There are 4 NBA teams in California, which is a startling concentration when you think there are only 30 teams in the NBA across the whole of the USA. As a result, California actually represents 13% of the entire league. While that’s not a staggeringly huge number at first glance without California you’d have to represent the other 49 states of the country with only 26 teams.
This article will take an in-depth look at each of the teams that make California their home, including a brief recap of their history to date, some of their biggest achievements throughout their time in the league along with some of their key players.
- First Year in NBA: 1985
- NBA Titles: 0
- Franchise Highlights: Took Lakers to 7 games in 2002 Western Conference Finals
- Notable Players: Mitch Richmond, Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, DeMarcus Cousins
- Notable Coaches: None
First up we have the Sacramento Kings who first joined the league in 1985. You might recognize some of their key players, but the Kings actually have a long and illustrious history long before 1985 when they joined the NBA. In the late 1940s to the late 50s, the Kings were known as the Rochester Royals, notably winning the title in 1951. From 1957 they changed their name and became the Kansas City Royals until the late 70s. As the Kansas City Royals their most notable star was Oscar Robertson, who later would be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Not a bad start all told. They changed their name again in 1973, becoming the Kansas City Kings before their final move to Sacramento, where they became the team supporters know them as today.
After joining the league in 85’, their tenure has not been as successful as fans and players had hoped. In the past 33 years, the Kings have only achieved 7 seasons with a winning record and are constantly rebuilding the team. Their most successful team to date was the 2002 Kings who took on the giants of basketball, the LA Lakers taking them to Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals. Though they lost the match the achievement should not be underestimated, and fans still hold out hope for the Kings to live up to their early promise.
2002 remains a bittersweet memory for fans, and the year is plagued by controversy due to a league-conspiracy theory where many believe that the League wanted the Lakers to win the series to earn -higher-ratings for the NBA Finals. Some fans still see 2002 as the year that got snatched away from the Kings and hold out hope for a return and a rematch sometime in the future.
Los Angeles Clippers
- First Year in NBA: 1984
- NBA Titles: 0
- Franchise Highlights: Reaching three Western Conference Semifinals (2012, 2014, 2015)
- Notable Players: Bob McAdoo, Elton Brand, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul
- Notable Coaches: Larry Brown, Bill Fitch, Doc Rivers
Our second team from Cali is the LA Clippers and is another team that constantly seems to be rebuilding the team and in transit. The team joined the league in 1984 when Donald Sterling who owned the team at the time moved them from San Diego to LA, igniting their conception as the Los Angeles Clippers. The team constantly seems to have high first-round draft picks, but usually pass them onto other teams to avoid paying a large contract or their picks fail to live up to their early potential. The Clippers remain more successful than their neighbors in Sacramento though, having had 10 winning seasons in the last 34 years. They do fail to live up to the Kings 2002 season though, having never made it to the final of the Western Conference in their 34-year history.
The Clippers have also been plagued by their controversy, as one of the most well-known stories about the team deals with their previous owner, Donald Sterling. In 2014 Sterling is supposed to have made a series of racist and offensive comments which garnered the most media attention the Clippers have achieved. These weren’t the first remarks that Sterling had made, but they got the most media attention and the Clippers have yet to surpass the coverage with a new story.
Fans still hold out hope for the team though and the Clippers are known to have played some truly excellent basketball. Only time will tell if they can escape the negative media attention of the last few years and move on to something greater.
Golden State Warriors
- First Year in NBA: 1962
- NBA Titles: 6 (1947 & 1956 – as Philadelphia Warriors, 1975, 2015, 2017, 2018)
- Franchise Highlights: Winning 6 NBA Titles, 2016: Broke NBA regular-season win total (73)
- Notable Players: Nate Thurmond, “Tiny” Archibald, Rick Barry, Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant
- Notable Coaches: Don Nelson, Steve Kerr
With over 50 years in the league, the Warriors have had their ups and their downs during their tenure but have won 6 NBA titles in that time. The Golden Warriors were originally based in Philadelphia, and their early years saw the rise of a young Wilt Chamberlain who they first brought to the league. The 1975 team was one of the first teams the Golden Warriors put forward that massively exceeded the expectations at the time beating the Washington Bullets in a four-game sweep. Their victory over the heavily tipped Bullets was an early sign that the Warriors are never to be underestimated, and the team followed their success up the following year where Rick Barry and Jamaal Wilkes, both future Hall of Famers, led the squad to the playoffs where they held the leagues best record. Though the Warriors didn’t win that year their skill and determination is a feature that marks the team out to this day.
The Warriors became known in 1985 for their shooting and scoring abilities which were built around Chris Mullen who they drafted seventh overall. Following up their drafting of Mullen’s the team then added guards Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway and together, with a little help from superstar coach Don Nelson, began beating teams all across the league. The squad became known for their high octane performances in the league, and Mullen, Richmond, and Hardaway became known as “Run-TMC” – Tim, Mitch, and Chris, named after rap group Run-DMC, cementing them as legends in the sport.
The 90s was a less successful time for the Warriors as the Lakers, the Pistons, and newer up and coming teams like the Bulls and the Pistons began to take up more of the NBA’s time during this period. San Francisco did become known as one of the best places to watch great basketball thanks to the Warriors though, and it wasn’t long before their star began to rise again.
During the early 2000s, the team began to experience some of the success they had lost in the 90s once more, and things only got better for the Warriors in 2009 when they drafted Stephen Curry into the team. It wasn’t long before Curry’s incredible talent was noticed and the team soon began to rely on and highlight his exciting run and gun style. The addition of Draymond Green and Klay Thompson only added to the high quality of the squad and in 2015, led by Steve Kerr and with Curry and Thompson dubbed ‘the Splash Brothers’ the team won the NBA title against all the odds, repeating the Warriors history by snatching the title away from a heavily favored team. They lost the title in 2016 to the Cleveland Cavaliers despite a record-setting season, but the addition of Kevin Durant to the team meant that the silverware was back in the Warriors cabinet in 2017 and 2018.
Los Angeles Lakers
- First Year in NBA: 1958
- NBA Titles: 16 (1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954 – as Minneapolis Lakers, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010)
- Franchise Highlights: Winning 16 NBA Titles – 2nd place all-time behind the Celtics
- Notable Players: Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, Jamaal Wilkes, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol
- Notable Coaches: John Kundla, Bill Sharman, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson
Finally, but by no means least we have the Los Angles Lakers. Easily the most successful team from California, the Lakers are perhaps the most successful team in the league only rivaled bt the Boston Celtics and are the platinum level for basketball teams in the NBA. The Lakers have an incredible 16 titles under their belts, and it’s safe to say that they’ll have plenty more given world enough and time.
As you’d expect the Lakers' history is rich with victory. Since their creation in the late 40s, the Lakers have won an NBA title in every decade except the 1960s and the 90s but have consistently played the NBA final in all decades since they joined the league.
Few teams across all sports are as loyal to their fans as the Lakers, and many fans flock to them because of their competitive spirit and persistence. The Lakers always have their eye out for the next basketball star to draft or sign and are known for spotting talent early. Throughout their history, they’ve succeeded in developing some of the best players in the history of the game and Lakers fans are lucky to have a team with such good pedigree.
California is one of the best places to love basketball thanks to the high concentration of amazing teams. No matter what team gets your loyalty the chances are you’ve experienced some success and witnessed some amazing games. Lakers and Warriors fans may get more than their fair share of silverware, but the Golden State has some incredible players in all teams and the quality of the teams ensures their success for a great many years to come.
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