Last season, with no Kobe Bryant, not many wins and not much hope or reason to watch, the Lakers television ratings in Los Angeles fell 54 percent from the season before, down to a local 2.15 household rating, which is the equivalent of 122,000 households a game.
The Clippers — with the showtime of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, with 57 wins and a lot of reason for hope — averaged a 1.27 rating, or 72,000 households, last season.
That in a nutshell tells you what you need to know about the Los Angeles hoops market — it’s a Lakers town. It’s not close. Decades of winning, decades of being well run, decades of superstar players while the Clippers had Donald Sterling in charge has the Lakers ingrained in the city. It’s one of the few things native Angelinos tend to agree on. That and how good the Kogi food trucks are. That’s about it. That gap is narrowing, but Los Angeles remains all about the Lakers.
Are the Clippers finally the alpha team in L.A.?
“No, because for a lot of people, it’s about history. And nothing we can ever do will ever take away from their history. They’ve had unbelievable success as a franchise. And I think in this current day, we’re the better team. I do. But I mean, if you ask anybody that, they’re gonna say that, you know—so that’s not a real controversial statement.”
It’s not controversial. Not even die-hard Lakers fans think they are better than the Clippers this year, and that will stay the same way for a few more years. The Clippers are constructed to contend, the Lakers are trying to rebuild while dancing around Kobe’s massive contract.
None of that will change the Lakers/Clippers dynamic in Los Angeles. It’s a Lakers town.
What new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer hopefully understands is that this is not a zero-sum game — he doesn’t have to recruit Lakers fans to grow his brand. Los Angeles has a lot of casual fans without strong allegiances, it has a transient population with lots of people moving in all the time. There are people the Clippers can bring on the bandwagon without poaching the Lakers’ fans.