Years before they stepped onto pristine basketball courts as millionaires practicing a game whose rhythms had long ago become a daily routine, the kids and teenagers who would one day become Clippers stood in the driveway of their childhood home. Or a community center. Or an outdoor park.
From a humble, homegrown start began a journey to the sport’s highest level.
To watch the Clippers play basketball now is to see a group of players that must remember a small encyclopedia of information: an opponent’s tendencies, the movements of their many plays, how to choose when to talk to a teammate delicately, or directly. What hasn’t gotten lost amid all of that accumulated basketball knowledge are the memories of where their paths to the NBA started.
“Guys are always going to remember their first hoop, their first court,” center Ivica Zubac said. “That’s special.”
Since the season began, The Times asked each Clipper to describe the hoops they spent the most time practicing and playing on while growing up, where their passion for the game deepened. Those driveways, junior high gyms and outdoor park courts don’t compare to the NBA-caliber rims and courts they now play on — but without them, many players agreed, they might not be in the NBA.
“Probably the gym that made me who I am,” said guard Norman Powell of a favorite San Diego spot.
In their own words, each Clippers player, along with coach Tyronn Lue, describes the courts “where it started,” point guard Reggie Jackson said, “my love.”