No Matter How It Comes Out, Clippers Always Get Flip Side

The 1980s were heaven for the Lakers and hell for the Clippers.

But one flip of the coin might have changed all that. It was probably the best deal Jerry Buss never made.

The year: 1982.

The scene: Buss' Pickfair home.

The scenario: The Lakers and the Clippers have the top two choices in the NBA draft. Ralph Sampson, then considered the heir to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the dominating center in the game, is considering an early departure from Virginia--but only if he is guaranteed going to the Lakers.

That won't be known until the Lakers and the Clippers flip a coin to see which has the first choice. The problem is, the deadline for Sampson to make himself available for the draft will come before the flip.

With no guarantees, Sampson plans to stay in college rather than accept the possibility of having to play for the Clippers.

But Buss has a better idea.

"Let's flip a coin now ," Buss told Clipper owner Donald Sterling. "If I win, I can guarantee Sampson a spot with the Lakers so he will skip his final college season. If that happens, you'll get to draft James Worthy. If we don't flip now, Sampson will stay in school.

"If we flip now, you can't lose. You get Worthy, no matter what. If we don't flip now, you only have a 50% chance of getting Worthy."

Sterling refused, Sampson stayed in school and, of course, the Lakers got Worthy while the Clippers took Terry Cummings.

Add Sampson and subtract Worthy, and some of those championship banners might have been subtracted from the Forum wall.

On the other hand, give the Clippers Worthy for a decade or so, and . . .

Add Sterling: Invitations are in the mail for the Clippers' annual party on the day of the draft. Listed as co-hosts this year are George Burns and Pia Zadora.

Who says the Clippers aren't entertaining?

Trivia time: How did the tradition of the seventh-inning stretch begin?

Add seventh-inning stretch: In Iowa, the Essex High baseball team, playing College Springs South Page, was merely looking for a few insurance runs Monday night heading into the seventh and final inning with a 16-14 lead.

When Essex was finally retired 58 minutes later, it had a season's worth of insurance, having scored 30 runs on a dozen hits, nine walks and three hit batters.

Final score: 46-14.

Essex batted around four times. A South Page error allowed Jason Armstrong of Essex to reach base in his final at-bat, saving him the embarrassment of making all three outs.

Trivia answer: According to one theory, it started when President William Howard Taft attended a baseball game. When he departed in the seventh inning, the crowd stood in respect.

Quotebook: Forward Jay Miller of the Kings, known as much for fighting as for scoring, had two goals going into the final period of a game. Asked if he was thinking about a hat trick, he replied: "Nope, I was just thinking about hitting somebody."

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