NBA Beat: Clipper Darrell joined by new fans of hot team

Published: Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6C
Last Modified: Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012 - 7:37 am

He's the biggest fan of the hottest team in the NBA.

And he has company – a lot of it.

Darrell Bailey, better known to the masses as Clipper Darrell, has followed the Los Angeles Clippers for 20 seasons.

The Clippers have won a franchise-record 16 consecutive games, their home games sell out and their status as the "other" L.A. team is changing.

"It's crazy," Bailey said. "To be a part of Clipper Nation and see the arena selling out is a beautiful thing, but are they real Clipper fans?

"Will they be there if we go through a slump? But the more the merrier."

Bailey's two-toned red and blue suit, Clipper-inspired car and playful jeering during games have transformed him into a celebrity.

Now he can chat with the likes of Denzel Washington without having to spend the money for courtside seats.

Bailey's allegiance to the Clippers began when he was fired from a job and told he'd never amount to anything. Around the same time, he turned on the television to watch a Clippers game and saw a franchise that was supposed to never amount to anything.

The Clippers have amounted to something this season. They have the best record in the NBA. Bailey can now find Clippers apparel readily available at malls.

And Staples Center is packed to hear Bailey taunt the opposition.

When the Kings' 5-foot-9 guard Isaiah Thomas is in the game, you might hear: "Stop the game, there's a child on the court!"

Or when New Orleans rookie Austin Rivers is in town, Bailey will playfully remind him he wouldn't be in the league if it weren't for his father, former NBA guard and Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

"It was just my way of having fun at the (free-throw) line," Bailey said. "It all started with the ugly chant. I try to get something that don't hurt them and make the people laugh in the stands."

Through the ups and many downs, Bailey has stayed true to the Clippers.

That includes a time earlier this season when the Clippers wanted to make sure he wasn't profiting from being "Clipper" Darrell.

Both sides came to an understanding and Bailey still receives his complimentary ticket to home games after being a longtime season-ticket holder.

Now, thanks to Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and a deep roster, he and Clippers fans can speak in terms that would have been blasphemous a couple of years ago.

"Being a Clipper fan, we can never say the 'C' word," Bailey said. "We'd just say, 'Let's just make the playoffs.' Now we can say the 'C' word. Championship, baby."

That might explain all the new Clippers fans Bailey now knows.

Season-ticket holders would give Bailey tickets to give away. He'd have as many as 40 tickets and set up a website to distribute them.

That changed, Bailey said, when Griffin jumped over a car to win the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

Now everyone is holding onto their tickets as the Clippers look to have back-to-back seasons above .500 for the first time since 1975-76 when the franchise was the Buffalo Braves.

"I appreciate the bandwagoners," Bailey said.

Well, he better get ready. There certainly will be more who jump on board.

Stat watch

Two. That's the number of game-winning shots New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith has made at the buzzer this season after beating Phoenix with a last-second shot Wednesday.

His reaction to being on the other end of a buzzer beater after James Johnson's three gave the Kings the win Friday night?

"It sucks," Smith said. "It's a bad feeling. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth."

Tweet of the week

"14-14 not great but we are getting better. It's all about the journey #countonchallenges" – Kobe Bryant (@nikebasketball), who took over the Nike Basketball Twitter account for two days after the Lakers beat the Knicks on Christmas Day. It was the Lakers' fifth consecutive win.

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