Staples Center in October 1999.
The Clippers are now constructing a new arena to be called Intuit Dome. The project will be completed in June 2024 following the expiration of the Clippers’ leasing contract at Staples. Intuit Dome is located in Inglewood, California.
How Many NBA Teams Does California Have?
California currently has four NBA teams. These are the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, and the San Francisco-based Golden State Warriors.
The Lakers arrived in California in 1960, the Clippers in 1978 (from Buffalo to San Diego), the Kings in 1984, and the Warriors in 1962. Here are some interesting tidbits about the four California NBA teams:
- The oldest basketball franchise among the four is actually the Sacramento Kings. The ballclub started in 1923 as the Rochester Seagrams. Then they moved to Rochester, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Omaha, and Sacramento. The Rochester Royals won the NBA championship in 1951.
- The Warriors was founded in Philadelphia in 1946 and moved to the Bay Area in 1962. They officially renamed their geographic moniker “Golden State” in 1971 and played games as the Philadelphia Warriors until then.
- The franchise that ultimately became the Lakers was founded in 1946 as the Detroit Gems.
- In the Clippers’ first 27 seasons in Los Angeles, they only qualified for the playoffs four times.
The Lakers Clippers rivalry is a bit of a stretch as far as competition goes, but it is inevitable because they share the same city and arena. In all-time matchups, the Lakers were up 104-57, and they never met in the playoffs.
The two instances where the fans would have had witnessed a Hallway Series were in 2006 and 2020. On both occasions, the 2006 Lakers blew a 3-1 lead to Phoenix preventing a semifinals matchup with their crosstown rivals. Then in 2020, the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets, ruling out a Western Conference Finals match with the Lakers.
After the first 20 seasons of dominance, the roles have been reversed in the two Los Angeles teams. In a span of seven seasons from 2013 to 2019, the Clippers were substantially better. They had Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, while the Lakers had to make do with Nick Young, Timofey Mozgov, and Jordan Hill. Starting in the 2013 season, the Clippers won the next six season series against the Lakers. Even with the LeBron James acquisition before the 2018-19 season, the Lakers failed to make the playoffs due largely to James’ midseason injury.
Before the 2019-20 season, the Lakers and Clippers pulled off splashy moves that made both LA teams the overwhelming favorites to reach the Conference Finals. The Lakers acquired Anthony Davis from New Orleans, while the Clippers were able to pair Paul George with Kawhi Leonard. George even declared they have the best duo in the NBA, drawing an irate response from the Lakers camp. At the end of the season, the Lakers and the Clippers secured the first two seeds, although the latter failed to take the rivalry further by losing the West Semifinals to the Nuggets in seven games.
Wrapping Things Up: Why Does Los Angeles Have Two NBA Teams?
The NBA is a business, and therefore, as a team owner, you have to do what you got to do to have a return on your investments. In essence, that is what happened as to why Los Angeles ended up having two NBA teams.
In 1960, Minneapolis Lakers owner Bob Short transferred his franchise from the Great Lakes to Los Angeles because of declining attendance. Since the relocation, the Lakers became a prime free-agent destination and won 12 of their 17 championships.
In the same way, when then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling bought the struggling Clippers franchise in San Diego, he thought a move to Los Angeles would save it. True enough, that’s what happened. The city of Los Angeles has a population of almost four million, so the market is theoretically enough for both teams.
In retrospect, there is no doubt that the moves ended up well for both teams. Even though the Clippers were vastly inferior to the Lakers in terms of accomplishments, they managed to construct great teams since 2013. In fact, the Clippers have won each of the next season-series against the Lakers from 2013 to 2020.
All in all, in addition to the two Los Angeles NBA basketball teams, the total of NBA teams in California has gone up to four. The other two were the Sacramento Kings and the Golden State Warriors. Oddly enough, the Kings and Warriors have had their roots in the East Coast. The Kings were first founded as the Rochester Royals (based in New York) and the Philadelphia Warriors.
Are you fascinated by the history of NBA teams, especially the answer to the question, “Why does Los Angeles have two NBA teams?” It may have a pretty complicated backstory, but when rich sports team owners make moves, it’s always about the money at the end of the day.
If you found this helpful, you’ll love our other basketball FAQ articles here.